03.12.07

PediaX: Wikipedia 2.0 (BETA; NOT FOR CHILDREN UNDER 3)

Posted in Tools, User Interfaces, Wikis at 11:41 pm by Erik

Is it a toothpaste for children? Is it a midget superhero? No, Pediax is a mirror of Wikipedia with some added features. The main added value seems to be:

  • Google Suggest style autocompletion on searches
  • Floating navigation sidebar (left) and table of contents / information sidebar (right)
  • Information sidebar shows collected usage data (most popular pages as well as incoming / outgoing user tracking)
  • Auto-magnification when you mouse over images (load a typical Wikipedia article to test it)
  • Full Google Maps integration for geocoding information
  • Pre-loading of article intros in a pop-up when you hover over links

Overall, my impression is mixed. The entire site doesn’t work properly in Konqueror, so cross-browser compatibility appears to not have been a consideration. Autocompletion is definitely useful; we already support it through the OpenSearch API, e.g., you can add Wikipedia as a search engine to Firefox 2.0 and it will autocomplete the search as you type. There’s also an AJAX autocompletion feature in MediaWiki Subversion.

MediaWiki used to have a floating sidebar feature before we switched to the current MonoBook skin. It’s certainly helpful to have the navigation links permanently accessible. For some reason or other, PediaX seems to lose focus on the main content area quite often, which means I have to click in the middle column to be able to scroll. It also doesn’t handle pages with lots of interlanguage links in the sidebar well; links below the visible screen area appear to be simply inaccessible.

I think more than one floating sidebar is overkill, but being able to “pin” the left-hand bar would be useful together with an expandable or scrollable interlanguage link list. There appears to be a user script hack which does exactly that, but it kills the logo.

I don’t like the auto-magnification; I consider it bad UI design to shove large things in people’s faces when they move their mouse around. Zocky’s Picture Popups user script seems like a better solution to me; it simply shows nice, draggable previews when you click an image. I’ve been using it on the English Wikipedia for a while; the main problem is that it loads licensing information into the picture area from time to time.

Google Maps integration is interesting, though Wikimedia takes a non-discriminatory approach to external services. We’ve been using Magnus Manske’s “GeoHack” script for a while now to show links to various online mapping resources about a particular set of coordinates (example). If something were to be embedded into Wikipedia itself, it should be freely licensed, not proprietary information controlled by Google. Support for OpenStreetMap would be interesting, for example.

The pop-up preloading is a matter of taste. Again, there is a user script which implements this: Lupin’s navigation pop-ups, which also include a bunch of useful editing tools and image previews and can be customized in numerous ways.

It’s nice to see some systematic usability and feature work happening in one place. Those who think that PediaX exemplifies that Wikipedia uses “outdated” technology and is not hip enough to adopt all the cool Web 2.0 toys ought to consider, though, that implementing changes recklessly would easily break the site for a large portion of our users. Our existing innovation model includes the ability for users to write and activate their own user JavaScript and stylesheets, and this has led to many exciting Tools. The best ones, if they degrade gracefully on browsers with insufficient capabilities, should be considered for inclusion in the default view. For the others, we mainly ought to make it easier to select and activate them.

1 Comment »

  1. ntoll said,

    April 11, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Where is the AJAX autocompletion feature in MediaWiki Subversion? I’ve taken a look at http://svn.wikimedia.org/svnroot/mediawiki/ but due to my unfamiliarity with the mediawiki code I can’t find it :-(

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