Quick update. I set myself a small challenge. A teeny, tiny, micro Hack Day of my own. With a simple rule to commit myself to completing one of the 101 new things I have in the pipeline, end-to-end, and get it live in a couple of hours. Pointedly it’s a course of discipline since I’ve fallen into a bottomless pit of tweaking and fine-tuning of late.

As the title of this entry might suggest, it involves record reviews! Reviews are already an integral part of release entries on The Compendium, but I’ve never opted to start recording their existence. So I have, and this in turn means that aggregated review listings for an artist’s back-catalogue become available. Well, will become, once more reviews are recorded; the testing sample covered less than 100. Some examples:

It’s a first-cut, and there are many improvements needed, but fortunately it was fairly successful. In part through opting for something fairly trivial, but mainly because I had a reason to commit myself to producing an end result.

I need to do that more often. I’m already responsible for more than one orphan:

All in good time, all in good time…

If there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s photographs. While I’ve invested quite a bit of time teaching The Compendium how to retrieve appropriate artist images —a bit of filtering here, and a little heuristics magic there— it’s never been quite enough to find flawlessly accurate photos across the hundreds of thousands of artists featured on the site, especially those that are less widely published.

To rectify this I’ve finally managed to set aside some time to add a feature that’s been on the backlog for a very long time. Photo galleries! Yes, I know they are pretty ubiquitous things, so I won’t be offended if you’re not bowled over with amazement. But while photos galleries have been around since the dawn of the first Web browser, filling this big feature void has been a really successful and pleasing end to an intense year of development.

Photo Galleries on The Beardscratchers Compendium

As with all other parts of The Compendium, the new artist photo gallery feature is privately managed behind-the-scenes to maintain quality. This is to ensure only relevant and high-resolution images are displayed, and not a slew of thumbnail-sized low-quality images.

However, one of the major plans for 2010 is to open up a lot of the data on the site. Both in terms of providing the data externally via webservices (an API of APIs, no less) and creating a community of editors to help maintain and and improve entries. I’ve always been mindful of this, and there’ll be more about it in the future…

This first cut of photo-galleries is in two parts. A preview of the gallery is displayed as the primary focus point of artist profile pages. This preview area provides a number of options to view the complete gallery in its own separate area (click the ‘x images available’ link), view images sourced from flickr or quickly scan through all images available in the gallery. Gallery pages are quite simple, nothing more than images and navigation, and no other clutter to get in the way of your pixel consumption pleasure.

Where no photo gallery exists, images are automatically sourced externally and displayed as they always have been.

See some Photo Galleries in action

I’ve already started sourcing promo images and where possible attributing photoshoots to the original photographer. Attribution is not an easy task and I’m getting in touch with people to find providers of original source material.

These are all well-known artists, but what about something you may not have heard of, like the Black Pig Border Morris Dancing group? One of the most satisfying things about running a site like this is that I can give exposure, whatever it might be worth, to artists or music that might not be a chart-topping fad or hugely marketed megalith. All it takes is sending a quick message with links to images and anything else that could be useful. Please include a link to the profile page in question so I can connect up the right things.

And finally…

Big stuff like this is cool, but it hasn’t been the only work since the last update entry. Hundreds of code commits have been made in areas such as site performance —the site scores > 90 in YSlow tests and pleases PageSpeed — little-but-makes-all-the-difference bugfixes, improved profiles for artists with unknown/incomplete discographies, more news and review providers, better parsing of discographies, more accurate image matching and much more…

Here’s to 2010. Have a Happy New Year!

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beardscratchers.com is a music-focused web experiment and creative-arts journal from London, England.

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