Media handling on Wikimedia: Preview the future! (part 1)

So at LCA I was able to catch up with Michael Dale, who is doing some very interesting video work for the Wikimedia Foundation. Michael was talking about his development work, as well as taking part in the Foundations of Open Media Workshop which is collocated with LCA.

I had noticed some recent posts by Michael to the mailing lists inviting people to trial some new features he was working on, so after his talk I cornered him to get a personal demo and make sure I didn’t miss anything. :)

There are two separate features that are bundled together in the demo: one is an in-browser video transcoder, and the other is a cool add-media wizard. The add-media wizard works on Firefox right now, while the video transcoder needs just a couple of extra steps, so I will cover the add-media wizard first.

First of all, go to your user monobook.js subpage on whichever wiki you want to try this on. Mine, on Wikimedia Commons, is at Edit it and add this line:


(note the trailing semi-colon)

Do a shift-refresh, and then open a page for editing. If you’ve cleared your cache you will see a new little icon above the edit box, at the far left:

To my mind it looks a bit like the Ubuntu icon, but I think it’s actually a film reel with a plus symbol. :)

So if you click it, you will get a box coming up with some thumbnails of images, searching on whatever the name of the page you edited was.

So what we get is some thumbnails from an image search, and we can see different tabs for different media archive sources. At the moment there is just Wikimedia Commons and Metavid. Obviously we could add other license-suitable archives as we become aware of them (eg Flickr’s CC-BY and CC-BY-SA images). Currently it mixes together all media types.

So, let’s choose one…

Now I can write a caption, and either preview the insert, insert it directly, or cancel the insert. This is what the preview looks like:

Note the “preview” notice at the top of the drop box, and at the bottom the options “Do insert” or “Do more modification”. Hmm, so what was that crop option?

Clicking on the “Crop image” option gives a “box drawing” cursor where we can draw a box over the image to choose what crap we want. Everything not in the crop is shadowed.

So how does this crop actually work? At the moment, it relies on a template called Preview Crop. So if you’re testing this feature out, check that your wiki has that template. In the future, hopefully crop functionality could be added directly to the MediaWiki image syntax, so it might be equivalent to something like [[Image:Foo.jpg|crop,10,10,120,150|thumb]] or something. For now, you need the template.

And… it works! :)

So that is the add-media wizard. If it is very well designed, it may remove the need to search Wikimedia Commons separately to writing your Wiki* article. (I mean, it wouldn’t be hard to improve on the default search.) It would be neat to integrate some of the features from Mayflower, including hover-over indication of license, description and metadata, and advanced search options such as searching by file type.

A few more things:

That’s about it for now; I will cover the in-browser video transcoder in a second post. If you think it looks interesting I encourage you to try it out, and report any problems or suggestions you have. Or if you have no problems: that’s also good to know! If a few more people try it out in its current form, I think it would be a great thing to enable as a Gadget then people can easily choose to use it by turning it on in their preferences. Ultimately it may even be best as a default thing turned on for everyone, by being integrated into MediaWiki core.

28 January, 2009 • , ,


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