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.
- See discussion below.
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)
- Seems like it was an insightful visit. Hopefully the "mobile" stuff you mention won't (just) be geared towards Apple's line. Having recently bought a kindle, I've been surprised by how much of the official Trek stuff is suitable only for iTunes, etc., such as the Cinefex articles and the new ability to download Star Trek Into Darkness officially; Android is also good. --Defiant (talk) 23:31, August 22, 2013 (UTC)
Darwin (new skin improvements)
The new CSS stuff is available and being discussed on Community Central. This is something that I'd like to see us implement sooner rather than later, if only to get some assistance from the CSS nerds at Wikia. I'd like to put us forward as joining in on this if at all possible. -- sulfur (talk) 17:11, August 22, 2013 (UTC)
- We should be in on the ground floor on this. I've rarely said this about anything wikia releases, but I want this now. - Archduk3 17:32, August 22, 2013 (UTC)
- After checking on a test wiki that at least our most important templates work (I see problems with our page banners, for example), why not - it's hard to imagine that it could be any worse than the Oasis transition, and it is nice to see that Wikia finally agrees on some of the problems that skin created years ago. With that said, though, I'd still say we shouldn't throw all caution to the wind at once. Wikia may have convinced you while you were visiting them, but I think at least some scepticisms regarding all those promises might still be in order. --Cid Highwind (talk) 10:11, August 23, 2013 (UTC)
I spoke with one of the community guys yesterday afternoon (ET) and explained some of our concerns. They're going to take the ma-test site and (essentially) make a copy of the current MA to put on there with the new skin stuff in place. The suggestion as relates to the headers is that they extend out with black at the one end (as all of them seem to fade to black in the image) using CSS in order to fill out the header. They've also offered to help us with that and to help clean up some of the obsolete CSS we have in place still. -- sulfur (talk) 14:19, August 27, 2013 (UTC)
Update: MA-Test is now set up with fluid in place and the articletype headers? They look utterly awesome (to me at least). Not all of the pages or templates are installed on it, but enough are there to be useful for now. -- sulfur (talk) 00:18, September 7, 2013 (UTC)
At the tail end of last week, Archduk3 and I had a conference call (via Skype) with one of Wikia's mobile developers and two of their designers, explaining some of the concerns and issues that we'd encountered since our visit to their offices. A quick summary of issues (mostly relating to the mobile app, MyWikia) is below:
- Mobile app version of MA presents it as a black on white background. We'd prefer something closer to our native colours, and using the ThemeDesigner colours would (likely) be as close to optimal as we could hope for.
- Mobile app "About MA" segment is empty. Should have some detail, especially since we wrote a blurb for it 6+ months ago.
- Images chosen for mobile app pages isn't always the most optimal option. There should be some way of indicating primary images on a page.
- When editing a page, need a way to preview what will be seen in the app and/or mobile site.
- Mobile search is poor, even compared to the Wiki's search.
- Recent entries includes bot edits, which means that it isn't actually truly reflective of what's actually recent, just what SulfBot thinks should be. :)
I know that there were 2-3 more items in the list, but those are the things that I can recall from my poor note taking. Perhaps Archduk3 can add to the list or expand on it. And yes, they tell us that they're working on an Android version of the app. -- sulfur (talk) 14:25, August 27, 2013 (UTC)
- The other things discussed were bugs involving tables and sidebars. The episode and film sidebars have problems such as some of the templates used in them showing even if they are "empty". Also, small tables such as the film nav at the bottom of the film pages doesn't show since small tables are edited out to try and remove notices, but the notices are still visible because they are just big enough to still be included. We also discussed how images are displayed in the wikia app. - Archduk3 20:44, August 28, 2013 (UTC)