Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Youtube interface

Today I was greeted with a new interface for Youtube. It seems that there are a lot more collapsible elements now, and the biggest functionality change seems to be a new "like" vs. "dislike" option, where we used to have the "Favorite" button. There are also new Share buttons, and there is a nice toggle for "Autoplay" of your recommendations. I'm not sure yet if I like everything, it seems to require a bit more work to be perfect, but with all the functionality of Youtube, this probably is a good thing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Template editor

The Wikipedia Usability Initiative is finally making good progress on their template folding and template editor. Much of what the project has been doing with the edit screen has been in preparation of this work. The editor now folds complicated templates into a small block. One of the sandboxes the project uses now has the code deployed and it seems to be working quite well. Be aware that this is a development platform, and that browser peculiarities might not be fully dealt with yet. It is also NOT final.

The wiki editor with folded templates.

You can unfold the block, by clicking on the arrow to show the template code, or you can click the block and you are presented with a template editor that makes it easier to change the values of the template. This should be very helpful, because research showed that much of the trouble people had with editing Wikipedia, was the complex code on the edit pages. The template code is by far the most obscure and complicated code of all our wiki markup in my opinion. I suspect we will see more of these kinds of additional markup in the editor in the future (headers and links seem like a logical next step).

By clicking the folded Infobox template, you get this template editor.

You might be interested in this video that shows the experience some of the Usability Study subjects were having on the edit page a year ago.

Video On Wikipedia

This week at SXSW (South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals), the Open Video Alliance presented a new campaign and portal for video on Wikipedia. The project is called "Let's get video on Wikipedia" and available at The goal is to make it easier and more understandable how to upload video for usage in Wikipedia and is made possible by the Open Video Alliance, the Wikimedia Foundation, Kaltura, Miro and Mozilla Drumbeat. (Blog and press releases: Open Video Alliance, Miro, Wikimedia Foundation)

In some ways this project resembles a bit Wikiportrait, a project to help people upload their own portrait photo for usage in Wikipedia articles. Video On Wikipedia tells you what steps you need to take in order to create and upload a video for usage on Wikipedia. It also attempts to explain why uploading video for Wikipedia is different from uploading to most other places, a good bit of evangelism for Free and Open formats for information.

It helps people use the latest upload and display tools that have been developed by Michael Dale as part of the effort to improve video for Wikipedia. Not only that, but it also has a portal, that presents the latest uploads, editor's pick and most watched videos. The player of the portal uses the new HTML5 player that I recently blogged about, and you can comment on videos.

This is a great new development and hopefully it will continue to be developed and improved upon. The image on the left shows the welcome page of Video On Wikipedia and the image to the right the portal for recent uploads etc.

Monday, March 1, 2010

HTML 5 video player for mediawiki now with fullscreen support

Michael Dale has been working hard on a new media player for the mediawiki projects. This media player is based on the HTML 5 <video> tag. You can compare it to the demo players of Youtube and Vimeo and DailyMotion. It should support Firefox 3.5, Google Chrome 3, Opera 10.5 and if you install the Xiph QuickTime components it works with Safari 4 for the Mac. If your browser doesn't support HTML5, the player will use the JAVA cortado player, like it does in the old version of the Ogg player.

Recently both Apple and Firefox introduced Fullscreen support for the <video> tag in their development versions of the browsers, and these features can now be used with the new player for Wikimedia. The controls automatically show and hide, and you can even add and display subtitles with it.

How do I test it ?

It is rather easy, you go to this example video. If you want to enable it for all videos, you need to be registered on Wikimedia Commons or the English Wikipedia. You go to your preferences. Then select the "Gadgets" section. Now enable mwEmbed and Save.


The first image shows the player after the page has loaded. The second image shows the options for selecting and authoring subtitles. The third image is a movie with subtitles enabled. There are two modes for subtitles, either underneath the video, or drawn on top of the video.


This kind of work is exactly what was needed for Wikimedia. Focused development of advanced features. As a former VLC media player developer I follow the work with great interest, and occasionally report some problems that I encounter. It may seem easy to develop something like this, but I know how difficult it is and how much issues you need to take into account. This project started in January 2008 and really got going in August 2008. A lot of that time was spent preparing the MediaWiki software for the more advanced, dare I say, Web 2.0 type of functionality. Much of this mostly Javascript related work has gone parallel with the Usability project. Truly a big thank you to the developer Michael Dale and to Kaltura, which is sponsoring this development.

P.S. The work is far from finished of course. I'm sure more refinement is coming, and the authoring of subtitles is only just getting started. Still I find that having it enabled on a daily basis is a positive experience, even with the occasional glitch.

Community documentation for Wikimedia Mobile

As some may know, I have been working a lot on Wikimedia Mobile as of late. It's interesting to work on this software, because it has to support so many devices, languages and wiki's. So far the project hasn't been to good at informing the various Wikipedia communities, on how they can participate in making the mobile version of their community's Wikipedia. I have now started a draft of how to translate the software, create a mobile home page and how to do the redirects for supported mobile devices. When I have refined the information, I will probably move it to meta. If you have a better idea, please let me know.

Also, take a look at the documentation for readers.

Starting once more

I have tried it many times before, but I guess you have to persist. I find blogging difficult. I often spend too long on writing it and don't post often enough. Twitter is more my thing, because it is just short blurps. Still lately I have found that Twitter is not enough. I have ideas and comments that I feel I need to write down in more than 140 characters and many of them have to do with Wikipedia. So I'll attempt it one more time. Topics will mostly be Wikipedia, online rights and software development, but other issues might come up. Welcome everyone.