Last night, in what might have been a whisky-fuelled moment of bravado, I switched Old Beardscratchers Compendium to New Beardscratchers Compendium. Like the sprightly young whippersnapper it is, this new version does everything the last one did, but comes much leaner, meaner and greener and with some extra tricks up its sleeves.

It’s something I’ve been working at like a bad itch for quite some time. I’ve been desperate to get it out there but hampered at every turn by a desire to get it ‘just right’. Well, by all means it’s not perfect, but it’s starting to feel a little bit closer.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

Probably the most significant change is that all the code has been entirely rewritten from the ground-up. The bits that power the metadata discovery, to the fluff that garnishes buttons. The Compendium was originally borne out of laziness, at a time when this site operated as a place for creative-arts reviews. In attempting to automate the process of adding album and film details to reviews, I wrote a little plugin for the Textpattern CMS powering the site. That plugin got bigger… and bigger… and bigger, and eventually outgrew its shoes in, well, a big way.

So it’s been rewritten. For the geeks among you, it’s all now underpinned by the brilliant Kohana MVC framework. By rewriting the code, there’s a huge opportunity to roll-out new features, make rapid fixes and add new content. There’s a slew of new APIs introduced, and it’s even (albeit half-heartedly) authored in HTML5.

What’s New, Pussycat?

Best to keep as much a surprise as possible. Pick an artist and just see where you end up. Click about. The Compendiums’s all about discovery and play. A few highlights:

Artist News!

Every artist you can view in The Compendium – based off Musicbrainz, that’s more than half a million – has their very own news stream updated several times a day.

This news stream is a combination of a pretty broad selection of the UK and US music press. However, the aggregation started very recently and as I write this there are just over 2000 articles stored that were published in the last few weeks. Expect at least double in a week’s time, and it’ll continue to grow.

As there’s more to music journalism than what British and American hacks write, I am on the hunt for decent sources outside these territories. Please send me a note or comment below if you’re aware of any, particularly mainland Europe, Southeast Asia and Japan, would be greatly appreciated.

And what would a news page be without a big orange ‘Subscribe!’ button to get all the tasty newsbits as a juicy RSS feed in your very own news reader? Pretty rubbish. So there’s one of them too!

Record Reviews!

While artist pages get spangly newsfeeds, don’t think release pages have been forgotten about. They get reviews; they has them. I exemplify, thus:

Again, a broad but localised subset of music press are included; increasing the scope worldwide is planned.

Upcoming Gigs!

Gigs. Everyone loves gigs. We should all go to more. How about getting a combined listing from several major event sites of upcoming gigs for all the artists? Done. Oh, and it’s location-aware too. If a gig’s near you, it’ll make sure you know.

This feature was present in v1. But it never really worked, and always pronounced it was ‘Under development’. This was technically true, just not that particular version of it.

More

There’s more things to see, of course… Go! Find! Hopefully they’ll delight you as much as they have sometimes perplexed me trying to get them working. Please feel free to contact me if you find odd bugs, think there’s something cool to add, you hate or love it, or perhaps just indifferent and would rather tell me how your day went.

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

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