The Ultimate Index v3.0 – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook is LIVE!

It’s been a magnificently productive day at Innerspace Labs and we’ve reached what is to date our most prestigious milestone. I published a feature last March about the evolution of my life-long list-making of sound works, cinema, and literature that I’ve been meaning to explore. These lists also served to touch upon some of the special collections in my archive.

In the previous article I described how this process began with leather pocket journals, and as the scale of my library grew I began to publish annual print editions itemizing large collections.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

These efforts were radically transformed several years ago when I migrated to Google Drive. But as the years passed and spreadsheets and documents multiplied, it rapidly became apparent that I needed to consolidate all of these various lists into a single, deep searchable index otherwise countless lists would be forgotten and disappear into the digital void of my Google Drive.

Thus began the Innerspace Labs Master Workbook project this past spring. Though this venture posed several new dilemmas. As the workbook grew to nearly 200 tabs, I received this error stating that Google Workbooks are limited to 5 million or fewer cells.

Google Error 5 Million Cells Spreadsheet Workbook.png

And it quickly became evident that navigation of all those tabs was painfully arduous in the mobile environment, as was its loading time. Thankfully, after careful research into various potential solutions, I’ve implemented a system of scripts and formula expressions which make navigating this large workbook a snap and its interactive response time nearly instantaneous.

By combining over 200 named ranges, and incorporating a primary dynamic drop-down and a dependent secondary drop-down field, along with an “=INDIRECT(CONCATENATE” expression calling named ranges based on user input, I’m now able to hide and lock all but one master sheet and made the entire workbook navigable from that single homepage.

The home sheet offers the user a primary drop-down of LITERATURE, SOUND, or VIDEO, which in turn controls a secondary dependent drop-down to populate and auto-alphabetize a list of all related content for that category.

I’ve also employed a script which is triggered by Google Clock to rescan the entire workbook for newly-added lists and to automatically incorporate them into the search fields alphabetically and by category as the workbook continues to grow.

I understand that it may not have significant value to anyone other than myself, but it’s intended to serve as a reference document along with the over 200-pages of archive summaries I’ve drafted in a companion Google Doc. With this easy-to-reference Workbook, I can pull up a list in seconds and start exploring. My hope is that the project helps introduce me to some spectacular content and that it helps me rediscover forgotten areas of my library.

The next phase of the project is to apply uniform formatting to all lists, as these were drafted independently over the course of nearly a decade, so I apologize for the crudity of its present format. And of course, there may be errors or omissions among the lists. But you know that I’ll work tirelessly to make this project as accurate and accessible as I can.

Here is a link to a copy of the latest version. It showcases and attempts to organize ~26,000 of the most noteworthy elements of my personal library and related subjects of interest. All cells are locked for editing except the two dynamic drop downs, which is sufficient for general users to explore and interact with the document. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a labor of love that I will continue to work on and which I hope will enrich my life as it continues to expose me to some of the greatest works of the ages.

The Ultimate Index: The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook

February has been a whirlwind of productivity and I’m excited to share the results of my efforts. Thus far I’ve introduced five projects. First I discovered that the disk snapshot solution I’d been employing for my server would no longer work at its current scale, so I had to research and implement a new solution. Once that was a success, I set myself to the task of merging and updating two music database systems I’d created years apart on two different operating systems. That was an incredible challenge.

The next three projects were featured here at Innerspace Labs – first the Nipper RCA “His Master’s Voice” project, then the six-hour drone high-fidelity ambient experiment with Eno’s Music For Airports, followed by the Fred Deakin archive update. But it was the sixth subsequent undertaking which would consume countless late night hours as the latest project continuously exploded in scope and scale, each time introducing new challenges to test my problem-solving skills.

For as long as I’ve been breathing, I’ve been compiling and organizing lists of all manners of subjects. I thrive creating order from chaos – chronicling and curating media of the 20th-century. As a young man, I penned lists in leather pocket journals but was frustrated by the fixed and static state of the data one committed to the page. I quickly graduated to Microsoft Office and then to LibreOffice, and by 2013 began self-publishing books of collected lists and spreadsheets to document the progress of my archive.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

But the true game-changer came when I adopted the Google suite of apps, most notably Google Docs, Sheets, and the Google Keep task manager. These applications introduced undo history, increased accessibility, and most importantly, shareability to my list-making efforts.

Still, the seamless convenience of Google Drive came with a caveat – scores of lists once generated were quickly forgotten, and the sheer number of them made Google Keep and Google Calendar reminders cumbersome and an ineffective method of managing them at this scale. What I came to realize was that dozens of quality sets of information were disappearing into the digital black void of a Google Drive overrun with lists.

That’s what inspired this latest project. I decided to survey my entire history of list-making, compiling databases created in a wide array of formats and constructed on multiple platforms over the years, and to merge them all into a single workbook on Google Sheets. It was an incredible challenge, as the formatting of the data varied tremendously from .M3U to .PUB to raw .TXT to .XLS to proprietary database systems built for Windows XP (OrangeCD), to web-based database systems like Discogs and Goodreads which each offered .CSV exports.

To depict folder-structure-based organizational systems, (commonly employed for artists and label discographies), I utilized tree -d list.txt for large libraries. To extract %artist% and %title% metadata from RYM toplist playlists I’d constructed, I developed a spreadsheet combining four formulas to pull nth row values and to truncate “#EXTINF:###,” expressions and file paths from .M3U lists outputting a clean list of tracks.

In October of 2017 I’d authored The Innerspace Labs Journal: A Listener’s Guide to Exploration in Google Docs as a contextual survey of my larger collections. It spans eighty-four pages and includes an active hyperlinked TOC with an X.XX indexing structure and served my needs well for the past two years, but for simple down-and-dirty lists a spreadsheet seemed like a more accessible format.

Screenshot of Innerspace Labs Journal A Listener's Guide to Exploration

And so I constructed this latest effort – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook – a cloud-based 180-tab set of spreadsheets combining all of my list data into a single, searchable, sharable index with a hyperlinked Table of Contents for easy navigation. The interface is intuitive, it loads lightning fast on even the most modest of systems and across all browsers and platforms, is mobile-friendly, and it will continue to grow as new content is introduced to my library.

The TOC is segmented into four primary themes:

  1. Literature and Essays
  2. Cinema and Television
  3. Sound Pt 1: Music Surveys, Best-Of Lists, and Guides
  4. Sound Pt 2: Artist Discographic Chronologies, Audiobooks, and Old-Time Radio Dramas

While a few of the tabs contain hyperlinks to lists from multi-page sites which do not send themselves well to text extraction, I’ve done my best to embed as much of the information as possible locally in the workbook, itself and to keep the layout consistently uniform to facilitate navigation and clarity.

Screenshot of Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook

Unlike the self-published books or the somewhat daunting length of the Journal, this workbook is simple and localizes the data a viewer is most interested in exploring to a single, plaintext sheet for quick and easy reference. The shareability is key to aiding curious listeners/viewers in finding quality content relevant to their interests, and it is simultaneously a tool to empower me to delve into the many areas of my own library which I’ve yet to explore.

This is a milestone for Innerspace Labs, and I will continue to refine and expand the project into the future.

The Innerspace Cloud Project a SUCCESS!

Wonderful news dear readers!  We’ve reached a new milestone at Innerspace.   We’ve come so far!

Our Humble Beginnings…

Back in the summer of 2011, I decided that I could do more than I was accomplishing with my text-based Audio Library Excel spreadsheet.  I spent the summer researching and testing all major music cataloging softwares.  By that August, I’d built my first OrangeCD database which was leaps and bounds ahead of the spreadsheet.

The catalog continued and grew for a few years and in May of 2014 we took the next step and moved from a static local DB to the cloud.  Discogs.com became the new home of Innerspace, but was limited to our vinyl-format collections.

I still wanted to do more.  There are many complete discographic archives in our library which I’d love users to be able to access.  Current copyright law unfortunately does not support such a model so, for now, my media server remains strictly for my personal access.

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But last night we succeeded in unifying our digital collections with our vinyl catalog.  Now our entire library is viewable, searchable, and sortable by any user-specified criteria – all in one place, and free on the web where anyone can browse it.

Better still, there is a shared reference table of our top label and artist archives consisting of 50-375 albums per collection.  These collections comprise 37% of the albums in our library, so it’s an excellent summary point-of-reference.

The searchable catalog can also be mapped visually, with larger point sizes for artists with the largest collections.

Check out our new About page – the new launch screen for our complete library!

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Moving to the Cloud

The time has come my friends.  On Jan 13th, 2011 I replaced my text-based Excel record  database with an OrangeCD visual db.  After 3.5 years of extracting data from web-based services, publishing quarterly reports and backing up to an external disk every month, I’ve finally smartened-up and made the move to the cloud.

When I first made the transition from text to a visual db, I thoroughly tested and evaluated each of the prominent softwares of the time.  True to form, I went through the same process with the three biggest online systems this week before setting my catalog free.

FIRST UP – RateYourMusic.com.

Your RYM profile consists of an avatar, a brief profile description, and your top 5-10 favorite composers/artists.  Supported formats are limited to CD, LP, and cassette.  The service does not appear to support official releases of electronic files.

RYM - Collection

RYM – Collection View

RYM permits users to add pressings missing from the db, with a simple preset interface for labels, artists, etc.  The site has a strict upload policy stating that album art images must be from your personal copies, (understandable for reasons of copyright but a frustrating complication just the same.)  Artist pages are accompanied by a profile and a sidebar of related user-generated lists.

RYM - List Browse

RYM – List Browse

RYM - Chart Browse

RYM – Chart Browse

The real power of the site is not collection management, but user-constructed lists and user-sourced album rankings for any search term, artist or genre you enter.  And surprisingly, RYM is not just for music.  The list tools have categories for books, films, games, and more.

User lists are a breeze and are fun to build.  To try this feature out I created a list of films inspired by the writings of Philip K Dick.

https://rateyourmusic.com/list/innerspaceboy/philip_k_dick_inspired_filmography/

At present, RYM includes just under 1 million artists and 2.8 million releases.  Building an RYM collection of my top 300 LPs took 3 evenings (roughly 100 titles per night) plus a handful of manual submissions for rare albums not already in the RYM database.

THE NEXT CONTENDER – MyRecordList.com

MyRecordList recently premiered on the scene boasting that it could provide analytics that discogs.com could not.  I was intrigued so I gave it a try.

After signing up on the site I clicked the link to import a CSV.  I tried exporting raw text from rateyourmusic.com and with a little tweaking (artist columns needed to be merged from FIRSTNAME LASTNAME to a single column), and some quick column re-assignment I successfully constructed  an importable CSV.  The resulting set only contained artist, title, format and year values, so I clicked the big red “DELETE ALL” button and started again – this time from MyRecordList’s preferred import method – Discogs.com.

MyRecordList Collection

MyRecordList Collection

While Discogs lacks support for importing CSVs, its export feature is solid.  MyRecordList wisely incorporated a direct “Import from Discogs” feature so the upload was seamless.  However the result was a clunkily-constructed and sluggish visual interface with a few display variables and absolutely no support for album cover syncing. There is an “automated” lookup tool to find album art, but the process is manual and handles only one album at a time, each prompting the user for input.

But on to the analytics that the site so boldly advertised.  Clicking the large “Your Stats” button I was presented with an over-simplified summary of my test-library, again consisting of my top 300 LPs.

MyRecordList Stats

MyRecordList Stats

None of the tables could be viewed as charts or graphs, and the only infographic the site offered was a pie chart of my library’s formats.

This was thoroughly disappointing, though hardly unexpected.  Any of these metrics are easily determinable from within the discogs.com site, simply by exporting a CSV into Excel or a similar application.

Discogs offers far more information, sorting functions, a community forum, up-to-the-minute sales history, archival organizational standards, and has already established itself as the premier marketplace for used and new vinyl, so there is little reason to look to another site for more, (excepting, of course, contacting labels directly for upcoming releases.)

Simply put, myrecordlist.com is clunky, slow and offers nothing that can’t be achived quicker and more easily on already-established mainstays like discogs.  And I quickly grew tired of seeing their loading screen every time I navigated to another page or view.

MyRecordList Constant Loading Screen

You’ll be seeing a lot of this.

But there was a clear upside to the experiment – rebuilding my database on discogs.com – something I’d been meaning to do for several years.  And building the test library of 300 LPs was easier on Discogs than on the two previous sites.  I completed the task in just 3 hours (three times faster than with the RYM interface.)

 The clear winner – Discogs.com

Discogs contains data for 3.3 million artists – more than three times that of RYM, and has approximately 5 million releases. And unlike the other two sites, Discogs supports 23 languages for worldwide accessibility.

Discogs - Collection - Text w Statistics

Discogs – Collection – Text View w Statistics

For those still clinging to their locally-hosted databases – consider the following advantages of Discogs:

– Eliminates the hassle of local backups to external drives and the paranoia of data loss.

– Offers the same album information you would otherwise have retrieved online for your locally-stored catalog

– Exports easily to a CSV should you require it

– Share your collection with users on the largest and most popular music cataloging site on the web

– Features an active discussion forum

– Discussion groups based on any topic you can imagine (or start your own.)

– High regulatory standards of organization

Discogs - Groups

Discogs – Groups

And lastly, Discogs supports more audio formats that you can dream of.  Sure, they have over 3 million standard 33 1/3 LPs, 1.6 million CDs, and about a million 7” singles, but they also have shellac, flexi-disc, acetate, FLAC, floppy disk, memory stick, Betamax, Edison disc, Ambisonic, Selectavision and one – (count ‘em… ONE) entry for a Bulgarian limited edition 2-track stereo 30 ips RMG Studio Master reel-to-reel.

After 3.5 years of creating extra work for myself, I’ve now embraced the future of music database management.