This past week, Archduk3 and I were invited out to the Wikia offices in San Francisco to discuss how Memory Alpha worked, why we are so stringent on our copyright requirements, why we "hate" video, see some new products coming soon, and discuss our mobile presence (among other things).
Due to those lovely pieces of paper called "NDAs", we can't discuss everything we saw or talked about, but I can try to give some overviews on things.
New visual editor
In conjunction with the MediaWiki folks, Wikia has a tech group working on a new visual editor. From our brief views of it and brief interaction, this actually has a lot of promise where the ckEditor (the current visual editor) fell very flat.
According to the webpage, this editor is expected to launch for all logged in Wikipedia users on July 1st, and all anon users on July 7th. Wikia is looking at a later date for launching the editor on their servers, and I'm sure will be releasing more information as their actual schedule becomes more finalized.
Wikia/Oasis skin improvements
There a some improvements coming to the Wikia/Oasis skin. Unfortunately, these are things that cannot be discussed at this point, but suffice it to say that almost everything they presented us was a definite improvement. Their plans for rolling things out are also much improved on the style with which Oasis was originally rolled out.
We do have the option to become a "test wiki" for this if we so desire. See discussion below.
Videos and Memory Alpha
After the fiasco that was the "related videos" sidebar for Memory Alpha last year and the more recent "auto-uploading" of youtube videos (that have since been cleaned up), the community at Memory Alpha has had some serious issues with video. Understandably.
Their video team presented us with some new options that actually mitigate most of the issues that we had previously brought up in our myriad of discussions about having video on Memory Alpha. Some highlights (I'll be creating a more detailed discussion about possible new video policies later today if all goes well) include the ability to only allow admins to add videos to articles, and the ability to only add videos from Wikia's video library (all of which are copyrighted and licensed to Wikia). These two things combined should make the general community much more comfortable with the idea of video on Memory Alpha.
Memory Alpha's mobile profile
It may surprise some people, but Memory Alpha has between 30 and 35% of all of its traffic come from mobile devices. We had a fantastic discussion about mobile devices, including some of our concerns with how they currently displayed Memory Alpha on them. We were also given the opportunity to try out the new MyWikia iOS app that was released earlier this year.
As things stand, Memory Alpha displays as "black on white" on both the mobile skin and on the MyWikia app, something that both Archduk3 and I were uncomfortable with, and we're going to try to work closely with their mobile developers to improve the MA mobile experience. Do note that there are no short-term plans to enable editing on the mobile platform, but that is a longer term desire.
This is something else I hope to go into more detail about in a separate forum, once I've got some screenshots/etc available for people to see some of the issues that we face and give some feedback on what we'd like to do with our mobile presence.
Community Development and Marketing
One of the other groups we dealt with was the "ComDev" group . This group is responsible for talking with various companies, producers, etc and acquiring content that can be used for various articles.
In the past, we've had a couple of "run-ins" with them where they've simply uploaded large amounts of images (for example) and added them to articles as enormous galleries, something that really goes against our manual of style and general guidelines.
I'd previously spoken with members of their group about this practice, but conversations in person really seemed to drive home our needs and goals (which are, admittedly, a bit different than most Wikia sites out there).
This related to our marketing conversation that we had first thing in the morning upon our arrival, where Wikia tried to get a grasp on how we felt that Memory Alpha fit into the bigger Wikia picture (and so forth).
Overall, I think that we gave both groups some good food for thought and I will be following up with them over the next few weeks to ensure that we continue to work on the same page.
The Trek Initiative
The Trek Initiative was something that rapidly became a bit of a running joke over the course of our visit, as it was a regular question we were asked, specifically:
- How did you get into working with Memory Alpha?
- What other wikis are you involved in?
- What do you think of The Trek Initiative?
In case you missed the memo, The Trek Initiative is currently a collaboration between the Roddenberry.com group and Wikia. I, along with Renegade54, Cid Highwind, and Captainmike, was approached about being involved with this project on startup. Unfortunately, the four of us were all a little confused about exactly what TTI was supposed to be and what void it was intended to fill.
To my understanding, TTI is intended to be a "Trek portal", something of a replacement for the Wikia's current portal. When we spoke with a couple of Wikia's staff members and a member of the Roddenberry.com staff (Note: Ask them to write our Roddenberry.com article), we gave some suggestions for possible additions to the portal, including making it something of a replacement for all of the long-lost Star Trek related magazines.
Wikia previously did the Ask J.J. promotion with us during the 2009 film release, and we felt that things like this would be better if they were hosted on TTI. These could be video, audio, or text interviews, allowing Memory Alpha to cite information in those for our articles. We even gave some suggestions as to people worth talking to or writing articles about (including model makers, CGI designers, lighting techs, and the guy who does all the lens flares!), all of which seemed to be taken quite well.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience and I feel that both Archduk3 and I learned a lot about how Wikia works, what they can do for us, and what's in the pipeline for the next few months, thus giving us a chance to prepare and adapt as required. -- sulfur (talk) 19:47, June 24, 2013 (UTC)
- Please contain all discussion in this section or below
If you've got any questions, comments, or otherwise, please let us know in this section. Also, if we're interested in trying to become a test wiki for the new skin improvements, this is the place to discuss that. -- sulfur (talk) 19:47, June 24, 2013 (UTC)
- I don't think I need to point out to long term archivists that I haven't been a fan of most of what wikia has done in the time I've been with Memory Alpha, but I can confirm that what I saw was a very promising "change" in direction for them, at least from my point of view. In all the time I've been here, the little known fact was that generally I didn't have a problem with their ideas per se, but more with the implementation and execution of those ideas. During the visit, I saw a concerted effort to make sure the days of the proverbial "barely working mandatory wikia product launch" were a thing of the past, and there also seems to be some hope that currently released "additions" will actually be upgraded to "improvements". It was almost disconcerting to see how little there was that I could complain about, though there are certainly things the MA community will need to talk about as some of what we saw rolls out. - God Emperor Archduk3 20:29, June 24, 2013 (UTC)
- That new visual editor looks handy. I'm looking forward to improvements on the mobile side - it's kind of a pain in the ass to look anything up on my phone in the current format. It'd be nice if there was a way to revert the image pages back to the old design - the "tabbed" style is kind of a pain. - Aatrek 16:55, June 25, 2013 (UTC)
The tabbed file pages is something that we brought up. To my understanding (and experience), a lot of power users have echoed similar feelings about those file pages, while most newer users find them far more useful (understandably). There is apparently CSS and JS out there to revert the pages, but I've not yet come across it. -- sulfur (talk) 17:07, June 25, 2013 (UTC)