Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pipeline success stories

In the past few months Pipeline has been used for all kinds of projects: videos, games, artworks, class projects, and more. As 2011 comes to a close, we wanted to highlight a couple of recent Pipeline success stories. Here's to many more in 2012!

Holiday Flood - 20+ artists from around the world used Pipeline to organize a month-long, collaborative art project which originated in the Newgrounds Art Forum. For each of the 12 days of Christmas, two artists submitted one artwork each based on the day's theme to the Newgrounds Art Portal, for a total of 24 artworks. In addition, each artwork contained a puzzle piece that, when combined, revealed a holiday poster and greeting, complete with every artist's signature. The project was submitted to the Newgrounds Flash Portal as an interactive art gallery with original music, where it received excellent reviews and an award for being one of the top-rated submissions on Christmas Day 2011.

Here are the finished products: Flash Portal submission and Art Portal submissions

And here's the Pipeline project that produced them: Holiday Flood on Pipeline

Game Jam 6 - Every month or two, Newgrounds sponsors a Game Jam, a competition in which teams of artists, programmers, and musicians try to create a Flash game in just a few days. For Game Jam 6, announced in the Newgrounds Collaboration Forum in early December 2011, the theme was "hallucinations" and the deadline was 96 hours. Fifteen teams, each consisting of four randomly-assigned members from around the world, used Pipeline to help organize their game projects. Of those, nine submitted completed games to the Newgrounds Flash Portal by the deadline. All of the teams that used Pipeline and submitted a game received better ratings than the teams that didn't use Pipeline. Additionally, the three top-rated games all used Pipeline. We awarded $100 prizes (partially donated by Newgrounds) to each of these teams, listed below:

All of the Game Jam 6 submissions can be viewed in this Newgrounds collection.

Congrats to these folks and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Changelog for December 10

We're pleased to bring you one of the biggest Pipeline updates ever! Feedback has been pouring in from the recent Game Jam contest on, plus other great ongoing projects. We have been working night and day to respond to your bug reports and feature requests. Here's our latest:

Bigger stuff:

* Remember login for 30 days - Pipeline now uses cookies instead of sessions for logging in, so you'll only have to log in every 30 days if you choose.

Better project privacy - if your project is set to "private", only members and people you invite will be able to see it. Previously anyone with a private project's URL could see it.

Better image previews - now if you preview a large image, Pipeline will automatically resize it so the preview doesn't take over your browser window.

* Better Flash previews - Pipeline now uses SWFObject rather than Flowplayer to load Flash (swf) files, so previewing these kinds of uploads should be faster and more reliable.

Smaller stuff:

* Better upload thumbnails - you'll now see a full thumbnail instead of a sliver when you upload images, video, or Flash, and the thumbnail will be proportional.

Truncated upload filenames - if you upload a file with a really long filename, Pipeline will truncate it so it doesn't break the page layout.

* Show upload date/time - Pipeline now shows the date/time each file was uploaded.

* Pagination for discussions - longer discussions are now broken down into pages with 10 replies each, rather than one long page that was clumsy to navigate.

* Admin improvements - various minor improvements for using Pipeline in admin mode.

Enjoy these changes and as always, drop us a line with your thoughts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Changelog for November 28

The Pipeline team is still in a tryptophan-induced Thanksgiving haze, but we nevertheless have some flashy new features and bug fixes to report.

* New Activity tab - The new tab shows the details of each event, not just the summary, similar to a Facebook feed. It also shows the complete history for a project, not just last 50 events. (Use the page links at bottom of the tab to navigate). We also got rid of the sparkline and discussions on that tab, to make things simpler.

* Activity since last login - Pipeline will now highlight events that have happened since your last login. Older events will look faded. This works on all pages, not just the Activity tab. Note: this feature will only start working after your next login (feel free to logout to get it started).

* User-customizable themes - Pipeline comes with two color schemes, a light theme and a dark theme. Users can pick the theme they like best and save the preference to their profiles. Just go to the Settings page (link in top right corner) and scroll down to the Theme panel.

* Better support for private projects - user profiles will now show private projects the user has joined and their activity within private projects if the viewer is also a member of those projects. Previously Pipeline hid all private project info from user profiles, regardless of who was viewing them.

* Upload new file types - You can now use Pipeline to share Photoshop files (.psd), Word documents (.doc), and PDFs.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pipeline source code released

Big news! Pipeline's source code has been released! Pipeline is now freely available through Github under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This means, in part, that:
you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for them if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs, and that you know you can do these things. 
Releasing the source code under this license expands the possibilities of who can use Pipeline and encourages experimentation and innovation. Here are a few practical implications:

* You can set up a Pipeline on your own web server, if you have one. This will be especially appealing to organizations who want to set up an internal Pipeline that's not visible to the outside world. Note that you can still ask us to set up a Pipeline on our web servers -- just email us a request.

* You can make changes to the Pipeline source code, if you're a programmer. Maybe you need to make changes to use Pipeline for a new purpose we haven't even thought of, or you have ideas for improving Pipeline and don't want to wait for us. We're excited to see what you come up with!

* You can use code from Pipeline in another project. Pipeline has many components, including file management, user management, email notifications, and media encoding, so parts of it could be useful for a wide range of other projects.

To download the source code, go to our Pipeline project on Github and click the Downloads tab. Then click either "Download as .zip" or "Download as tar.gz", whichever you prefer. Your download should start immediately.

Installation instructions are included in the README.txt file. Pipeline requires Apache HTTP Server, PHP 5, and MySQL.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Changelog for November 17

We've got a big art project happening on Pipeline and it's resulted in tons of great bug reports and feature requests! Here's the latest breakdown:

* Private messages - resurrected from an earlier version of Pipeline, private messages are back! Your inbox is accessible from a link in the top right corner. When you have new messages, the number will appear next to the link. Send messages to any user and get email notifications when they reply.

* Lockable discussions - trusted members can now lock discussion topics, meaning they no longer accept replies. They can also be unlocked with one click.

* New look for discussion lists - similar to lists of tasks, projects, etc. these should be easier to scan now.

* Snippets for projects and tasks - sometimes titles aren't quite enough, so now each project or task in a list will also show a snippet of their descriptions. This should make it easier to find what you want before clicking.

* Admin page - if you run your own Pipeline, now you'll have a page that summarizes all activity across your Pipeline, including new projects, new users, and recent activity. Really helpful for getting a bird's eye view of what's happening on your Pipeline.

More improvements are on the horizon, so check back often.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pipeline demo at Georgia Tech, November 15

We will be demoing Pipeline for the FutureMedia Fest, from 11:15am to 2:00pm, on November 15, 2011. The location, as usual, is the third floor of the Tech Square Research Building (TSRB), 85 Fifth St NW, Atlanta, GA, 30308. It looks like you will need to be registered for FutureMedia Fest to see the demos, which costs between $125 and $400.

More info: FutureMedia Fest

Changelog for November 8

Lots of updates in the past couple of weeks!

* Private projects - you can now create private projects, which are only visible to project members, invited users, and people with the project link. This option is currently only available at project creation time.

* New lists interface - lists of items, like projects or tasks, have a new, cleaner interface. It should be much easier to skim a list of items, and soon you'll be able to sort by column, too.

* Project suggestions - we found that new users often aren't sure what to do after they register. Now, their dashboard will suggest public projects they might want to join. Once they join a project, the suggestions will be replaced by their own list of projects.

Contributions and Contributors - The Contributions panel now shows all contributions to a task, not just the latest for each member. The latest one shows the status (e.g. "seeking feedback"). Earlier contributions by that member are marked "old". Also, the Contributors panel has been renamed Task Members because not everyone who joins has made a contribution yet. Finally, the order of the panels now depends on your relationship to the task: if you've joined the task, the "Contribute" button will be most prominent; otherwise, the "Join Task" button will be.

* Leaving tasks - you can now leave a task by clicking the "Leave Task" button on the Task Members panel. Previously this was much more confusing: you had to post a contribution with the "stopped" status. (This status has been renamed "finished".)

* Birth date - your full birth date is no longer required -- just the month and year. This better respects your privacy and also makes for a quicker sign-up.

* Forgot password - if you forget your Pipeline password, you can now reset it from the Login page.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pipeline demo at Georgia Tech, October 26

We will be demoing Pipeline from 1pm-5pm on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 at Georgia Tech as part of the GVU Fall Research Showcase. The location is Technology Square Research Building, 85 Fifth St NW, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Look for our setup on the third floor of the building.

More info: GVU Fall Research Showcase

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Changelog for October 23

It's been about three weeks since we launched the latest version of Pipeline. We're extremely grateful to all the folks who have given Pipeline a try and especially those who have sent us feedback. Here is the latest round of enhancements, in addition to the usual bug fixes:

* Start a Project - previously you could only join a few projects we created, in order to focus feedback on member features. Now, we're opening up Pipeline to new projects created by you. Just click the "Start a Project" link in the header after you've logged in. You'll be asked to provide some basic info (title, description), some optional fields (e.g. deadline), and invite members. We're excited to see the projects our users come up with!

* Edit Attached Files - previously you could only add files to a new Task or Contribution, but we knew this was inconvenient if you wanted to add more files or delete them at a later date. Fret no more. Now, when you edit a Task or Contribution, you can add or delete attached files.

* Auto-linked URLs - Pipeline will now automatically create a hyperlink if you post a URL -- no need to do the HTML markup yourself. This includes URLs in Tasks, Contributions, Comments, the Pitch, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Changelog for October 5

We launched our most recent version of Pipeline last week and the feedback is coming in. We've made more changes, some big, others not so big.

Bigger changes:

* Diff: Previously you could see edits in the Recent Activity, but just knowing something was edited wasn't that helpful. What exactly was changed? With Diff, now you can know. Just find an edit event in the Recent Activity and click the "diff" link below it. A dialog will pop up and show you the old and new versions. If it's a lot of text, like an edit to the Pitch, the old and new versions will be overlaid, similar to Wikipedia.
* Layout changes: We experimented with a wider 3-column liquid layout to take advantage of larger monitors. Unfortunately it didn't work so well on smaller windows, so we reverted to a 2-column static layout. We also moved uploads and comments to be within the Task and Update panels, to emphasize their relationship to each other. Finally, the home page has been modified to be a little cleaner.
* Protection for younger users: We are now hiding profile info for users younger than 18. This includes their name, age, location, and biography. As a result, Birth date is now a required field when you register.
* Last login: You can now see when a user last logged in on their profile.

Smaller changes:
* The adult consent form now has clearer language to explain that your name is optional.
* The box explaining your relationship to a project (e.g. "You are a member of this project") has been moved to the header bar.
* We fixed some bugs with special characters (e.g. quotation marks) and clarified which HTML tags were allowed, and where. This info is now in the Help page as well as located contextually around Pipeline.
* A minor bug where the bottom of icons were getting cropped is now fixed.
* Lists of discussions now properly show the latest post.
* Logging out of Pipeline now always takes you to the home page, instead of the page you came from. This prevents lots of inevitable Access Denied messages when you redirect to a page you no longer can access.
* Now when you create a new task, you are the default leader for that task.
* Contributors are now sorted alphabetically on the Task page. For each contributor, you can now see their total contributions, not just a link to their most recent.

Hope you enjoy the changes! Please contact us with any feedback.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New version of Pipeline

Fall is the season of change and Pipeline is no exception! It's been a busy couple of months. Our first round of beta testing on Newgrounds produced a huge batch of great ideas and feedback. Since July, we've been working on integrating that feedback into Pipeline. The new version is now available for testing and we believe it's the best one yet!

The new Pipeline is quite a bit different from the last version. Here are just a few of the biggest changes:

* Pipeline is now a platform, not just one website. Previously, Pipeline was a single website where people started and worked on projects. We broadened that idea, because different kinds of projects attract different communities with specialized needs. Now, anyone will be able to download the Pipeline source code and set up a customized instance on their own server. In other words, now anyone can have a Pipeline. We will still host a Pipeline instance for demo purposes (check it out here), and a few more for research/testing purposes.

* Pipeline has a brand new visual design. It's cleaner and makes better use of screen real estate, especially for folks with widescreen monitors, which are increasingly common.We've also moved color-based CSS out of the main stylesheet, which means it's really easy to customize the colors of each Pipeline. We now have two out-of-the-box styles, a dark version (default) and a light version.

* Pipeline has a new code base from the ground up. Pipeline evolved so much from its original conception that the old architecture just wasn't cutting it anymore. We took the opportunity this summer to rethink the basic site architecture in terms of our latest ideas and user feedback on what Pipeline should be. Most users won't notice these changes, though lots of bugs will be fixed, performance might be faster, and improvements should come more quickly. Developers, however, will appreciate how much more sense everything makes, and that's crucial for an open source project.

* Pipeline has a new workflow. The old Pipeline was based around concepts like "scenes", "submissions", and "versions", which were unfamiliar and confusing to many users. With this new version, we redefined the workflow around something more straightforward and familiar: tasks. Trusted users now create tasks, which any logged-in user can join. Once joined, users can post contributions (files, updates, etc.) and edit their status (in progress, seeking feedback, completed, etc.) Both tasks and contributions can receive feedback from anyone with an account.

* Pipeline has comprehensive support for multimedia files. Previously Pipeline had inconsistent support for media uploads: for example, you could stream video but you couldn't see thumbnails for uploaded images. The new version of Pipeline fills in these gaps and expands them. Now you can upload video, audio, images, or Flash animation. Pipeline will handle the rest: generating thumbnails (if applicable), rendering streaming versions, and providing in-browser playback support via the open source flowPlayer.

We hope you find these changes as exciting as we do!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Beta Testing on Newgrounds

In mid-June, we had a soft launch of Pipeline in the Newgrounds community, timed to coincide with their bi-monthly Game Jam contests. Lots of folks signed up and tried Pipeline, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Here is a sample of the feedback we received from our first batch of beta testers:
"This looks really nice and helpful." 
"To be honest I thought this was just an ad for a generic site, but I'm pleasantly surprised." 
"Very nice, Will definitely help lots of collabs... Looking forward to the collabs this will help and to a future of better, organized collabs." 
"Wow, I'm impressed... It'll help me in the future and right now." 
"Pipeline is truly awesome."
Obviously this kind of reaction has us really pumped. But even more importantly, these comments came with a lot of great ideas for  how to make Pipeline even better. So we've decided to temporarily take Pipeline offline while we implement our next set of changes. We expect to have a new version up and running in July, along with a contest to entice our next round of beta testers.

Please note if you registered for Pipeline, your account information will be transferred to the next release. We will also try to notify those folks via email when they can log in again.

Thanks for your patience, your feedback, and your enthusiasm while we bring you the best platform for crowdsourcing movies out there.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Changelog for April 18

It's been a while since our last update... So here's what we've been up to:

The Big stuff:
* Private Messaging - Users can now send other users private messages.
* Revamped Dashboard - The new dashboard builds upon the old dashboard and adds several other pages. Users can now see their Inbox, Profile page and change Notification settings all from one place.
* Threaded comments & threaded discussions - Discussions and comments are now threaded. So users can now reply back on a particular comment or reply on a particular discussion thread.
* Submission status - Users can now change the status of each submission. They can indicate if they are looking for feedback on their submission and also claim a submission that they would like to work on.

Some Small stuff too:
* We've cleaned up the Log In widget a little and made it a little more intuitive.
* Bugfix to allow ASCII characters to be seen properly.
* Bugfix to prevent one user from kicking another user out of a collab.
* Minor code cleanup.

So what's been keeping us busy lately?
* Autocomplete – Instead of having to remember the username of a particular user, the system will autofill the username in the form as you type.
* Adding support for web video linking – Users will soon be able to post submission video that have been hosted on youtube and vimeo.
* Enhanced Project status – Admins will soon be able to state if they are looking for members and what type of members.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Changelog for March 29

Spring break was last week, but that didn't stop us from getting some things done.

Big stuff:
* Email notifications: You can now choose to have Pipeline send you email notifications of your choice. To edit your notification preferences, go to your profile page and look for the Preferences panel. Current notification options include:
- notify when your application to join a collab is reviewed
- notify when you are invited to join a collab
- notify when someone comments on your submission
More notification types will be added over time.
* Buttons: when you click a button, it will only submit the first time, no matter how many times you click the button. This should eliminate a number of issues we saw with people accidentally posting a comment multiple times, uploading the same file multiple times, etc.

Small stuff:
* File uploads and new comments are now added via a popup dialog box, consistent with adding new scenes and submissions and uploading profile pictures.
* Fixed a bug where users could delete submissions from the Overview tab. This is disabled now; the Overview is geared towards viewing, not editing.

In the works:
* We're working on an overhaul of comments and discussions. The new system will make it easy to have conversations, i.e., reply to specific people and stay on topic.

Pipeline demo at Georgia Tech, April 14

We'll be demoing Pipeline at the GVU Spring Research Showcase on April 14 at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Details are here, and our title and abstract for the demo is here:

Pipeline: Exploring Leadership in Crowdsourced Movie Production
Crowdsourced movies -- created by volunteers collaborating over the Internet -- have won an Emmy Award, debuted at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and screened at thousands of theaters across the United States. How are these movies made, how can technology be designed to support them, and what can they teach us about online creative collaboration more broadly? To address these questions, we first conducted a series of interviews with creators of crowdsourced animated movies called "collabs," focusing on the challenges for collab leaders. We then conducted a quantitative study looking at which factors influence collab success. Now, we're using these results to develop Pipeline, a web-based software tool for organizing crowdsourced movie projects. Pipeline supports a range of leadership styles, from democratic to benevolent dictator, and a variety of collaboration styles, from divide-and-conquer to improvisational. We plan to test Pipeline with real users to study how leadership and technological support affects the process and outcome of online creative collaboration.

Leading the Crowd

I've just posted a short essay, "Leading the Crowd," on the CHI 2011 Crowdsourcing and Human Computation workshop blog. The essay argues for the importance of effective leadership in crowdsourcing and briefly mentions Pipeline and our studies of crowdsourced movie productions. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Changelog for March 13

Lots of new fixes and features as a result of the Piggy's Bad Day test.

Big stuff:
* If you upload a video in a supported format (.avi, .mpg, or .mov) it will generate thumbnails and a streamable .flv file to make previewing easier. Formats that are already easy to preview (.flv and .swf) will also generate thumbnails. In lists of uploads, Pipeline will show an appropriate file format icon (if it has one) for uploads without thumbnails.
* You can now preview uploads of the above formats from either submission pages or the Files page.
* If a submission has multiple file attachments, it will show the thumbnail of the most recent attachment that has a thumbnail when the submission appears in lists (e.g. Scenes page). This "featured" thumbnail will also appear in large size at the top of the submission page. If there are no uploads or none with thumbnails, a placeholder image will appear there instead.
* Pipeline now displays text labels, in addition to icons, for panel actions, e.g. create, edit, delete. It also shows customized text labels when available, e.g. "Upload" (for files uploads) vs. "Create" (for new scenes).
* Scenes are now more visual, displaying thumbnails for every submission they contain.

Small stuff:
* Signing up for Pipeline generates a log event
* Fixed a bug preventing invitations to join collabs
* Fixed a problem with non-functional profile links on the Crew page
* "Speak Up" buttons renamed to "Submit" -- less awkward phrasing
* Panel buttons (create, edit, delete, etc.) easier to see
* Multi-file uploads disabled -- seemed to make the UI more complicated
* Pipeline now handles links to collabs or users that don't exist without crashing
* Max upload size changed from 30 MB to 100 MB per file
* "Play" image always appears over big thumbnail on submission page, not just on hover

Look for these changes to go live soon.

First collab test completed -- and successful

The first-ever Pipeline collab happened last week and, all things considered, it went pretty well! The collab was called "Piggy's Bad Day" and was a series of short videos documenting all the bad things that could happen to a stuffed pig that was sitting in Amy's office. Seven members of the lab signed up and submitted videos, and I (Kurt) led the collab. We had feedback sessions on March 3 and March 10 and screened a rough cut of the final movie at the start of the March 10 meeting. General impressions: better than anyone expected! Promising, but the bar for, and time invested in, our first project were pretty low.

Now our bug tracker is stuffed full of bug reports and feature requests... no shortage of coding to be done in the near future! Boris and I are excited to jump in and get back to work. Next step: a different kind of collab using lab members, then (or simultaneously) a collab with real animators! Exciting times!