So I saw a mail about the new, revamped Internet Archive. Fantastic! All kinds of free, public domain (for the most part) files to play with! So I thought to myself: Why not celebrate that new archive.org by using a file to improve Wikidata? After all, I just have to upload it to Commons!
Easy, right? Well, I did write a tool to directly upload a file from a URL to Commons, but the IA only offers mp3, so I don’t know how that would work. Let’s do it the old-fashioned way, as every newcomer would: Download it to disk, and upload it to Commons. Except Commons barfs at mp3 uploads. Commons is the domain of free formats, after all. And we could not possibly set non-free formats free by converting them automatically, oh no! I am sure there is a good reason why the WMF can’t turn non-free mp3 into free formats during upload; that reason just escapes me at the moment, as it sure will escape everyone else who tried this. Maybe they would have to gasp! license an mp3 decoder? Not sure if that is actually required, but it would surely irk the free-only purity of the organization. Never mind the Foundation heavily relied on non-free software and services like Google internally; if they can’t get things done with free software and open-source services alone, obviously non-free ones are made available. Just not for the community.
The mp3 refusal surely means that there are well-documented ways to deal with this issue, right? The Upload Wizard itself is not very helpful, though; the dialog box that pops up says:
This wiki does not accept filenames that end in the extension “.mp3″.
That’s it. No reason why, no suggestion what to do about it, no links, nothing. Just “bugger off”, in so many words. Never mind; after all, there is a prominent, highlighted link in the Wizard to Upload help. Which, one would assume, offers help with uploading files. I search the page for “mp3″ – no result. Ah well, this seems to be a list of questions rather than an actual help page, but there is a “search archive” function; surely, this problem must have been discussed before! Nope. Neither do the FAQ cover the topic of mp3. But lo and behold, searching for “audio” gets me here, which tells me (finally!) that Commons accepts OGG and FLAC; OPUS is not mentioned, probably because there are “issues” with uploading OPUS to Commons (no, really?!?). There are some links to software and online converters, but I had found some of those on my own already by now.
I tried the Miro converter, but it “only” creates OGG, not FLAC, which I wanted to us in order to avoid re-encoding losses. Then I tried online-convert, which returned me a 10MB FLAC file for my 1.6MB mp3. So I upload the FLAC. And by that, I mean, I try. The Wizard takes the file, and starts “encoding”. And never finishes. Or at least, it’s been at it for >10min now, and not showing any sign it’s alive.
This is my experience; I could probably get it to work, if I cared enough. I shudder to think how a newbie would fair with this task. Where audio (and, most likely, video) is concerned, Commons is, in effect, a community-driven media site that does not accept media files. It has been for years, but we are approaching 2015; time we do something about that. Merely preaching more free format ideology is not a solution.