Saturday, August 9, 2014

The songs are back!

I was delighted to send this email just now:
This is a one-time, non-commercial email that I am sending you because at some point in the last ten years you submitted one or more songs to the List of Songs Not in 4/4 that I hosted on my website,  Thanks to you—and there a whopping 98 of you, assuming nobody has changed their email address since 2004—the list grew to over 500 songs and is, as far as a cursory Google search suggests, still the biggest such list on the internet.  It was offline for the last few years, but I have now rebuilt it and put it back up.  You can see it here.
And thank you for adding all those songs!
If you would like to add more songs or edit your songs, you can log in to your old account.  Your username is ... and your password is ....
The site may very well have bugs, and I invite your bug reports.  I've added a few features: each song can now have multiple opinions about the time signature, and you can back your opinions up with notes and a link to a copy of the song.  I am working on this as a hobby, so new features may be slow to come (you may have noticed), but I can make several commitments: the data will always be available for download, at least once I get that working; I will never have ads; and I have no intention of doing anything commercial with this data.  The full list of intended changes and bugs is here.
Thanks for adding your swinging, waltzing, or otherwise unconventional data!
I got 27 bounces immediately, which means that almost three quarters of these people still have the same email address (whether they ever check it or not), so that's something.

I don't remember how long it took me to build the Songs Not in 4/4 back in 2003/2004, but rebuilding it, including creating a new website on a new platform, learning the basics of Django, setting up hosting, and all that other good stuff, has taken at least 70 hours over the last three months.  That includes some of the time spent blogging about the process, and by blogging I mostly mean complaining.  I read this recent article, which summarizes itself as 
I had contradictory thoughts in response.  Certainly this was my experience, that I spent more time wrestling with tools than coding.  But most of the tools I was wrestling with were part of the programming, not the toolchain.  And everything in the toolchain, at least the toolchain I was using, did something I needed.  The claim "I want to program and not bother with bug tracking and deployment" is perilously close to the whine "I just want to do the most fun stuff and not bother with the less fun parts."  But the value of programming is solving peoples' problems, often people other than oneself, and bug tracking and scalable deployment and 508 compliance (accessibility, e.g., but not just, for blind readers) are all ways of solving bigger problems for more people.

A more sympathetic reading could be, "I want to program but these tools that are supposed to make it easier for me to program are more trouble than they are worth," and that's much harder to judge.  With this project, I really struggled with Django and its many libraries, even though that's exactly why I picked it.  This is perhaps the open-source version of complaining about the crummy vendors: the open-source community has many different solutions to your problem; none of them do everything you want and half of them are abandoned.  I tried to put breadcrumb-based navigation into my Songs, and tried and gave up on two different packages; one conflicted with the CMS package I'm committed to, and I already forgot what was unsuitable about the second.  I ended up hand-coding a few links.  But that didn't totally get it the way I want, so sooner or later I have to go digging through fifteen different packages to see which ones both solve my problem the way I want to solve it, and are compatible with the other packages I've committed to.  Of course the people writing and providing these free packages are doing great work, but the system as a whole falls short of being satisfactory.  Since we are almost all doing the same stuff: websites, lists of data, navigating; why is it so hard to find a common solution that is easy to use and does things in a generally accepted best way?

Anyway, go get your records out and start tapping the beats and then come to my site and add your funky music.

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