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Designing a better handling for specials


david wrote 9 days ago: 7

Way overdue, I'd like to start working on the "better handling of specials" (https://www.tvmaze.com/threads/1888/better-handling-of-specials, https://www.tvmaze.com/threads/865/doctor-who-christmas-special-not-displaying-as-next-episode) in the near future. This is a complex change, so I'd love everyone's feedback before actually starting on it. My plan so far:

The policy to define whether an episode is a special or not will be rewritten to something like: An episode is a special either when the original network/webchannel explicitly declares it as "special", or when they do not designate an episode number in a show where episodes are ordinarly numbered.

Instead of "special", there will be three episode types next to "regular episode" (naming suggestions not final):

- "Special within story arc". This is for episodes that - while being a special - take place within the regular show/season's story arc. If you don't watch the episode, you will miss out on relevant story development. Example: the Doctor Who christmas specials.

- "Special outside of story arc". This is for episodes that have the same premise as regular episodes in that show (e.g. for a scripted show, the episode is scripted), but take place outside of the show/season's regular story arc. You can safely skip the episode without missing out on anything in the future. Example: still have to find one - particularly common with reality/etc shows I think.

- "Insignificant special". This is for episodes that do not even follow the same premise as regular episodes. For example; recap episodes, sneak previews, behind the scenes, director interviews, etc.

Just like right now, specials will always be part of a season on TVmaze. If the network/webchannel doesn't explicitly list a season, the closest (either previous or upcoming) season is to be used.

So what will be the effect of this change on the UX?

- "Special within story arc" will always be shown in the watch list

- Whether to show "Special outside of story arc" and "Insignificant special" in the watch list will be a user preference

- "Special within story arc" will be used in previous/next episode links (if deemed technically feasible)

- "Special within story arc" will be displayed together with the regular episodes in that season in the episode list. "Insignificant specials" will remain listed separately. Where to place "Special outside of story arc" is to be determined.

So what will not change?

- Some people have asked us to calculate some kind of number ("lifetime number"?) for specials, even though networks/web channels never assign specials a number themselves. I fail to see the use of adding an arbitrary and non-official number benefits any usecase. But if anyone has a good argument in favor of it, let's hear it!

After all of this is set and stone and implemented, this will also have a bunch of implications for the API, but we'll discuss these separately later. :)

Thoughts?

Cecile wrote 9 days ago: 2

First of all, thanks for bringing this up the worklist !!

First thoughts coming to my mind :

- For the example for "Special outside of story arc", you maybe can look for White Christmas in Black Mirror (even if there is no real arc in the show).

- For the technically feasibility of previous/next episode links, maybe by considering the airstamp ?

- If we can set the display preference for "Special outside of story arc" and "Insignificant special", why couldn't the "Special outside of story arc" be displayed like the "inside the story arc" ? People who don't want to see them will set things up in their preference. It can be the default mode, actually

 


tnt wrote 9 days ago: 1

@david wrote:
 

- "Special outside of story arc". This is for episodes that have the same premise as regular episodes in that show (e.g. for a scripted show, the episode is scripted), but take place outside of the show/season's regular story arc. You can safely skip the episode without missing out on anything in the future. Example: still have to find one - particularly common with reality/etc shows I think.

The Black Mirror's specials come to mind https://www.tvmaze.com/shows/305/black-mirror/episodes. Same premise, but could be safely skipped.

UPD lol, it appears me and Cecile were writing simultaneously :D

 


gazza911 wrote 9 days ago: 1

The point of having an absolute number (in the season or show) calculated on specials is to assist third parties in matching specials and keep it consistent across them.

NathanDrake83 wrote 9 days ago: 1

Thanks David, I like your idea very much!

I'm not sure about the distinction between in-arc and outside-arc, in my mind it seems a thin line: sure, most of DW christmas specials can't be missed, but a few are almost stand alone (I'm thinking about 2010 and 2016, for example, if my memory serves me correctly). I already see the edit conflicts between the two types! :D

On the other side, anthological series (like Black Mirror) or procedural series (they usually don't have specials, but never say never) have many or every episodes that could be skipped without impacting the others, so it would seem redundant specify that just for the specials.

Plus, the only example that comes to my mind is the 2016 Election special from Will & Gace, or maybe reunions of reality participants after the standard season is ended, but would you actually want to skip them? I don't think so! :)

So I think we could leave them in one category to be listed ordered by airdate in the season they belong, and whether to see them in the watchlist would be a user preference.

I'd also suggest to rename "Insignificant special" in something like "Extra-content special".

I also agree with not assigning any numbering, but of course if someone have a good argument I'd like to hear it!

Thanks again for everything you do! :)


JuanArango wrote 9 days ago: 5

I agree with almost everything that you suggested david, only the distinction between inside story arc and outside story arc I would not do, this could lead to endless interpretations and discussions :)


LadyShelley wrote 8 days ago: 1

Some things to consider with the definitions: 

The Warehouse 13 episode "Secret Santa" is currently listed as episode 13 (instead of a special) even though content in that episode directly contradicts the episode before it.  The episode "Greatest Gift" is also listed as an episode 13 when it should be a special. Both episodes aired 2-3 months after the end of the regular season (like Doctor Who), but I'm not sure how they fit with your inside and outside story arc definitions. There was also a "Of Monsters And Men" webisode that we don't list at all. Not sure where that would fit. 

Eureka also had some Christmas episode weirdness with the episode "O Little Town" Right now we list it as episode 10 of season 3, however, it aired two months after the first half of the season ended and six months before the second half aired. It was a Christmas special, but not sure how that will affect renumbering for folks if we move it. 

How would the CW/DC crossover events be handled with this new policy as those are always a mess. 

 

 


momijigari wrote 8 days ago: 1

@LadyShelley wrote:
Some things to consider with the definitions: 

The Warehouse 13 episode "Secret Santa" is currently listed as episode 13 (instead of a special) even though content in that episode directly contradicts the episode before it.  The episode "Greatest Gift" is also listed as an episode 13 when it should be a special. Both episodes aired 2-3 months after the end of the regular season (like Doctor Who), but I'm not sure how they fit with your inside and outside story arc definitions. There was also a "Of Monsters And Men" webisode that we don't list at all. Not sure where that would fit. 

Not listed? ;)

https://www.tvmaze.com/shows/8435/warehouse-13-of-monsters-and-men-webseries


MTQueenie wrote 8 days ago: 6

Overall I'm happy with the suggestions, I'm not too fond of the whole in-arc and outside-arc distinction though. I'd rather the distinction was between scripted arcs with a story and the sneak peaks, compilations etc in another category.

albedos_shadow wrote 8 days ago: 1

Very happy this is being looked into! I generally agree with what's been put forth, though like others, the distinction between in-arc and outside-arc could get messy. Perhaps just 2 categories: Specials and Promotional Specials? Promotional would describe most of the insignificant specials as described above.


kevin87 wrote 8 days ago: 1

@MTQueenie wrote:
Overall I'm happy with the suggestions, I'm not too fond of the whole in-arc and outside-arc distinction though. I'd rather the distinction was between scripted arcs with a story and the sneak peaks, compilations etc in another category.

Same, because unless it's just a heavily serialized show, and specifically with holiday-themed specials, they're pretty self-contained episodes with loose storyline connections (most comedies for example). Even if you could skip then, you still probably shouldn't if you're watching a show, and listing them as "outside of story arc" could confuse people into thinking it's not an actual episode. Perhaps just a box to mark them as "story-based" or something and then they'd show up on watchlist and in the previous/next episode section and the rest as something else to set them apart from anything scripted.


tnt wrote 8 days ago: 2

Why not give people total control over their watchlist? Maybe instead of separating the specials into 3 not-so-obvious (and subjective) categories, just let people decide for themselves, which episodes should be included in their watchlist, and which are not?


TonyMayhew wrote 8 days ago: 3

While it is always good to look at new and improved ways to handle things, doing it in a way that will please and suit everyone will be near on impossible. Having different ways to define what a special is when you add it to the site could also cause confusion with people.

Would all specials (Regardless of definition) still be listed in a group at the bottom of the episode list?

My only little niggle with specials right now is if you go to a show page & there has been a special added that is upcoming, it does not display it on the show's front page as the next upcoming episode.  


LadyShelley wrote 8 days ago: 1

@tnt wrote:
Why not give people total control over their watchlist? Maybe instead of separating the specials into 3 not-so-obvious (and subjective) categories, just let people decide for themselves, which episodes should be included in their watchlist, and which are not?

While I agree the definitions need work, those entering the data still need to have some way to mark what is a special and what is not, regardless of how end-user X decides to list them on a watchlist or calendar. 

So really this breaks out into two different issues: how do we categorise specials, and what functionality do we give end-users once they are in place

I like the idea floated of just two definitions: 

Promotional (sneak peeks, behind the scenes, making of, etc)

Actual episodes that happen at special times (pretty much any UK-based show that does Christmas/New year's special episodes, etc.) 

I don't watch reality TV shows to know if any specials they do would fit into one of these definitions or not. And there is still the question of what do to with crossover events like the CW and all of their superhero shows. 

Also how does this affect 3rd party coding such as PLEX? 


kevin87 wrote 8 days ago: 1

@LadyShelley wrote:
While I agree the definitions need work, those entering the data still need to have some way to mark what is a special and what is not, regardless of how end-user X decides to list them on a watchlist or calendar. 

So really this breaks out into two different issues: how do we categorise specials, and what functionality do we give end-users once they are in place

I like the idea floated of just two definitions: 

Promotional (sneak peeks, behind the scenes, making of, etc)

Actual episodes that happen at special times (pretty much any UK-based show that does Christmas/New year's special episodes, etc.) 

I don't watch reality TV shows to know if any specials they do would fit into one of these definitions or not. And there is still the question of what do to with crossover events like the CW and all of their superhero shows. 

Also how does this affect 3rd party coding such as PLEX? 

The CW shows aren't really specials, they all take place within the current season and are part of the episode order. So far, only Legends of Tomorrow has aired one "outside" of the season, but even then it was just by one week.


LadyShelley wrote 8 days ago: 1

@kevin87 wrote:
The CW shows aren't really specials, they all take place within the current season and are part of the episode order. So far, only Legends of Tomorrow has aired one "outside" of the season, but even then it was just by one week.

But the plot of those episodes isn't part of the overall storylines of the various shows. The plot is contained within the event episodes and can be skipped. I don't watch most of the DC shows and skip the crossovers all the time without missing anything in the shows I do watch. 


tnt wrote 8 days ago: 2

@LadyShelley wrote:
While I agree the definitions need work, those entering the data still need to have some way to mark what is a special and what is not, regardless of how end-user X decides to list them on a watchlist or calendar. 

What I've meant is that the current system (regular vs special) is pretty much enough. We add episodes according to our policy, the users decide whether they want them in their watchlist or not. This should also concern the regular episodes, e.g. if somebody wants to skip a regular episode (for whatever reason), they just exclude it from the watchlist. 

With a new setting in user's preferences "Include specials in watchlist" all future episodes will be added to w/l, and then the users will manually exclude everything they're not gonna watch. Within the watchlist, the episodes are sorted by airdate, and the previous/next episode will respect the watchlist order, skipping the excluded episodes (which are still available on the "Episodes" page).

Simple enough IMO :) So maybe the end goal is not "better handling of specials" but "better management of watchlist"? ;)


tnt wrote 8 days ago: 1

@LadyShelley wrote:
But the plot of those episodes isn't part of the overall storylines of the various shows. The plot is contained within the event episodes and can be skipped. I don't watch most of the DC shows and skip the crossovers all the time without missing anything in the shows I do watch. 

On the other hand, the events of the crossover (the latest one) were built up during the season and have a direct impact on the whole Arrowverse, and therefore shouldn't be skipped. How else would you know, for example, why the Multiverse is gone and how did they all ended up on the same Earth? 

So something you consider not important and skippable may be important and essential to somebody else. That's why I've said, that those "within the arc/outside the arc" categories of specials are not so obvious and very much subjective. And most definitely will lead to an endless argument.

Tonks wrote 8 days ago: 1

I think that i find special with or out of story arc not a very good definition, it doesn't really matter. People will watch whether or not (except for ladyshelley :p)

my take is

pilot or tvmovie (because it usually started with a tvmovie in old days.)

backdoor pilot

Special without any difference

Lifetime number is a useful tool because they always celebrate step stones, 100, 200, 250 etc. The fact we don't have them here is a pity.

See we have both here (lifetime and season number). It may not be as important as it used to be since a 100 episodes meant more money syndication wise but they still have parties for those. It can also allow for news to the 100th episode for example or the 300 for the Supernatural that was so not long ago, the press was invited, they were pics with a big cake etc...

https://www.a-suivre.org/annuseries/encyclopedie/series.php?p=guideepi/index&series=5598&saison=all

Whatever decision is made, i'm okay with it if the specials are put back in the listing and not outside, epguides is impacted wich it wasn't under tvtome (or tvrage because those were appropriately handle)

monoget wrote 8 days ago: 1

I think this change is long overdue... it made little sense to me for the specials of most shows to be isolated as they are currently... I agree that just two definitions is the way to go to avoid getting into in/out story arc disagreements:

Special Episodes would be solo or stand alone episodes with the same format as a series episode e.g. Dr.Who Xmas or New Year special

Special Programs would be everything that does not have the same format as a series episode e.g. 'Making of' 'sneak peak' 'behind the scenes' 'history of' 'the cast go walkabout' or any promotional type program.

I think this would work for both scripted, documentary and reality shows...

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