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The way is shut

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 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.


  1. Brion Vibber wrote:

    Licensing MP4 decoders (and even encoders) for server-side transcoding of video and audio passed muster with WMF legal but not with the Commons community:

    I’m still pretty bummed about that. I’ve got some crazy JavaScript solutions for playback, but uploading/encoding is harder.

    MP3 would likely be similarly rejected; at this point for MP3 it’s easier to wait until the patents expire next year. πŸ˜›

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 14:42 | Permalink
  2. Brion Vibber wrote:

    One thing we could do, but haven’t, is provide a downloadable converter+uploader app that uses the existing MP3 and MP4 codecs on most modern systems, and make that SUPER-ACCESSIBLE from the upload documentation.

    That way we wouldn’t be shipping MP3/MP4 files on output (no scary streaming license), still wouldn’t have to license the decoder on the server side, *and* it could help manage the ‘large slow upload’ problem.

    I’m pretty sure this could be done for:
    * Windows 7+
    * Mac OS X reasonably current versions
    * Linux where gstreamer has mp3/mp4 plugins installed
    * Android current-ish versions
    * iOS 8

    I’d originally considered this on the mobile-app side where we could directly use the device’s camera, but performance of software encoding would not have been great. Mobile devices have gotten a *lot* faster though in the last couple years, and desktop/laptop machines are obviously fast enough, so I think this really ought to be done if we can’t get a server-side solution or a third-party converter bootstrapped.

    Feel free to help suggest this project to the WMF Multimedia team… πŸ™‚

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 14:57 | Permalink
  3. Magnus wrote:

    If it’s legally OK, why not put online conversion on Labs, then link to that? I’m not volunteering for that, mind you, got enough on my plate πŸ˜‰

    Also, I managed to upload the thing as OGG after converting with the Miro Video (!) converter. Waiting for the speedy deletion template…

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 15:48 | Permalink
  4. Brion Vibber wrote:

    It’s legally OK *if* WMF signs the patent license, which the Commons community said no to.

    Doesn’t make a difference whether we put it on labs or “production” server, the decoder’s gotta be licensed to be kosher.

    Of course, in theory a Commons RFC shouldn’t have to apply to WMF’s general operations, but that’s the channel the WMF Multimedia team chose to frame the question to the community.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 17:15 | Permalink
  5. Nemo wrote:

    That’s weird, because IA always offers the ogg or ogv for their files. See for instance
    I’ve asked:
    They do a lot of research on the best conversion settings, so I’m sure a non-expert wouldn’t be able to do better.

    Cf. stats on UploadWizard errors

    It’s naΓ―ve to say “the Commons community said no”. The responsibility for the failure of that RfC lies entirely in the WMF, which made absurd proposals, namely “full MP4 support”. The way to the Pandora’s box was shut by the community, yes. The solution is not to seek the Pandora’s box.

    Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 08:13 | Permalink
  6. Nemo wrote:

    An ogg version is now available.

    Friday, October 31, 2014 at 08:59 | Permalink