Tracking My Cultural Diet

I’ve added a new section to Opus to help me track more of my cultural experiences.
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There are numerous services out there designed to help you track, rate, and review the culture that you enjoy and consume. The most obvious example is Goodreads, which helps you keep track of the books you’ve read (and would like to read). Similarly, music lovers have Discogs, film buffs have Letterboxd, wine and beer aficionados have CellarTracker and Untappd (respectively), fans of board games have BoardGameGeek, and so on.

I have accounts with several of these services, but I’ve never invested much time into them for one simple reason: I have Opus. Put simply, it feels wrong to use those other services when I’ve frequently preached the value and importance of using your own site to chronicle your life. (This feels even more important given recent reminders that a site like Goodreads can’t necessarily be trusted.) But the fact is that Goodreads et al. are just so darn convenient that I’ve never seen fit to replicate their functionality on Opus… until now.

Taking inspiration from various sources — including Kottke’s media diets,’s bookshelves, Simon Collison’s stream, Khoi Vinh’s ratings, and my memories of Jeffrey Croft’s website, as well as the aforementioned services — I’ve added a new section to Opus: My Cultural Diet.

For now, it’s a self-contained section that’s not connected to the site’s pre-existing archive and RSS functionality. And I’m still figuring out how I want to run it.

The Diet’s a place where I can post quick, chronological reviews of all sorts of things — movies, TV shows, books, restaurants, museums — and even attach a star rating, something I’ve never done before on Opus. (Star ratings are, by the way, 100% subjective and non-scientific.) I’m not sure, however, that I’ll use it to track and catalog music due to the rate at which I listen (and re-listen) to albums. In other words, how I listen to music feels very different to how I approach and experience movies, books, etc., and I think the Diet should reflect that.

I should add that Craft — the CMS that powers Opus — made it very easy to build out the Diet. Without going into all of the nerdy details, here was the basic process:

  • Added a new section and entry type.
  • Created several new custom fields for things like the star ratings and links to related entries, and attached them to the new entry type’s field layout. (FWIW, I’m using Supercool’s “Button Box” plugin for the star ratings.)
  • Created the new templates with some of the existing “Archives” section template code serving as a foundation.

All told, the core work probably only took about an hour or two, followed by a lot of tweaking and adjusting. I’m pretty pleased with how it all came together, and I’m already thinking of ways to improve and enhance it (like adding sorting and filtering). I don’t want to make it too complicated, though; its simplicity is one of its core features. In other words, don’t expect commenting and other “social” features anytime soon.

Finally, the Diet currently begins at the start of 2022, but I might backfill it even further as time permits. Just getting on top of 2022 has already proved to be plenty time-consuming, though. And of course, it will only continue to grow in the coming days, weeks, and months.

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