PDA

View Full Version : $100 for a better web-based browsing system?



adamslim
2007-08-12, 04:00
OK, I'd like a proper system for web browsing of classical music, and I have $100 for anyone who does it! Erland, this might have your name written on it!

It is very similar to the Fortuna system here: http://www.fortunaclassical.com/5-3-06/maestro/interface.cfm?movie=search

It's also very like the dabs way of shopping at www.dabs.com

The basic principle is to have a filter-based system whereby one can browse through genres. In the genre tag I use multiple values as follows:

Classical (included in all classical)
Period - baroque (there are 6 or 7 periods, all with tags of this format)
Scale - orchestral (there are just three scales - also instrumental and chamber)
Instrument - violin (there are many different instrument choices)

Ideally, these would be dynamically generated, so people who had different systems would just tag as appropriate, and the filter system would realise that the " - " (or whatever) was a separator. It would then produce the filter system automatically.

Then there would be a system for selecting the other fields: artist and album, certainly; opus number, conductor, orchestra and soloists would be great but not essential.

Then we'd have a big list of what currently fits into the filter criteria.

Then there would be some drop-downs for what (and how much) to show, sort order etc, and how to group things.

Here is an illustration of what I'm getting at:

http://i183.photobucket.com/albums/x67/AmDismal/ExampleFilterSystem.jpg

This would work via the web browser only - I don't think it makes sense via the remote. It does need to work on my Nokia 770 too!

So not much to ask for $100 is it? :) I think it is something that should be included by Slim Devices, but since they have not done so, and are not looking like it, I need to rely on the open source community. If others make valuable contributions, I'll happily contribute CDs from Amazon wishlists or whatever. If there is a better place for such requests (feature request on bugs?), then let me know.

And, of course, if anyone else wants to contribute cash, it might provide more of an incentive!

Adam

erland
2007-08-12, 07:38
I'm guessing that you have already tried the "Tags" (Dynamic Tags) menu which is available when Custom Browse plugin is used together with the Custom Scan plugin and its "Mixed Tag" scanning module ?
I've mentioned it in a few threads, but so far I've got very little feedback on it.

If I understand what you want correctly, it implements your proposal, but isn't as user friendly as you like.

If you haven't used it, here is a short description of the functionality of the "Tags" menu:
- Standard information scanned by SlimServer will be part of the menu
- Custom tags scanned with the Custom Tag scanning module in the Custom Scan plugin will be part of the menu.
- The can browse the menu in unlimited number of levels in what ever order you like. A specific "tag" can be selected several times with different values, for example by browsing music that belongs both to the "Pop" genre and the "Rock" genre.

So, if you haven't tried it already, I think it might be worth a try, at least to get some sort of feeling about what works good and what doesn't.
Here is a link to my wiki that shows an example how you can configure it:
http://wiki.erland.homeip.net/index.php/Setup:_A_dynamic_browse_menu_to_browse_your_music_ by_tags


Now, some questions regarding your proposal:
===========================================
1.
Are we just talking about a web based interface, or do you also want a SqueezeBox interface towards the browsing mechanism ?
Or would the "Tags" menu in the current state be good enough for the SqueezeBo interface ?

2.
Do you have any specific skin in mind for the web interface, or would default + Fishbone be good enough ?
Is Nokia770/Touch skin also a requirement ?

3.
Are we just talking about "browsing" or do you also need an interface for editing the different tags/values for a specific song ?
Or would it be good enough to store the tags/values in tags in the music files using some of the standard tagging applications available ?

4.
Are we just talking about a way to browse your own music by the tags/values you have set, or do you want connection to some sort of central music database where all users can retrieve tags for their music ? Like LastFM/Musicbrainz ?

5.
When I compare the current Custom Browse/Custom Scan "Tags" menu with the Fortuna system, the big different is that you will see a lot less information simultaneously on the screen with the "Tags" menu and it also requires a few more clicks to get what you want. Is this the same differences you are seeing or am I missing some major point in your solution ?


It would be great to get a discussion about a browsing mechanism like this. For people with a small/medium large library with only Pop/Rock music the current standard SlimServer browsing mechanism probably works quite good. But I've stared to see that for people with classical music, the current SlimServer way of browsing doesn't really work. My feeling so far is that the main problem is that the current browse menus is to static, the result is that you need to know where the thing you are looking for is before you start to browse for it. Another problem is that the current menu structure is to flat for a large library with classical music. The conflict is that the flat menu structure is also great for people with small Pop/Rock libraries, since it makes it easy and fast for them to find things.

vrobin
2007-08-12, 08:08
Hi Adam,

It's fun to read your post as I'm spending all my free time since a month or more to achieve what you're describing.

By playing with flac tags, CustomScan and CustomBrowse, I manage to get the browsing system of your dreamss. It may not be as integrated and beautiful as the Fortuna system, but for sure it's as practical.

Simply by using a complicated set of tags
(MY-CONDUCTORS,
MY-INSTRUMENTISTS,
MY-COMPOSER,
MY-ORCHESTRAS,
MY-CATALOG-NUMBER,
MY-CHOIRS,
MY-SINGERS
MY-WORK
MY-COMPOSING-GENRE
MY-GENRES)
each with the corresponding "xxx-SORT" when needed, I can now browse freely with structures like this:

composer -> opus -> conductor
composer -> work -> conductor
composer -> conductor
conductor -> composer
instrumentist -> genre -> composer
composing-year -> genre -> genre -> composer

etc.

The hardest thing in this process isn't the setup of the software but the way to organize tags. After a lot of tries and errors, I arrive to a system with some similitudes with Fortuna.

I told earlier that I would put an article on the wiki to summarize these thoughts and scripts as my process is nearly finalized... I'm only frightened to be the only crazy guy with the need, desire and will to do it this way.

adamslim
2007-08-12, 11:41
I'm guessing that you have already tried the "Tags" (Dynamic Tags) menu
Kinda. I have spent some time with these before, and have just done another hour. The problem is that I rarely know what to expect, and when it doesn't do what I expect, I have no idea what to do. I find these quite difficult to use (and I am not stupid and far from tech-averse!).

Current status: it's giving me an error. I'll leave it to do a full rescan now I've installed the latest versions of custom scan/browse and see what happens. I'll post to a separate thread if necessary.


Now, some questions regarding your proposal:
===========================================
1.
Are we just talking about a web based interface, or do you also want a SqueezeBox interface towards the browsing mechanism ?
Or would the "Tags" menu in the current state be good enough for the SqueezeBo interface ?

2.
Do you have any specific skin in mind for the web interface, or would default + Fishbone be good enough ?
Is Nokia770/Touch skin also a requirement ?

3.
Are we just talking about "browsing" or do you also need an interface for editing the different tags/values for a specific song ?
Or would it be good enough to store the tags/values in tags in the music files using some of the standard tagging applications available ?

4.
Are we just talking about a way to browse your own music by the tags/values you have set, or do you want connection to some sort of central music database where all users can retrieve tags for their music ? Like LastFM/Musicbrainz ?

5.
When I compare the current Custom Browse/Custom Scan "Tags" menu with the Fortuna system, the big different is that you will see a lot less information simultaneously on the screen with the "Tags" menu and it also requires a few more clicks to get what you want. Is this the same differences you are seeing or am I missing some major point in your solution ?

1: the current SB interface is fine - it's hard enough to see anyway, with my 36 year-old eyes! So it's web only for me.

2: default and fishbone is fine. I never use Nokia770 - I'm quite happy with rather boring-looking lists, as long as they show what I want :)

3: standard tagging programs are fine - I spend far too long in MP3Tag!

4: I've given up with last.fm - everything classical has such a random name, even when you try to be MusicBrainz compliant. Just browsing my own music is fine, indeed all I am looking for.

5: the key advantage of the fortuna system is seeing the result of your filters immediately. It's just nicely laid out and allows you to find things when you're not looking for them - the key to a good browse system!


It would be great to get a discussion about a browsing mechanism like this. For people with a small/medium large library with only Pop/Rock music the current standard SlimServer browsing mechanism probably works quite good. But I've stared to see that for people with classical music, the current SlimServer way of browsing doesn't really work. My feeling so far is that the main problem is that the current browse menus is to static, the result is that you need to know where the thing you are looking for is before you start to browse for it. Another problem is that the current menu structure is to flat for a large library with classical music. The conflict is that the flat menu structure is also great for people with small Pop/Rock libraries, since it makes it easy and fast for them to find things.

Exactly right. I like to browse with no end in mind - I might fancy baroque chamber music, say, or modern orchestral. My classical library is large and getting bigger (multisets of complete symphonies of XYZ are so cheap!), so I need to manage it better. I'm happy to spend lots of time tagging, but I am no programmer...

Adam

adamslim
2007-08-12, 11:44
Hi Adam,

It's fun to read your post as I'm spending all my free time since a month or more to achieve what you're describing.

By playing with flac tags, CustomScan and CustomBrowse, I manage to get the browsing system of your dreamss. It may not be as integrated and beautiful as the Fortuna system, but for sure it's as practical.

Simply by using a complicated set of tags
(MY-CONDUCTORS,
MY-INSTRUMENTISTS,
MY-COMPOSER,
MY-ORCHESTRAS,
MY-CATALOG-NUMBER,
MY-CHOIRS,
MY-SINGERS
MY-WORK
MY-COMPOSING-GENRE
MY-GENRES)
each with the corresponding "xxx-SORT" when needed, I can now browse freely with structures like this:

composer -> opus -> conductor
composer -> work -> conductor
composer -> conductor
conductor -> composer
instrumentist -> genre -> composer
composing-year -> genre -> genre -> composer

etc.

The hardest thing in this process isn't the setup of the software but the way to organize tags. After a lot of tries and errors, I arrive to a system with some similitudes with Fortuna.

I told earlier that I would put an article on the wiki to summarize these thoughts and scripts as my process is nearly finalized... I'm only frightened to be the only crazy guy with the need, desire and will to do it this way.

Good stuff, I look forward to your wiki!

Do your browse structures work dynamically? For me one of the key things is that I see a nice list of what fits into my currently-selected filters, so I can browse in a random order.

Adam

erland
2007-08-13, 13:08
Do your browse structures work dynamically? For me one of the key things is that I see a nice list of what fits into my currently-selected filters, so I can browse in a random order.
I know Robin has tried the "Tags" menu and that works as dynamic as you like. It currently need an extra click on a "Matching Albums" or "Matching Songs" link to see what is matching the currently selection.

The reason for the reason I put in the extra click is because else it might need to display 10000 items when you for example only have selected genre="Classical". I can see two ways to improve this:
1. It should show the number of matching items, for example "Matching Songs (9451)" instead of just "Matching Songs".
2. It can show the items directly

A combination of these might be a good idea, where the number is displayed if more than 100 items is matching and if less than 100 items is matching it shows the songs/albums directly. Robin has already suggested an improvement similar to this.

When looking at the Fortuna demo you linked to, I think the thing that makes it a lot more user friendly compared to the "Tags" menu. It shows a lot of information on the same screen. You will see the selected criterias, the matching songs/works/cd and also more information about a song/work/cd you have selected in the list of matching items.

I have a feeling that even though the "Tags" menu in Custom Browse/Custom Scan might work for you, you probably want a more user friendly solution and then Custom Browse might not be the right way to go. The Custom Scan part that reads the tags from the files and get it into the database feels like it can be used though.

All this also results in that it might be a bit of work to develop a solution like this. At the moment, I'm afraid that I have some things I need for my self to take care of first, so in the close future you will probably not see any solution from me regarding this, besides maybe some improvements to the existing "Tags" menu. So if any person with developer skills is interested in trying to do this, I'm happy to provide more details about how I think it can be done and which parts of Custom Scan/Custom Browse that might be reused. If no one else starts to do this, there is still a chance I might give it a try in a few months or so.

Adam, start a thread in the 3rd party plugins forum if you can't get the Custom Browse/Custom Scan "Tags" menu up and running and I'll do my best to help. Even though it might not solve all your needs, it would be great to get some feedback on it since its purpose is to solve a part of your problem. The wiki link I posted in my previous reply shows a step by step example how to set it up.

adamslim
2007-08-13, 14:45
Cheers Erland

Maybe it could show the first 100 items? Generally if there is more than 100 I would want to apply more filters, but it's nice to get an indication of what there is. Either way, removing the extra click would be a plus for me.

Re Fortuna, the information about the work is not so important (to me), but the easy visibility of what filters are applied is crucial. All I want to see is the filters and the works matching this. Custom Browse is close!

I'll start another thread with the issues :)

Adam

vrobin
2007-08-13, 16:02
Good stuff, I look forward to your wiki!

Do your browse structures work dynamically? For me one of the key things is that I see a nice list of what fits into my currently-selected filters, so I can browse in a random order.

Adam

My promised wiki entry could come in a while (I change my mind a little, encounters new problems that I'd like to solve with efficience - last one is the impossibility to import my clean flac data in Music Collector my CD Cataloging software), find interesting information in new online bases (recently I came across cd universe data, there is interesting stuff there!)

The structure is browsed dynamically and updated at every click but there is a couple of things that would be needed to improve user friendliness, like displaying of clicked tags (active filters) in the breadcrumb, automatic display of albums/tracks/works (be it by configuration, under a certain threshold of pieces found or both).

I'll be happy one day to help erland with coding (even if my perl skills are rather rusty) but it won't be before long (as I'm still loosing time on the tagging question).

In the meantime, maybe I can help with user feedback for small improvement of the dynamic tag system.

(right now, I dream of an expandable/scriptable visual tool for mixing online info sources and merge it in flac tags, some sort of visual interface like sound generator chains in computer music software)

)p(
2007-08-13, 22:27
A combination of these might be a good idea, where the number is displayed if more than 100 items is matching and if less than 100 items is matching it shows the songs/albums directly. Robin has already suggested an improvement similar to this.

Good idea. The current extra click just doesn't feel right...it interrupts with the normal feel of the flow of browsing.

Maybe you could make an option to set how many items to be displayed. So you can choose a number that feels right for you. If the displaying of the list is rather fast, I personally don't mind browsing a larger list when I can jump through it with the keypad.

peter

adamslim
2007-08-14, 01:01
(right now, I dream of an expandable/scriptable visual tool for mixing online info sources and merge it in flac tags, some sort of visual interface like sound generator chains in computer music software)

I do think anyone who see this thread and thinks "yeah!" needs therapy :)

vrobin
2007-08-14, 02:04
I do think anyone who see this thread and thinks "yeah!" needs therapy :)

Yes, that's what I'm saying to myself every night when I go to sleep at unspeakable hours... (I should add that I do not use to be a total geek with no life...maybe until I got my SB)

katabasis
2007-08-14, 03:35
I 100% support this request. I am still far from being happy about how i access my classical (and others) records.

Currently i use a group of taxonomies in the description tag and play with them to construct custom random (or fixed) lists with the Dynamic SQL Playlist plugin: 'Lute solo works', 'Glenn Gould solo', 'Flute XVIII solo', etc. But i need to code the sql for every list and the result is functionally somehow useful but far from definitive at all (the interface needs to be more record-oriented).
For my Ethnics records, i have different needs, where 'Country', 'Religion' etc taxonomies are the important ones.

So, i add these requests to adam's ones

- Support for a 'taxonomies' tag, where you can freely define your own taxonomies and get (or easily configure) fixed/random lists in the way i've described. Or some system supporting this feature.
- Hability to manage properly the booklets. Sometimes they are images, sometimes pdf files, and i need that information could be inspected while i enjoy the music
- Of course, i remark the needing of a good visual interface. I tend to be minimalist so something like Fortune system with flexible configuration is ok.
- Open enough to add new contents. Example: add a map of the world as a way to select countries.


And, of course, if anyone else wants to contribute cash, it might provide more of an incentive!

Add 100$ more here for a serious working interface with Nokia 707 support.


Excuse me if some (or all) of this has been discussed somewhere, i can not read the forum oftem.

ps. If this software had java support, lots of more people could contribute with improvements, included myself

Regards

Robin Bowes
2007-08-14, 03:48
katabasis wrote:
>
> ps. If this software had java support, lots of more people could
> contribute with improvements, included myself

PPS. If you learned perl, you could contribute to this software and many
other projects.

R.

erland
2007-08-14, 03:53
Add 100$ more here for a serious working interface with Nokia 707 support.

ps. If this software had java support, lots of more people could contribute with improvements, included myselfDoes the Nokia770 web browser support Java applets ?
Do you know which Java version that is used ?

katabasis
2007-08-14, 04:10
I am sorry to say no Erland :(, actually there is no jvm for N 770 and the few projects i've seen about this are died.
Is there any project related to mapping requests between the perl module any java infraestructure, or any plan to port the perl api to java?

erland
2007-08-14, 09:32
Is there any project related to mapping requests between the perl module any java infraestructure, or any plan to port the perl api to java?
This is getting off topic, so if you like to continue to discuss this, please start a thread in the Developers section of the forums.

Since this come up in this thread, I'm guessing that you are thinking of a Java based user interface that shows the data in SlimServer.

If this is the case the best way in SlimServer 6.5 I can think of is to use one of:
1. Use the CLI interface, this is a telnet based interface, which can be called from Java since there is Java utility classes for sending and receiving information over telnet.
2. Implement you own HTTP based XML protocol in Perl and talk to this from the Java code. Could be a web service based solution or JSON as mentioned below or something else.

In SlimServer 7.0 the CLI interface will also be available over HTTP using JSON. So this should hopefully make it a bit easer to use it from Java.

katabasis
2007-08-14, 11:38
This is getting off topic, so if you like to continue to discuss this, please start a thread in the Developers section of the forums.
Sure, not my intention at all



Since this come up in this thread, I'm guessing that you are thinking of a Java based user interface that shows the data in SlimServer.
No, i have no preferences at all if it works. My post scriptum was just a little comment


If this is the case the best way in SlimServer 6.5 I can think of is to use one of:
1. Use the CLI interface, this is a telnet based interface, which can be called from Java since there is Java utility classes for sending and receiving information over telnet.
2. Implement you own HTTP based XML protocol in Perl and talk to this from the Java code. Could be a web service based solution or JSON as mentioned below or something else.

In SlimServer 7.0 the CLI interface will also be available over HTTP using JSON. So this should hopefully make it a bit easer to use it from Java.
Thank you for your points, iŽll unvestigate those options.

Regards