ID3 Tags

Lots of discussion and email about the best way to utilize the MP3 ID3 tags. I’ve recently made some changes for IT Conversations, and I’ve received both positive and negative comments. I’d like your feedback on my current thoughts.

ID3 supports the following hierarchy: Artist—Album—Title

Here are examples of how I propose using this hierarchy for a variety of IT Conversations programs:

IT Conversations—The Gillmor Gang—October 15, 2004
IT Conversations—Memory Lane—Len Kleinrock
IT Conversations—Voices in Your Head—James Patrick Kelly
IT Conversations—Law and IT—The INDUCE Act 2.0
IT Conversations—Gnomedex 4.0—Steve Wozniak
IT Conversations—Joel Spolsky—Joel on Software

The last example is slightly different because it’s one of my own interviews. To be more consistent, I probably should create a series name such as:

IT Conversations—Doug Kaye’s Interviews—Joel Spolsky

I know the ID3 tags are handled in varying ways by different MP3 players, so let me know if you think the above scheme will work for your player or whether it can be improved. Leave a comment here (on the blog) so others can react.

Clarification: The above schemes are not the way I’ve been using ID3 tags, I just realized. They’re they way I propose to use them in the future.

8 thoughts on “ID3 Tags

  1. Album = IT Conversations

    Artist = The Gillmor Gan, Len Kleinrock, James Patrick Kelly, Steve Wozniak, Joel on Software

    Title = October 15, 2004 (Interview), Memory Lane, Voices in Your Head, Law and IT

    Not sure if that’s what you were proposing or not but that’s how I would do it. Ultimately, I’m just glad to see tags at all.


  2. Thanks, Jim. The problem is that your proposal violates the hierarchies: An Artist has one or more Albums, which contain one or more Titles. Likewise, A Network (IT Conversations) has one or more Series (The Gillmor Gang), which has one or more Shows (October 15, 2004). In your scheme you’re inverted the hierarchy of the top two layers in order to preserve the match the names of the layers. It’s noble and logical, but what I’m trying to ascertain is what’s easiest for users of MP3 players. On my iPod, for example, I think my scheme makes it easier to locate and identify shows.


  3. I think of everything in terms of date. For example, I know that I have not listened to the first 2 shows from August for the Gilmor Gang. While having August 6, 2004 and August, 13, 2004 as the title works well in the present, it get a bit jumbled for your devoted listeners who might be archiving the content. I would suggest:

    Artist = The Gilmor Gang
    Album = Google Desktop, Microsoft & Podcasting
    Title = TGG-2004-10-15

    I think Album is acceptable to use to describe content. In music terms, Album titles are often used to describe the theme of the music in the album. I think it also stays in line with the format. One artist has a weekly album with (in this case) one track.

    Gnomedex 4.0 is a little trickier because it is an event rather then an artist. A defined hierarchical date structure might not be necessary. You might use:

    Artist = Gnomedex 4.0
    Album = (Whatever the session title is)
    Title = (Speakers or Description)

    Frankly – your approach works just as well there. However, IT Conversations strikes me more as the producer or network rather then the artist. I understand that you may have an interest in promoting the IT Conversations brand via the ID3 tags. If that is the case, it limits somewhat the information that can be passed in the remaining two tags. There are some tags buried deep down in the ID3 spec for producer/publisher as well as “internet radio station name” & “internet radio station owner” but few people will ever see them – or know how to find them.

    I don’t know that there is a perfect solution trying to fit podcast shows into music naming hierarchies. The tags exist to do it properly, but current mp3 players don’t access them, as such, any solution is a bit of a compromise.


  4. Doug, I completely agree with your proposal (i.e. the modified form which includes the “Doug Kaye’s Interviews” album). To complete the picture, we also need an iPodder which can understand these tags and stuff the feeds into folders accordingly. Many MP3 player owners use a folder hierarchy rather than a tag database to navigate their content.


  5. Hi,
    FWIW, I second Jim’s proposal. Personally, what matters to me most is how the info is displayed on my iPod Mini when I’m playing the track, and unfortunately it shows only the Title and Artist. So seeing
    “The Gillmor Gang—October 15, 2004” would make more sense to me than seeing “IT Conversations—October 15, 2004″… just my 2 cents.


  6. I’d suggest going the full route with ID3 tags:

    – – –

    I’d also second the suggestions to eliminate “IT Conversations” from the listings, as all of them come from IT Conversations. The album would be the forum or meeting, artist the speaker, track number 01 (unless it’s part 2, in which case it’s 02), and title the name of the presentation.


  7. I concur with Michael regarding including the date, perhaps in the title. I tend to listen to audio in date order, so it’s easier to keep track of where I am. Having the date in international format (yyyy-mm-dd) is fairly compact and would please international users.


  8. I’d like to add my voice to the request for dates in the title. iPodder puts stuff into iTunes, and once it’s there there is no way to find out what came last. Also, my car stereo has a limited display (as do many portable players), so it’s impossible to select the right show without the date in the title.


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