After a minor negative experience this week with the CDDB used in iTunes, I investigated the Gracenote CDDB submission process a little for my own interest. In doing so I came across this blog entry discussing the system. Inspired to contribute, I added the following comment. For context sake, the blog entry was about inaccuracies in the CDDB and many of the comments were calling for track names to be included on the CD itself....
Firstly for those wishing for text on the CD - have you considered that if this were possible it would naturally have been done yonks ago? It's not rocket science. In breif: the audio CD format (CD-DA, described by Sony and Phillips in the "red book" if you want to look it up) has been around long before people were ripping them to computers and compiling databases of tracks. At that time, an audio CD was designed to be played in high quality, on an audio CD player. There was zero concern for bits and bytes (which make up text on a computer) only notes and sounds. Thus, while the audio CD format is digital, it is all sound (except the TOC and perhaps some other small metadata) - including text would only cause your CD player to make some odd noises.
Of course, since then the CD-ROM (and friends) format has been developed and we can store whatever we like on them. Incidentally, since the original format was never designed to be bit perfect (small read and write errors can be made and you wont really hear it) there's a fair bit of redundancy involved in getting reliable data on the CD platform.
Lately, some people have tried to squeeze things into audio CDs to do things other than make sound. Heard of DRM, KeyAudio, Cactus and Sony's "Rootkit"? These guys broke the audio CD format in an attempt to introduce copy-protection. In the process they managed to break CD drives, render CDs useless in some players, and piss a hell of a lot of people off. I like my audio CD format in original flavour, thank you.
Anyway, with that out of the road I wanted to comment on Jonathan's original post. I've just been reading up on Gracenote's peccant practices concerning their database. I was actually looking for the details on how submissions are received - I too inserted a CD the other day which was populated with erroneous names, so I made the changes and submitted back. In other globally accessible and user contributed communities, the review process is open and verifiable. Not so with Gracenotes it seems. Aside from the occasional crass vandalism, I'd expect music lovers to overwhelming tend towards an accurate database. It's a pity that the most popular database then, is so closed in its practices. Who reviews the submissions? What guidelines do they use? Why not [allow] submissions to be verified. Admittably, this is no small task, but for such a service the community would surely support!
Here's my wish - iTunes allowed you to select your own database provider, so consumers could vote with their feet and leave Gracenote to wallow in their proprietrary, greedy mess.
That said, the service has on the whole, been immensely valuable and reliable. There's just a few cracks at the seams...