Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Francisco Ferrer centennial

In only a few weeks, October 13, 2009 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of educator Francisco Ferrer, an important figure in the history of freethought, education reform, and anarchism, whose execution for attempting to found secular schools in Spain sparked a long-lived movement in the United States to preserve his ideas and introduce freedom in education. I've already written blog posts on the 2006 and 2008 anniversaries, that give the background as well as I can. (I'm not going to organize a full-scale blog-a-thon like my Carl Sagan one, but feel free to post something appropriate on the anniversary, and I'll link to it.) Also, this Saturday brings the 2009 reunion of the Friends of the Modern School alumni association, held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, near the site of the modern school and colony which was at Stelton, New Jersey; this is not just a way for people associated with the school to keep in touch, but a way of preserving the history and discussing related issues; members of the general public who are interested in the history are welcome to attend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What happened to Google Video?

I recently noticed that the webpages for individual videos on Google Video (I'm not talking about other pages on the site such as the front page or search pages) have had a bunch of little changes in layout and features made to them. To see what I mean, compare this screenshot of the old interface to the current version of the same video's page.

Frustratingly, some of the old features and video information have seemingly been completely removed, including the "view video at 100% or 200% size" menu options (turning some videos into a blurry mess when blown up to the full player window — yes, you can get around this by making your browser window smaller, but it's not exact, and it shouldn't be that hard to let the user specify whatever exact zoom ratio one wants); the "comments" and "more from user" tabs (the latter tab was always poorly implemented, with its pages of thumbnails to click through, but it was better than nothing); the green text line underneath the video title that lists the video's author info; and the listing, next to the video title, of the date a video was posted (replaced by a less precise "2 years ago" or the like).

The site has been circling the drain for a long time, as other, newer video sites have become more popular, particularly since Google disabled the ability to add new videos to the site earlier this year (though they left the existing videos alone at that time), and the old interface was somewhat clunky. But it was one of the oldest video websites around, and still has a sizable amount of content. And the changes don't seem to be netting much discussion (in fact the admittedly quick searching I've done hasn't turned up any discussion on blogs or elsewhere about the changes).