I agree entirely! Gramofile did what it needed to, specifically and unambiguously. I have no doubt that the archive has all the same information, somewhere....... But why make it so difficult to find exactly what one needs. Please bring back Gramofile as an alternative.
I've raised it in another thread, but I believe most of the Awards issues are missing from the archive. For many years, there have been thirteen issues of Gramophone a year, whereas the archive shows twelve.
May I add my fervent plea for the return of GramoFile, for all the reasons well set out by the commenters above?
I absolutely agree. Bring it back asap.
I'd like to respond to the many posts here about the Archive and Gramofile. Tackling the first, the honest but unhelpful answer would be that I do understand. As I mentioned elsewhere in this forum yesterday, digitising all our magazines dating back to 1923, printed in many decades' worth of fonts and styles, was a massive task, and the OCR (optical character recognition) technology available to us did bring with it a margin of error. While a small margin, it seems to have made quite a difference to the search (a particular problem is words with foreign characters, for example). It is something we are correcting as we go along (and I would encourage people to report errors they spot), but also something we may need to look at again. When it comes to reading the articles themselves, there is always the option to download the original page as a pdf if it seems too full of errors. And when searching, do use the item type (article, review etc), and date range menus, in the Advanced Search option.
Now, Gramofile. The reason this was a much more accurate search facility is that it used metadata - composers, artists, works etc. The Archive doesn't use metadata, and instead 'reads' the whole text - it has to, as of course interviews, news stories and so on do not have any disc data as such. However, I should point out that the Archive was never built as a replacement for Gramofile - it was done as a separate project, out of our desire to make 85+ years of musical heritage available to the classical community online, and never intended to be searched as a reviews database. It was meant as a complement to Gramofile, which in any case only contained reviews back to 1983. However, this came to an end last summer when our old site - of which Gramofile was a part, and which was built in the '90s - finally succumbed to the hacks and viruses to which it had become increasingly vulnerable over the years. We had to take it down to protect the security both of our database, and of our site visitors. There are plans to return a reviews database to Gramophone - we are currently exploring how best to build it and to make it available to you. Your emphatic vote of support for its return has been noted, but for now I beg your patience.
Very few magazines of Gramophone's long heritage have taken the step of digitising everything and putting it online. So while we know our Archive is not a perfect offering at present, we still think it's a very exciting one, and we have had sufficient positive feedback to know that many people make extensive and rewarding use of it.
And as for Awards issues, there is a technical issue relating to a number of the Awards back issues. We hope to resolve it soon, but until it is, they can't appear online I'm afraid.
I do agree. Please restore Gramofile - or give a convincing reason why not!
Thank you to the ever-helpful Mr Cullingford for his honest reply.
One of the main issues when searching is the way that Gramophone uses superscripts in the headings of their reviews. This is of course very useful when reading the review, but it hinders searching.
For example, if you perform a search on the phrase "London Oratory School Choir", it gives no results. This is not a scanning error - you have to search on "aLondon Oratory School Choir" to find them!
There are nine other examples in this review alone, and reporting them individually is not really practical.
Except that doing so is a very, very tedious process,
First you have to navigate through the tiny 'thumbnail' images. When you select one, you then have to try to work out from the not-big-enough-page-image if there's anything on it that you're interested in. If there is, you have to download it, and then go back to the wretched thumbnails again to find the next page. If an article runs over more than one page, you've got to download each one separately.
And the "slideshow" style thumbnail navigation tool is extremely frustrating to use - the way the whole page refreshes when you move from thumbnail to thumbnail is really annoying, and you can't use keyboard navigation (which would be by far the simpler option).
Just as one example of how an "image-based" magazine can be made usable, I'd offer the way Google does it - eg, http://books.google.com/books?id=tScEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false
And keep an eye on how Popular Science develops its archive (which, with 137 years of existence, is even bigger than Gramophone's ;-) See http://www.popsci.com/announcements/article/2010-03/new-browse-137-years-popsci-archive-free
I realise the above will come across as very negative, and I'm sorry about that. I can understand the desire to OCR things (I was very enthusiastic about OCR ~16 years ago when creating the first web-based complete University prospectus - it saved a huge amount of work). And I appreciate that there are PDFs available (I really love looking at all the old adverts).
But, at the moment, neither work well enough for the archive to actually be usable.
"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"
- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.
My word, what a bunch of whingers we have on here! The Gramophone Archive is one of the greatest resources available on the net and yet what thanks do those responsible get? - moan, moan, moan!
Let's face it, the archive is not what it should be simply because it is a huge project to scan and make available what must be 1000+ issues. But it can be improved as long as people are willing to help. Errors can be easily reported with the click of a mouse. Alas people cannot be bothered. Better to whinge and moan, right?
Martin, a suggestion: can the archive not take on a "Wikipedia"-like aspect where users can update it themselves? This would save your team much work and give those of us who appreciate the archive a chance to get involved. The sooner the text is corrected the better. The search functions will work better and there will be no need for the useful but limited Gramofile.
What says you?
It's something I was discussing with others in the Gramophone office only the other day – it's an interesting idea, for the reasons you mention, but as Wikipedia has shown in the past it's an approach open to abuse by those of a mischievous persuasion.
That's not to say we ruled the idea out out – far from it – but merely that more discussions will need to take place.
Audio Editor, Gramophone
Yes, please, I beg you on my knees, bring Gramofile back. I am sure the Archive has plenty of treasures, but they are almost impossible to find.
I was a fairly regular user of Gramofile for many years. It was always one of my favorite internet resources - a really spectacularly great site to have access to. While the display of the articles left something to be desired, that was a pretty minuscule quibble compared with the enormous utility - and pleasure - of being able to call up all the CD-era reviews. I've used Gramofile so many times and been so happy it existed. The new archive site is a great idea - yes, it's still very rudimentary at this stage, but nonetheless it's a really exciting project and I'm sure in time it will be a great thing to have. However, in its current form it isn't useful for finding reviews. I am really profoundly disturbed that Gramofile is gone! It's awful to no longer have Gramophone reviews to look up. At this point I've checked out the new archive site a couple times, but mainly because I'm returning to the Gramophone websites in the hope that Gramofile has been restored.
Please put the Gramofile content back up! Apparently there are some technical issues that aren't intuitively apparent if it's not as simple as just putting the database of text articles back online, but I respectfully submit that even if it's a significant effort to get it up and running again, that should be a much higher priority project than tinkering with the archive site, which clearly is a long-term process... but with some focus one would hope Gramofile could be available again after a finite, short-term campaign to get it working, and then the effort to improve the archive can always continue; frankly it seems that software innovations to get halfway-decent OCR results aren't around the corner. Nevertheless I love the idea of having all the pages graphically preserved (hopefully eventually similar to The New Yorker's newish archive product, which is indeed pretty spectacular) - but to read the articles and so on, not for reviews. Finding reviews is a totally different need than reading articles because one must find the one particular review if one desires a review of something - it's not about the pleasure of browsing, reading, and "serendipitous discovery"... as previously noted, this requires robust metadata, and quality text so it's all highly searchable and easy to manipulate. In short, there's a need for Gramofile and the total graphical archive both, as two separate resources for two separate requirements for use.
Okay this is a ludicrously indulgently-long post, but one further note: there was one particularly unpleasant OCR mistake in an article and I used the "suggest a correction" feature. The article was never fixed so I suggested it again sometime later - I'm so helpful! - and it still wasn't fixed, even though it definitely was a high-priority edit given that the typo was not gobbledy-gook but actually a distinct and unsavory word in error. Yet even that wasn't fixed. What gives?
Please please please bring back Gramofile! Clearly we're all pining longingly for it!
What gives, I'm afraid, is a less than ideal OCR rendition of the pages, leading to a very large number of errors, both reported and unreported, and very limited resources to correct them, meaning that a very large backlog of corrections has built up.
I can't add anything to the Gramofile debate, I'm afraid, as it's not my area of responsibility, but please be assured that we are aware of the extent of the problem on the archive – yes, even the very unfortunate mistakes! – and are endeavouring to find ways to get as many of the errors corrected as is possible with the resources at our disposal.
Thanks to Martin Cullingford for his reply clarifying the Gramofile status. It's great to hear that it's on the way to a comeback. I look forward to it with keen anticipation (as I try and find reviews of Bach Orchestral Suites...Boston Baroque or Trevor Pinnock, anyone?)
One improvement that could be made to the Archive would be to display a bit more of the text in the search results.
The Archive is a great resource, don't get me wrong, athough seems more appropriate for browsing than specifically searching for reviews.
I also think that old site was much, much better. And I also think that it will never be back. Why? Because someone get payed for creating new site and editors who approved this will not admit that they were wrong.