Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mobile Wikipedia editing is science fiction of the near future

The following science fiction short (or User Story) is based on a conversation at JFK airport over a coffee with Maarten B:

I am sitting in the airport and have nearly an hour to kill until my flight is due to be called but feel too tense to start reading my book. I have spare data allowance on my smart-phone and so use the free Android marketplace Meow-mobile app to automatically and securely log into my Wikipedia account. The application is pleasingly easy to use on the mobile screen and with a tap and the odd screen flick, I check recent entries on my watchlist and revert an obvious vandal edit on one of my favourite biographic articles. Someone has raised a question on my talk page and using my standard virtual keyboard I make a brief note, promising to look in more detail tomorrow. The edit form is a cut-down version to be mobile friendly and signing my reply is a simple button press.

Meow has logged me into all sister projects for which Single User Login recognizes me for, and I seamlessly flick over to Wikimedia Commons where I note that there are no decent photos of automated airport check-in and so using the mobile friendly upload form, I add a photo taken on my phone's camera of a nearby check-in booth. The upload form remembers my preferences so there are minimal tweaks to be made. Using the mobile version of HotCat, I add three more categories to the image. I check the shared WikiProject Architecture Geo-wishlist and note there are several interesting outstanding photo requests for my travel destination, at least one I think I can easily snap on the way to my meeting.

Flicking back to Wikipedia, I launch mobile-IGLOO (which has optionally suppressed cases with large diffs as these are hard to check on a mobile screen) and spend a happy 15 minutes checking some recent suspected vandalism and revert 7 obvious cases, three of which were top of the list due to my filter preferences.

My flight has been called for boarding and I switch Meow to off-line mode which retains a local cache of my watchlist articles and will intelligently attempt to re-sync any changes when I am back on-line. During the flight I plan to fiddle with a draft article in my sandbox which I'm planning to raise a Did You Know for when I get home and needs some thoughtful re-wording for the lead text. Meow displays my data usage as I close it down I note I have used less than 500k of data, probably due to the smart way the application handles images.

I have a glow of satisfaction at having used my spare waiting time to bust some vandalism and nudge up the quality of content on Wikipedia and Commons. Oops, I was so engrossed that I forgot to drink most of my coffee. Luckily I'm about to get a couple of free drinks on the flight.

The current state of the art is fairly limited to passive Wikipedia reading on mobile devices. If you think the fantasy of a user friendly Meow-mobile style Wikimedia projects editor and vandal-buster can be made a reality in the near future, drop me a note.

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