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More Flexible Gear

by Ben | 31st Oct 2018

A long standing item on my to-do list concerned some limitations with how we've been handling Gear to date.

Pretty much all the database knows about Gear is the gear Type (Synthesiser etc), the Manufacturer (Roland etc) and the Model name ("D50").

There are a few scenarios I wanted to improve:

There are items of gear that are related, or functionally very similar - for example, the module of the synth ("D50" <-> "D550"). If a reader is interested in the D50 and has landed on an article, they may well be interested in reading D550 articles as well.

Or when reading about the Korg Poly 800, then the Poly 800 MKII is likely also to be of interest. Does the reader know about the five different models of the Emax? Without relations, they may not know that many other Emax models and articles are there, and therefore may miss them entirely. Reading a review of a 100W amp? You probably won't look to see if there are also reviews of the 200W version. You likely don't even know a 200W version exists!

And another case is with software editors for synths - I had no way of relating a D50 editor, for example, to the actual D50/D550 it supports. There are many advantages to maintaining gear relations, so I wanted to implement that.

The second set of limitations concerned the gear categories.

Take for instance the "Studio FX" category, in which currently sit all the rackmount FX processors. That's great, but how can we look for just reverb units? Or compressors? The best we could do was display all the articles with gear from "Studio FX", and add a text search for "reverb" - but this wasn't great - you'd get articles contain text like "This unit doesn't do reverb..." - not really what we wanted.

We couldn't have multiple top level categories ("Studio FX - Reverb", "Studio FX - Delay" and so on) because this would be a mess, and besides, many units perform multiple functions, so couldn't live in just one category.

A similar problem lies with the Software categories - we *do* have multiple top level categories here ("Software - Sequencer/DAW", "Software - Editor/Librarian") - but what if I just wanted to see Amiga sequencers? Or all sample editors for the PC?

I really wanted some additional way of categorising this stuff to be more useful. So, as a break from processing content, I started to have a look at this, and build out a set of new gear admin tools...

Gear Relations

So the first new feature is Gear Relations. This lets me add any number of other items of gear to any piece of gear. Nice and easy on the site - relations to gear in an article just show up in the sidebar, and let you explore further.

Relations are bi-directional - so a D50 article will have a link to the D550, and vice versa.

Software editors are broken out into a subsection, so in addition to showing the D550, any software editors for the D50 will be shown here as well.

Relations are "soft", in that I'm not always using them just to relate a synth to it's module version - I'm relating things that I think would be useful for someone reading about that bit of gear. Take the venerable DX7 for instance - as well as the TX7, I've also related the DX7II, DX7S, the TX802, the TX816 as all are essentially based on the DX7 - as well as the various software editors for them.

You can think of this feature as a "If you're here, you might also be interested in this" type of deal.


The second class of problems above is solved by tags. Tags let me assign various arbitrary items of metadata to gear, and then use that for searches.

In the "Studio FX" scenario outlined above, for each bit of gear, I can create/assign tags such as "Reverb", "Delay", "Compressor". Maybe also "Digital FX", "MultiFX" and so on.

So by saying "Show me all the gear items in the Studio FX category, that are tagged with "Reverb" lets me view only reverb FX articles.

Similarly for software - tags for the various computer platforms can be assigned to the items of software, and now the database knows that "Notator" is Atari ST software, and "KCS" is available on the ST, Amiga, PC and Mac platform.

Now, tagging can essentially be infinite, so I'm not planning on over-using these and making everything I can think of a tag, but useful tags can include things like synthesis type ("Show me all the FM synth articles", "Show me articles on gear with polyphonic aftertouch" etc), gear families "Show me articles on the Roland JV Series"), or plain old Analog Synths or Digital Synths.

These are the kinds of things I'm using tags for, and the uses will expand over time no doubt as I decide on new useful things and tag accordingly on an on-going basis.

So how can we use tags?

Just like related gear, any tags on gear in an article will show up in the sidebar. You can see a review of the SCI T8 will show "Analog Synth" and "Polyphonic Aftertouch" tags.

Click a tag, and you will as usual be taken to the gear search with that tag prepopulated, so you can see all articles with gear tagged with "Polyphonic Aftertouch".

There is a new tag menu which lets you filter the results by tag in conjunction with all the other search options.

For now, to keep things simple, you can only search by one tag, so you can't do more complicated searches yet like "Show me all articles tagged with Reverb but not Delay or Digital FX" - the search options are complicated enough!

Tags also show up in the live search menu, and as metadata options in global search, again just to help guide the user to the content they want.

Both of these features should be nice and simple to use, don't get in the way, but add significant utility to navigating through the ever increasing amounts of content here. I hope you find them useful.

If you have any specific tagging requests, hit me up on twitter (@mu_zines) and I'll see what I can do.

Other Bits

There's more? Aside from the usual fixes and other work, there are a few little things to note - related articles in the footers now have images and are therefore a bit easier to see what's what:

And another item on my to-do list for some time - all search results pages now show a clearer summary of what the results are showing, and update as you change the search form.

This should make it easier to see a summary of the results you are looking at!

Have fun!

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mu:zines Blog
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    Part 4 - Processing the Scans | Jan 2019

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    More Flexible Gear | Oct 2018

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    Part 3 - The Scan Library | Oct 2018

- Getting International

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- One, Two... Testing

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    Birthday Time Again! | Mar 2018

- Editor Notes

    Don't miss them! | Jan 2018

- From Print To Screen

    Part Two - Scanning | Jan 2018

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