Terminal Zone: Website Proposal

Reference Database

The goal here is to accumulate a substantial reference library of reviews of recorded music, of special interest to the contributors' community. The initial community was largely shaped by the tastes and interests of Robert Christgau, although it may expand and drift over time. The main idea is to provide support for recommended album lists that may serve to guide newcomers in exploring the history of popular music.

The reference database will be built up incrementally. Even in the long run, there is no expectation of completeness (unlike Wikipedia, AMG, Discogs, etc.).

It is possible that this will be built using Mediawiki plus some custom programming. Mediawiki has several advantages, including a shadow discussion system and extensive revision control. It is set up to encourage broad participation. Presumably we will limit this, at least initially. Mediawiki imposes no structure: everything is a page, with links to other pages. This gives us a lot of flexibility to specify a structure.

Album Pages/Entries

I see two alternative approaches here:

  • Put each album in an include file or macro, so the same text can be pulled out under each artist name (some albums belong to multiple artists). In this view the main granularity would be the artist pages.
  • Give each album its own page. Artist pages would then link to the album pages, possibly with different text for different links.

The choice probably comes down to how much data will wind up in each album entry. I'm thinking it will include:

  • Original release header.
  • A brief, relatively neutral (descriptive) summary.
  • A ratings cluster: a set of tuples each with the rater ID, rating, and (optional) brief comment. If there are too many, they can be expanded through a link.
  • Release history, with (optional) further comments, maybe even further ratings.
  • Especially for full album pages: sidebar could include cover art, song list, credits.
  • Again for full album pages: selected notable quotes from other reviewers, links/footnotes.

Artist Pages

For each artist (individual or group name) there would be a page. Aliases would be linked to the most sensible entry. The page would start with a brief biography, set up by a template. Then there would be a series of list for albums: major releases, EPs, archival material, compilations, significant shared credits, tribute albums (especially for major composers; merely getting a song covered wouldn't qualify).

Artists can be indexed various ways: on series of pages sorted by alpha, by year or period, by genre, etc. Various Artist compilations can be linked through appropriate group pages (series, genre, label).

Genre Taxonomy

We need some sort of genre taxonomy, if only because it provides a vector into browing the artist/album data. Each identifiable genre would have its own page, starting with a general description, then a list of exemplary albums, and a more complete index to related artists and/or albums. (One example of a genre that maps to albums but not to their artists is Christmas music.) Lists and indexes could (arguably should) be separate pages. Related genres should cross-link. Some of this will be hierarchical, but some won't (e.g., fusions). Some will be obvious, but some will be annoyingly subtle or unclear.

Other similar vectors are possible: geography, period, instrument. World music could be subdivided into regions, or the world could be subdivided into regions (countries, etc.), each subdivided by genre. (The latter makes more sense to me, but that wouldn't preclude having a world music page.)

Miscellaneous Pages

Add other page types as needed:

  • Label pages and indexes, added as they appear to be important and useful.
  • Songs: I don't want to go very deep here, but there are a few songs that are so widely done they may merit special discussion (obvious examples include "Body and Soul" and "Summertime"). Some songs may be important enough to feature, although I'm not pushing that.

Ratings Database


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