Interface Meta-data Music Pro Bono Portfolio

Credit Where Credit is Due

In the move to digital 1, and particularly with streaming, the musicians who play on recordings are rarely given credit outside of AllMusic or Wikipedia. A PDF of the liner notes might mention personnel, but I don’t know of any download or streaming service that embeds such information in tracks. For MP3, there is a standard in place for such metadata — ID3 has the TMCL and TIPL for tagging files with personnel credits. There are Apple namespaced equivalents for MP4 (AAC) files. I’ve long used the Comments field for this purpose, but it suffers from limited character length and lack of structure. The only software I’ve found that supports TMCL and TIPL with an interface designed for their input is a Windows application called ID3TagIt. Not wanting to fire up a virtual machine to use an app which has not been updated since 2006, it would be great to see support in Metadatics2. Currently, it handles musician credits only as raw text:


I’d like to see a UI for inputting credits:

Metadatics People tab

The menu button at the right of the name field would give you access to commands to remove the person, the instrument or role, or add another person with the same instrument or role.

Providing a field for the Lyricist would also be nice:

Metadatics Lyrics tab

Of course, this is pointless if playback software doesn’t provide some way to use this metadata. I want to be able to start a stream of songs with lyrics by Stevie Wonder, or create a Smart Playlist with all recordings of Pino Palladino on bass. Unfortunately, Apple seems to have lost interest in expanding iTunes’ metadata support and Spotify and Rdio have only the most basic track metadata.

For more social- and personal experience-oriented ideas for music metadata 3, read Khoi Vinh’s What Streaming Music Can Be.


  1. Note that I am not a retro-tech nostalgist. Not every LP sounds amazing, they wear out, and they are not the least bit portable.
  2. Licensed! It’s only $10.00.
  3. Some of which are similar to
Browsers Interface macOS Meta-data

Data Detectors in Browsers

Date data detector in a Web browser

I didn’t see anything on the Snow Leopard Enhancements and Refinements page about Detectors being added anywhere but TextEdit.

Apple Interaction Interface Meta-data Music

Scroll for Whole

In the Now Playing table view, I’d like the total length of the album displayed in a hidden row that only appears when scrolling beyond the track rows:

Now Playing table displaying total album time in hidden row

After releasing the screen, the total row is hidden again.

Interaction Interface Meta-data

Tap to Map

Unlike addresses displayed in contacts’ details, locations added to calendar events cannot be tapped to display a map of the location.

The current event details screen:

Actual iPhone/iPod touch calendar event details screen

Slightly tweaked to indicate the location is actionable:

  1. Event details mockup with separate location row
  2. Event location on map

Location field input is not structured, so Calendar would simply pass whatever text it contains to Maps as the search string. Some heuristics around the text would be nice; if I typed “Joe’s house” in the Location field and one of the attendees is a contact named Joe Smith, the input string could be replaced by Joe’s home address.

Interaction Interface Meta-data

No Comments

Being a musician and big proponent of metadata, I frequently add musician credits in the Comments field of music tracks. Like lyrics, comments could be displayed atop the album cover image in the Now Playing view.

iPod touch displaying track lyrics

iPod touch displaying track comments

Interface macOS Meta-data Photography

Who Took That Photo?

Some people (such as myself) would like to know more about the pictures used as desktop backgrounds. Photographers would probably appreciate it if the interface exposed a path to their self and/or portfolio.

Fortunately, images can carry useful information such as the photographer’s name, e-mail and web addresses, et-cetera in various metadata forms (XMP, EXIF, IPTC).

Basic Information Displayed

Basic desktop background image info

  1. The photo title (XMP Title field).
  2. The author’s name (XMP Creator field) formatted as a mailto: link with their e-mail address (XMP Creator: Email field).
  3. The author’s website (XMP Creator: Website field) as a web link.

Extended Information Displayed

Extended desktop background image info

  1. A description of the photo (XMP Description field).
  2. The place the photo was taken (the XMP Location, City, State/Province, and Country fields).
  3. The date the photograph was taken (EXIF digitization date).
  4. The camera used to capture the photo (EXIF make and model).

Though the photo is not actually by him (as far as I know; all metadata is stripped from the default desktop pictures), Art Wolfe is a great photographer.

Interaction Interface macOS Meta-data Movies

New Tricks for yFlicks

A few comments for Many Tricks’ yFlicks, a video player and organizer for Mac OS X.

  1. A first-launch-only prompt to import the user’s movies (searching based on UTIs or whatever magic is required) and perhaps user-selectable locations would help them immerse themselves in the application. Creating groups from folders might help them orient themselves by carrying over their existing arrangement.
  2. An option to set up folders to monitor for new videos would be nice. Sensible defaults could include ~/Movies and the user’s Safari Downloads folder and whichever other folders the user picks at first launch (should such an option be presented).
  3. Allow drag-and-drop to the main pane; it is usually a much easier target because of its size (Fitts’ Law).
  4. Group renaming is quirky. Double-clicking quickly does not engage the rename mode, but single-clicking a selected group does. The Enter key should also activate rename mode.
  5. Command-Left Arrow and Command-Right Arrow should be bound to opening and closing the group folders.
  6. The active group’s name should be displayed in the window titlebar. This is particularly useful if the Library pane is hidden, leaving no visual indication of which group is active.
  7. Display metadata embedded in QT files. At least Title! Please! Director and Performers would also be nice.
  8. Center the movie thumbnails within the right pane.
  9. Retain the main window’s size across launches (ideally, in a relative way so that it can adapt to different screen setups, but I don’t know if that is feasible with available OS X technologies).
  10. Allow multi-select and contextual menu star rating assignment. Having to rate videos individually is tedious if you have a large existing collection.
  11. Clicking the Hide Library button in the lower left moves the right pane over, triggering the preview playback of the bottom left movie. This seems to be a bug with calculating the position of screen elements.
  12. I dig the mouseover video previews, but I think the delay should be increased by a wee bit to prevent them from starting unintentionally.

Living in Projects

Folders can be a crappy way to organize files. Fortunately, there is metadata such as Spotlight’s Project label, which is accessible through Desk Lamp.

  1. Find the files related to your project in Desk Lamp.
  2. Add a Project label.
  3. Type “project:insert label here”.
  4. After buying a license, save the blotter. Or if you honestly can’t spend the $20…
  5. Switch to the Finder.
  6. Select File > New Smart Folder.
  7. Select Other… from the pop-up menu.
  8. Scroll to or filter for “Projects”.
  9. Type the project label you used in Desk Lamp.

Desk Lamp also has the benefit of being able to set actual Spotlight keywords rather than (ab)using the Comments field like several other apps out there. I use Comments for comments.

Apple Interaction Interface macOS Meta-data

Kind Thoughts

Due to differences in Kind labeling, the same (PDF) or similar (PowerPoint and Keynote) filetypes are not grouped together when sorting by Kind alphabetically.

Sorting Kind by Alpha in the Finder

I’d like the Kind column in the Finder to provide secondary sort options, similar to the Album column in iTunes 7.

Sorting Kind by Category in the Finder

Clicking on the column header label would switch between the alphabetical Kind sort and Kind by Category, which would group files by the basic type. The mockup shows PDF, other vector formats, word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and finally bitmap images. The order of categories would need more consideration.


  • The category is not explicitly stated.
  • Most people don’t know the difference between a vector-based image and a bitmap, making the groupings seem arbitrary.
  • There are many custom filetypes that don’t fit easily into a category; what is a Curio document? Technically, it is a package, but it’s essentially a compound document.
Apple Interaction Interface Meta-data

Feedback Loop

Star ratings can be assigned to any filesystem object (kMDItemStarRating) as of Mac OS X 10.4. There is currently no way to do this in the Finder, but it is possible using third-party tools such as Desk Lamp.

What if that rating could be sent to the application’s developers along with comments and certain system information that could help them put the feedback in context? If someone is complaining about the performance of your heavy-duty application, you want to know if they are running it on a B&W G3, right?

  1. Assigning a rating from the Finder

    Assigning a rating in the Finder

  2. The Send Feedback dialog

    Send Feedback dialog

  3. The Send Feedback dialog expanded

    Send Feedback dialog expanded to show system information to be sent

Implementation Notes

  • The Send Feedback button would be disabled until the user either assigns a rating or types in the text box.
  • Feedback would only be sent at the user’s initiation and with explicit permission; no annoying dialogs when you upgrade an application or change the rating.
  • Ratings would be carried across version changes.
  • Feedback destination address(es) would be defined somewhere within the application bundle’s .lproj folders, allowing feedback to be sent to different addresses based on language.
  • If multiple applications are selected, multiple feedback windows are opened (the same behavior as the Info windows).
  • An option to submit ratings and comments to MacUpdate, VersionTracker, and Cool OS X Apps would be nice.