Running thesession.org

Running thesession.org

I realised that it’s been quite a while since I posted an update on the financial details of running thesession.org for anyone that’s interested.

Last time was the end of 2016:
https://thesession.org/discussions/40065

Before that it was the middle of 2015:
https://thesession.org/discussions/37657

Here’s how the costs are looking right now every month for The Session:

$48 Hosting and backups with https://www.digitalocean.com/
$50 Email newsletter and transactional emails with https://postmarkapp.com/
$ 8 DNS management with https://dnsimple.com
$12.50 Email account with https://www.fastmail.com/
$ 0 Version control with https://github.com/
$ 0 Secure certificate with https://letsencrypt.org/
——
$118.50 total monthly costs

That’s good news! It means the monthly costs have come *down* since I last gave an update. That’s mostly due to getting off Mailchimp which was by far the most expensive aspect (I’m now using Postmark, which I was already using for transactional email: they started offering bulk—for the newsletter—a little while back). Also, Github changed their pricing structure so I can have a free account there and still get the benefits of having private repos. And it’s worth noting that even though the cost for hosting at Digital Ocean looks unchanged, I’m actually getting *more* bang for my buck now—more memory and CPU for the same price.

I’m posting these numbers because The Session is supported by donations from you all, and I thought you’d like to see where your money goes. Once again, I am very, very grateful to anyone who has ever made a donation of any size. I’m especially thankful for those of you who have set up repeat monthly donations—that helps stabilise the numbers.

As a reminder, you can donate—either one-off or repeat—through Paypal, or you can become a supportor on Patreon. The details are all here:

https://thesession.org/donate

One of the reasons I haven’t posted an update in a while is that I’m breaking my own rules here. This discussion doesn’t have anything to do with Irish music. My apologies.

I really want to keep non-music updates to a minium here. I’ll post the occassional technical update here when it involves a new feature, but I try to confine the geeky details to my own website. Still, for anyone who’s interested in the technical side of things, I’ve made a blog for The Session:

https://blog.thesession.org/

That’s grabbing anything I’ve tagged on my own blog with “thesession” and displaying those posts in one place. There’s an RSS feed if you want to subscribe:
https://adactio.com/journal/tags/thesession/rss

Again, thank you so much for your donations towards keeping the site running—I really, really appreciate it.

And again, sorry about clogging up the discussions section with an update that isn’t relevant to Irish traditional music.

But while I’ve got this discussion started, how about we use this thread to document any features you wish The Session had?

I’m not saying I’ll be able to build everything you might want, but I’d really love to hear what you think would be useful additions.

For example, I’m toying with the idea of having a “record” option for every tune setting, where you could record a clip of yourself playing that setting. I don’t think this would be for public sharing—more like your own private library of recordings (it might even use “local storage” so the files are only stored on your own device rather than on a server). What do you think? Might that be useful?

Anyway, let me know if you have any ideas you want to share.

Re: Running thesession.org

Sounds great. However, imagine how much fun it would be if those record button clips were public for everyone. A whole new dimension for TheSession.org.

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Thanks Jeremy for running such an amazing site! 🙂

I was wondering in lieu of the running costs that public clips would entail, if some kind of solution for user by user hosting would work, e.g. potentially integrating with google drive api, users own google drive space would be used to host files their own files. A further potential issue for user posted sound files, would be moderation though… Could potentially be a pandoras box!

Otherwise the private storage option would be great, and maybe there could be a possibility to create a link to share the recording easily within a discussion for instance, e.g. integration with some temporary file transfer.

Other suggestions I would use would be the ability to post private only settings and also the ability to choose a preferred setting to appear at the top of the list when navigating to the tune.

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The ability to host recorded clips, and also PNG/PDF/SVG of sheet music would be an almighty one.

I mentioned before that the abcJS library can automagically transpose generated dots, and it’s something I use a surprising amount, so having it built into the website front end would be really useful.

The other feature request I would like to see, and I know it means an expansion in scope, is to allow tune types and so forth to be arbitrary, and have a more complex backend to support it. I understand why it was built the way it was but this site now hosts the largest single corpus of traditional music in existence and it would be useful to be able to do more complex things with it: things like tagging settings for an instrument, adding structured information to a setting such as source, approval marking/voting. In particular I’d really like to abolish the list of tune types and simply mandate that submitters supply M, L, K, R and T headers.

A really useful feature would be to allow users to host their own arbitrary ABC under their profile (so as to be kept out the main tunespace) and allow them to control access by person, group, or public.

Finally: how about a new section, "people". Tunes are written by people (mostly…) and recorded by people, and sessions attended by people, so why not a section where we can look up who, say, Joe Cooley was, and connect up people to tunes and recordings (and site users)?

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Re: Running thesession.org

Thanks Jeremy for a great site.

Two suggestions are the ability to change the speed on the Play Audio tab in a tune setting and the option of entering the tune composers name (if known) as a separate entry when submitting tunes rather than putting it in the comments. This could allow searching by composer.

In terms of an additional funding stream, what about charging people for submitting their own compositions?
;)

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How about a feature where we can transpose a tune within the setting instead of posting a new one?

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I just wanted to duck my head in and thank you for the site and all you have put into it. I rely on it enormously and would not have been able to make a start in Irish music nearly so easily without it.

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Just to add, in addition to it being obviously incredibly useful for ITM, it’s also one of the best designed sites I think I’ve ever used, from speed to UI to general layout in both desktop and mobile. Incredible job.

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belayatron, I appreciate your kind words. The speed of the site in particular is something I’ve paid a lot of attention—glad to hear it’s noticable!

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I appreciate ALL you do for this site. I hope everyone will dig in a bit and give to your efforts. I’m sure sometimes it feels like nobody cares about funds or time, but WE DO. I would really like to see some of our gifted folks be able to post a short AB of a song they downloaded. Maybe we could pay extra to belong to a portioned area where you could view or leave a video.

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Thank you so much Jeremy. I agree with SJ’s assessment above re. starting in ITM. I also agree with Calum’s idea of up/downvoting settings, with the most upvoted being the frontmost for the tune. As it is, a lot of good tunes are headed by poor settings or even erroneous ones. The only problem I could see with this option is that the comments would thus appear out of order with the settings. But perhaps, if that matters to a person while they’re on a tune page, there could be a button on each page to sort settings chronologically so they match up with comments. Perhaps this could even be a sort of toggle linked to each account so that a user can change the default preference if they so choose?

As a related aside, I used to find it very annoying to have to click the ABC tab first before I could view a setting myself with VoiceOver. Since you came out with that new audio interface this is no longer an issue, as listening to a setting by ear gives me a lot more information than parsing it with a screen reader. Changing audio playback speed might be nice, but I’m not sure it’s a priority for me.

On the topic of audio, I’m not sure what good a private library of clips would necessarily do. Public might be one thing, but even then I think the audio playback which is really pretty good, combined with a decent knowledge of traditional ornamentation and such, would generally be sufficient.

I also agree with Calum’s idea about turning the tune type categories into obligatory ABC fields. Perhaps as a way to ensure that nothing is submitted without proper documentation, each field could be turned into a required edit box and/or a popup list. For example, for the R: field you could have a list that says ‘reel, jig, hornpipe … and other (please specify)’ with a required edit box. For the M: field you could have ‘2/2 (I prefer feeling reels this way although 4/4 is notationally equivalent), 2/4, 3/2, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8, none, other (please specify)’ and so on. If Calum’s claim about this being the largest corpus of trad music in existence is accurate … wow!

Again, thanks so much for everything you’ve done here. I look forward to reading other people’s ideas.

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Oh, and another request: private messages, with their replies and sent messages, in a thread, like Gmail style. Thanks, Jeremy.

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In terms of the suggestions for marking/ranking settings, I personally like how it is at the moment without any crowd sourced preferences. Sometimes a setting is first which is not in the normal session key or has been abc’d oddly, but I think it’s worth it to be free from the facebook and reddit style of ranking or liking ‘content’, leaving the settings with no implied heirarchy other than who got there first.

At the moment if I am learning a tune, I will play many of the settings and listen to available recordings before figuring out how I want to learn it. If there is a recommended one, I might just be lazy and go for that, and it might have winner takes all effects down the line… I like how the current way it is reflects the idea that there are no definitive settings.

However, I wouldn’t mind having my persona bookmarked settings appear at the top of the page though, (or quick jump to bookmark button or similar). I haven’t used bookmarks as my usual navigation to a tune is via search box or direct from google.

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Thanks very much for all your hard work ruining g the site Jeremy, it truly is a gem. I have one very simple request, and that would be the ability to set an F#min key signature when adding a tune setting 🙂

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"ruining the site"!! That’s pretty harsh!

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😳😳😳😬😬😂😂 running running!! Sorry Jeremy!

PS an edit comments button would be handy too 😀

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I don’t think ranking settings has anything to do with either Facebook/Reddit or making one setting definitive. But I’d rather have it so that if, for example, I send my friend a tune to learn here, the first setting could be a pretty standard version so they don’t have to go and learn a version only to be told it’s not accurate. You have to admit that there are tunes here with the first setting being pretty bad, and others where I take the first setting as less ‘standard’ than subsequent ones (I realize that’s thorny territory, but bear with me). A compromise suggestion could be to leave things listed as they are with a tag on the page that says ‘most upvoted setting: <setting 3>’ or something like that, which could be pretty prominent and allow someone learning a tune to see that a setting other than the first seems to have a lot of action and a lot of people like it, so maybe learn it. Just a thought.

I also quite like the idea of messages in a thread style, and yes, sometimes I wish I could edit comments regardless of time constraints…

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Excellent site for Irish trad and related subjects - an invaluable resource for musicians and enthusiasts, thanks Jeremy. I shall be making a contribution via Paypal, I’d urge everyone to dip their hand in their pocket, however small.

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Daniel wrote: "I’d rather have it so that if, for example, I send my friend a tune to learn here, the first setting could be a pretty standard version so they don’t have to go and learn a version only to be told it’s not accurate."

You can send a link to a specific setting. Much like linking to a specific comment, the "#" link under every tune setting is an internal link to that setting. If you share that link, you can point people to a specific setting.

I don’t have any plans to introduce up-voting for tune settings, but I could potentially make use of bookmarking. If I highlight how often a setting has been bookmarked (or which setting has been bookmarked the most), it would as a de-facto voting mechanism.

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Many, many thanks as always, Jeremy, for making this website possible. It’s an invaluable resource that I refer to multiple times a week. Looking at your cost breakdown, I was struck by how frankly inexpensive it is to provide such a vital service to fuel our passion. I also noticed that you apparently don’t take anything for all the time that you must put in to it—-I’d think you would be entitled to something for that.
Most of all, I encourage all users to heed the call for donations—-set up a regular monthly one for five dollars (for us Yanks) —-it’s about the same as a new set of fiddle strings a year.
Thanks much again, Jeremy!

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I agree Charlie. It’s a small price to pay for a wonderful resource for ITM musicians everywhere. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it- I think it runs really well as it is. Like trying to tune the pipes- if it works just get on and play music.

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Thanks for all you do for this site Jeremy, keeping it running, sorting out tech problems, etc.
I would very much like to post tunes myself, but I just don’t do ABC, which is at the hub of all the postings, and sheet music comes (thanks!) as perhaps a secondary measure. I really have tried, but I did post on a couple of occasions in ABC, but the resulting sheet music came out all wrong, which was very frustrating. I have been able to read music since an early age and can and do make accurate transcriptions from recordings to standard notation, so…is there a way we could post sheet music and have it converted back to ABC? (Or is there a computer program that will do this for you?)
I’ll put a few ££s in the pot too.

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"I was struck by how frankly inexpensive it is to provide such a vital service to fuel our passion"
I suspect that if Jeremy were to apply his standard hourly rate to the time spent adding new features and administering and moderating the site then the true cost would be at least ten times higher.

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"I was struck by how frankly inexpensive it is to provide such a vital service to fuel our passion"

Send the bill to Charlie, roughly $27,000 since the site started.

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Charlie said:
"Looking at your cost breakdown, I was struck by how frankly inexpensive it is to provide such a vital service to fuel our passion."

It’s true enough, and I think that’s down to The Session being almost entirely text. There are no images to store, much less videos. The sheetmusic, for example, is generated at run-time but the generated sheetmusic isn’t stored on a server; just the ABC notation. That definitely helps to keep costs down.

"I also noticed that you apparently don’t take anything for all the time that you must put in to it—-I’d think you would be entitled to something for that."

I would *love* it if I could run The Session full time, but alas, that’s probably never going to be an option. However, I did recently switch to a four-day work week at my day job so that does free up more of my time for working on The Session. The donations definitely help to make the switch to a four-day work week doable, so thank you very, very much to everyone who has been donating!

Trish, I don’t know if this helps but you can test out ABC notation here (and download the ABC):
https://thesession.org/tunes/editor
I know it’s not what you’re asking for, but it does at least provide a space to muck around with ABC and see the corresponding sheet music.

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Hi Jeremy,
Thank you so much for the update.
There is just one additional site feature I’d like to see on the site (sorry, this probably isn’t going to be a very popular opinion).
Sometimes people start threads about things like natural disasters in certain areas, which can really impact the lives of members living in the location. I’d like it if these threads could still continue rather than being closed after a few posts. People who use this forum get to "know" other members through different interactions, shared interest in this music, their instrument and style preferences, etc., so it is understandable that when something happens that could affect another member, others would be concerned and want to know how they are doing. If this were an in-person, live group, people who wanted to talk about an event could do so without immediately shifting the topic back to music, even if a shared love for that music is the reason they might be getting together in the first place.
This is just my personal thought… I completely understand that the rules about discussion topics are there so as not to have too many off-topic discussions. Thank you for being so quick and responsive with regards to accessibility.

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Jeremy. In the context of testing out ABC in the editor - could the player be added to allow a check by ear?

Thanks for thesession.org

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Hey Jeremy,

This is such not a worthwhile idea but *I* and maybe *I and two others* would find this cool:

It would be neat to have a way to turn ABCs into Padraig O’Keefe’s "code" for fiddle and accordion.

That’s all.

One thing that would actually be cool if you do recordings would be if they could have tags, so people could tag "beginner friendly" or "learner friendly" + "instrument".

Thanks for all you do!

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Don’t know if this has been mentioned before, but would it be possible to do a Search for an individual member’s profile? Not sure if it’s a breach of their privacy, since we are after all encouraged to say a few lines about ourselves.
It might be useful to find out if a particular member lives in a city you are due to visit, and/or find out what instrument they play, and so on.

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Someone, you can see anyone’s profile by clicking on their screen name. The only members we cannot see are those in older posts where the members name has been removed.

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"Also, Github changed their pricing structure so I can have a free account there and still get the benefits of having private repos. And it’s worth noting that even though the cost for hosting at Digital Ocean looks unchanged, I’m actually getting *more* bang for my buck now—more memory and CPU for the same price."
Woo-hoo! I love hearing stuff like this on a dot org site.
Thank you, sir.

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This is still one of the best sites online. The speed, simplicity and content are fantastic. I think it needs no improvement, although I will say that over the years the few improvements have been very good. Thank you to Jeremy for running this but also thank you to everyone past present and future that contributes to this site. It is quite unique and very special.

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"would it be possible to do a Search for an individual member’s profile?"

You can do that from here:
https://thesession.org/members

That URL isn’t linked to from the site navigation so you might want to bookmark it if you think you’ll need it in the future.

"It might be useful to find out if a particular member lives in a city you are due to visit"

Adding a trip will show you any members in the city you are due to visit. That’s probably the most effective way of finding the right people to get in touch with ahead of a visit:
https://thesession.org/trips

Re: Running thesession.org

probably not straight forward, but it would be good to have a tune search similar to what Tunepal and others do (but better as it could search the different settings), not sure how to describe that search algorithm other than it would be forgiving for some notes not being correct (fuzzy search?).

eg the search for the notes below should really come back with the Bucks of Oranmore, at least the Bucks @95% accuracy.
|AAFA A2dB|A2FA BEE2|A2FA A2Bd|

don’t know if costs for the site are related to processor usage, as this could potentially use more resources, and perhaps cause performance issues.

an addition to the above, would be to do key independent searches, so it would find the tune if it existed in a different key. (i’m sure there is something more clever than searching 7 times.)

The other addition I would like to see is a video link section fore each tune, so when you look up a tune you can easily find audio on Youtube/Facebook pretty easily, sure you can add links to the comments section, but it needs to be more present so people actually add the video links, it could also be added by default when you enter a tune (link to youtube or facebook or whatever).

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Many thanks for all your work in running such a great site!

I’d +1 Calum’s suggestion for the ability to link tunes to their composer, similar to what currently exists for recordings, so folk could easily search for all tunes by a particular person, and to encourage folk to credit the composer if known when submitting a new tune. Would be a great way of discovering new tunes.

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"That URL isn’t linked to from the site navigation…"
I use it from the drop down menu on the home page search box. Old school?
https://thesession.org/

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AB wrote:
"I use it from the drop down menu on the home page search box."

Oh, yes! I forgot that you can also search member profiles from there.

Re: Running thesession.org

Jeremy, your point about linking to specific settings is well taken. I never think to use it myself because I tend not to use those links with VoiceOver — it’s more useful for me to see the tune page as a whole. But that makes a lot of sense. One thing that might be cool would be the ability to use the bookmarks as you described above, or even the tunebook, to mark a list of settings, say, a setlist you want to send to a friend. As it is now, you can make a file of your tunebook but since lots of tunes have multiple settings that can be a bit of a muddle. As an example here, a few years ago I used the tunebook to make a setlist of tunes suitable for contra dancing that I sent to another fiddler. However, because lots of Irish tunes are not suitable for contra, mostly because they aren’t exactly 32 bars long, I had to remove many great tunes that I play and would like to have kept, because I wanted every tune that the other fiddler could have clicked on to be contra-suitable. Perhaps a way to get around this scenario now would be to send a link to all the bookmarked tune settings?

I agree with the suggestion of the audio player in the editor, would be nice.

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One other thing! I don’t know about anyone else, but I personally find the discussions page layout a bit of a muddle. I’d much prefer a list of threads in order of most recently updated.

What I particularly lose from the present setup is if someone leaves an interesting comment on an old thread that doesn’t spark further discussion: often such an update has scrolled off the front screen by the time I next visit, whereas a simple list of threads wouldn’t.

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Calum, that is very much by design.

With the current set-up, as you point out, it’s very hard for a discussion to keep going on and on with sporadic updates. The newer discussions tend to take over.

That’s a feature, not a bug. 🙂

(and if there’s a thread you’re particularly interested, now there’s the option to get updates by email)

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On the topic of threads, one potentially nice feature could be a code to render quoted text from a previous comment distinctly. eg markdown has the > sign to format quoted text. Don’t know if that would be headache in terms of backward compatibility though!

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Great job managing costs! If adding recordings would change that, it might not be worth it, though I love the idea. I’m wondering how it would work across devices — for those of us using multiple devices, I’m imagining all the broken links! 🙂

It reminds me of an idea that cobbled together the irishtune.info practice machine/playlist functionality (tune intro audio alongside an "I practiced this" button to update a date) with the more fully-fledged ABC/dots settings and broader repertoire available here. Adding similar "last practiced date" functionality to a user’s tunebook view on thesession directly would be a real boon, though it would take some doing!

Smaller-scale change also related to audio and practice regimen: I’ll throw another vote in for speed settings on MIDI playback. The newer MIDI sounds so much better! I’d love to be able to start slow on a setting and increase tempo when I’m getting the hang of a tune/setting. We can do that in external ABC software of course but a site-based solution would be gold!

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Love this site. Happy to contribute from time to time!

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Agree, love this site, it is the first "go-to."
I have some suggestions on technical improvements. I do not exclude this could be the result of my imperfect knowledge of all the tricks and tips, but would be happy to be corrected.
1. Enable the settings flag on tune links. As I understand you can enter links in the Recordings page in the format tune/xxx but you cannot enter in format tune/xxx#settingyyy. If you could, it would allow to link a recording directly to its transcription, rather than reading through all the versions and comments to discover that someone has transcribed exactly the recording you are looking at.
2. As far as I can tell, quotation marks "" in search do not limit to an exact match. If you look for "Gordon Duncan" you get everything that has Gordon OR Duncan (a lot of tunes).
3. Somewhat related to the above, +1 the suggestion of Calum and pbsinclair42 for more capability to search by composer. I believe there is a C: entry in the ABCs but not every transcriber uses it and sometimes the comments arrive at a different answer than the transcriber. Ideally, "someone" would make a call when the composer identification is ironclad in the comments, and correspondingly edit the C: entry on all related tunes. Then Search by C: would provide your lists. That’s a lot of moderating work. Perhaps easier is to go the other direction: avoid speculation but generate a list of tunes reliably credited to a specific individual, either in Discussions or a dedicated People or Composer tab, as someone suggested above. (Could help clarify "Paddy O’Brien" type confusion in the C: entry as well.)