As I mentioned the other day, I finally joined Discogs, following my surprise discovery of some of my earlier work on a listed Polish CDR. I’ve enjoyed browsing the site from time to time, but had generally stayed away– Discogs always looked like a rabbit hole I might spend an inordinate amount of time adding to.
I took some time to create a full release entry for one of my earlier albums, the same one that had been the source of tracks for the Polish compilation. If you haven’t used Discogs, let me describe it in a single word for you: ANAL.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. When you’re serious about looking up an exact album, especially older stuff, the difference between a track being 2:33 or 2:45 can make a real difference! And I have to hand it to them, Discogs has done an admirable job of creating a useable, somewhat-friendly interface for entering all the possible information about albums in. Still, given the amount of time and effort it took for me to enter my own album in– one I thought I knew pretty well, ha ha– really opened my eyes. When you start imagining a site of this size tracking song lengths, cover art, limited editions, formats, stereo information, etc… well, there’s a lot of opportunity for mistakes to be made!
Even I made some initially. I put “40″ for the number of CDs in the release itself, thinking this to be a space for the number of individual editions manufactured. I tangled up a performer’s alias, and used a slightly incorrect format term where another would have been more appropriate.
The good thing was that later that day, I was discussing my first Discogs experience with some fellow SLSK Noise chatters, who noted these errors and helped me fix them. The bad thing?
I found out that my entry probably won’t be seen by a Discogs moderator for around four months!
Yes, you read that right. At this moment, on the same internet that you and I use, a person can enter information into a popular site receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors each day and not see that information made accessible to the general public for months! It’s almost hard to believe, and makes you wonder what the problem could be. According to the Discogs News forum, problems with having too many newly-added releases in queue (in other words, waiting to be checked-over by a moderator before entering Discogs publicly) had become so great that Discogs management “put the brakes on” the ability of users to make new submissions– whereas previously, users were granted three “points” good for submissions and updates for every full new entry; now members found their points suddenly and drastically reduced. Why? To put it simply, the 300-ish moderators couldn’t keep up with the sheer amount of information being presented to them!
Discogs Community Manager “Nik” said:
The length of the queue is more or less directly related to how long it takes for a submission to be processed. There is absolutely no point in throwing more and more submissions onto the queue if we cannot process them (and the queue gets longer and longer). Last September the queue was just over 20,000. By the start of 2007 it was 30,000. It rose over January and February to 40,00 at the end of February, and was continuing to climb. That’s double the queue size in six months. And the waiting times have risen proportionally. To do nothing was not an option. This is a pill that we have to swallow in order to manage the queue and waiting times for submissions.
I wonder what would happen if Discogs were re-invented as a Wiki. Rather than rely on the “expert” opinion of a small group of volunteers, why not let group consensus prevail? I can envision the moderators still having a place– even Wikipedia has it’s stewards and admins– but otherwise, let the public add as they will. It’s hard not to feel for users like “Stoffeler10,” who seem to enjoy adding to the wealth of information, and now find themselves cut off:
“Sorry nik, but this is sick. People (like me), who are submitting for years now, spending hours for this data are now able to submit 7 releases. Thank you very much. What an award for all the work.”
“Sorry nik, but this is bullshit: I’m experienced submitter (482 new entries done, not counting the edits), now I got only ONE new release in queue and I’m unable to move 2nd release from my drafts to my pendings! It’s not fair!!”
I agree, it really isn’t fair. It doesn’t even seem like a particularly viable fix. Common sense says that as the site grows in popularity, the amount of submissions will increase. Although Discogs is scrambling to add more moderators (ten more per month, according to one of Nik’s forum posts) the problem will most likely continue– it’s hard to believe that a supply of volunteer “experts” is an inexhaustible resource!
That’s where making Discogs a Wiki starts to make sense. If you’re just going to continue adding users with privileges to keep up with the tide, why not just let everyone have these powers? With marketplace sales of wanted albums as a driving force, the Discogs community has a vested interest in keeping information accurate. However, under the current system, users are forced to choose between spending points correcting small, known errors, or adding new content!
User “Jester1973″ writes:
“My sole complaint about the current restrictions are that I have several Edits pending with single obvious errors noticed after the fact or by moderators. I have no issue cancelling and resubmitting these, but being over my limit, I actually can’t. This means leaving Edits with errors easy to correct sitting in my personal queue waiting for restrictions to be lifted so I can cancel and re-submit correctly. “
Besides, moderators are only human. Getting the “expert” label doesn’t necessarily make one so. Think back to my own submitted release. If anyone should be an expert on it, I should, right? But I initially made mistakes with my own material. I can only wonder what an “expert” moderator will think of a limited-edition 40-count dual CDR (one audio, one data) release packaged in 40 unique LP jackets taken from popular artists, and containing that artist’s original LP as a gift! In short, it’s an “expert’s” nightmare– but the perfect opportunity for the Wiki structure to shine.
Users can question entries, update at will, and sort potential corrections out. Users are free to contribute, without worrying about having enough point capital to “spend” in order to continue adding to the growing wealth of information. It sounds great to me– please, make Discogs a wiki!
Update: Discogs user “Doctor Trance” writes in the forum:
“I’m for this, as you would know if you’ve read some of my other posts/threads.
“Nik’s thoughts in that other thread was that he pondered it, but thought their might be too many duplicate and incorrect releases, but if you took all the mods right now, and made it their job to look for discrepancies like that, it could work. In addition to that, only allow users with a certain rank should do it, not just everybody. It would be a slight step above Wikipedia, in that not everyone could submit just anything. With nik’s new submission limits going according to how well users submit, the new ranking system could only allow not only the most experienced submitters, but also the most accurate.
Wikipedia is also a database about everything under the sun: theories, biographies, definitions, etc, including many things that aren’t necessarily factual based. On this site, we are only adding factual information found printed on musical formats, so it’s not rocket science.
It’s actually the RSG that prevents things from going in smoothly. If the site were simply artist name, release name, and song listing, the place would have been twice the size it is now, with twice as many releases here. After all, these are the 3 top priorities on anyone’s list in searching for music. We’ve gradually allowed every credit, format, period, and semicolon into the system, that appears on a release, so it makes it more difficult to just jump to wiki style. If Discogs had remained in a more simple form, it may have already become a wiki site, not to mention a more gigantic one.
I’ve also always been in favor of wanting to see all releases by one artist in here, as opposed to only half, but a perfect half in that it is as accurate as one can get with those that are here. Before submitting here, I use to come here thinking that every electronic artist in this DB had only ever released stuff listed on their Discogs page. I was always disappointed when I would learn from other sites that these people actually had much more than what Discogs would show. Then coming in as a user, I found what the reason is why artist pages are so incomplete: as Kergillian puts it, the “tightly reined” database.
The site will never truly become a complete database unless it goes to a somewhat wiki style. Even with the huge queue, there simply aren’t enough users with enough releases in their hands to get every artist’s release in here.”
In another, older thread, Doctor Trance shows some evidence that Discogs may indeed be moving towards something like an open wiki model:
“The amount of Y-votes use to be 4, then went to 3, then to 2, so 1 is the next logical choice before letting someone have full control of submitting their own stuff. I’m sure there were those who said no to reducing it every time, but the site seems to have pressed on just fine with each reduction.”
I’m finding this to be a truly fascinating discussion– a collision of volunteerism, public use, private enterprise, information security, and the internet! It’s very much a mirror of many similar questions facing nations today. Here’s an excerpt from my last comment at the Discogs forum:
“I can’t help but notice the similarities between this discussion and the current security-related debates going on in the US… I can’t help but wonder if folks like Killaswitch and Perham were among those happily calling for the bans on liquids at airports, evil light-brites, and deadly toenail clippers….”