After a little bit of blood, sweat, and tears, we’re happy to give you the first taste of the new Channel 9 (codenamed: Revolution 9 or “Rev9” for short) that we first mentioned over a year ago.
Revolution 9 has four key themes:
- Improve the user experience – For this, we “borrowed” Nishant Kothary, our design guru, as well as Nick Finck, Kevin Tamura and others at Blue Flavor and Matt Brown from Things
that are Brown to build our site design. Here’s Nishant in his own words on the Revolution 9 user experience:
“If you cull any redesign endeavor down to its bare essence, you are left with a simple question — How will this improve the user’s experience? This question is the natural and the right starting point for pretty much every redesign project. Unfortunately, it quickly gets lost in the noise of people, process and politics.
What makes the Channel 9 redesign so unique is that the question truly did remain at the forefront through the entire process. And it helped us stay true to our overarching redesign credo—the new Channel 9 needs to be clean, clutter-free and visually put the focus back on content. From a rock-solid information architecture to the extremely clean and high-contrast color palette and typographic grid, the new design attempts to put the focus back on what’s most important about Channel 9—the content. Oh, and we gave the Nine guy a little facelift while we were at it .“
- Improve quality, reliability, and performance – We’ve been getting this feedback for a while now and Revolution 9 was a good time to take a step back and make sure that we have the right architecture, process, and instrumentation in place to measurably improve this. Here a just some of the improvements coming with Rev 9 that will improve quality, reliability, and performance: Moving to Azure as our hosting platform, 1,300+ unit tests for production code, using memcache for caching, and the instrumentation we’ve added to monitor real-time usage.
- Improve discoverability of content and site features – One of the key pieces of feedback we had in our user survey was that niners couldn’t find content on the site and there was no easy way of browsing content. With Revolution 9, we’ve added the Browse page (full details below) that lets you search and filter by tag, show, author and more. We’ve also improved the discoverability of features like ratings and download links.
- Improve the experience for content creators on Channel 9 – While our primary audience is viewers of Channel 9 videos, another important customer of Channel 9 are the people who create content. With Rev 9, we've added some key features for content creators, like the ability to schedule the time a video is published, the ability to set content as “obsolete” so that customers don’t waste time trying to get a Beta 1 demo to work on the RTM version of a product, or the ability to add custom time-codes to a URL so that you can jump to any point in time in a video.
Show me some pictures
Now that you have an idea on the motivations behind this release; let’s look at some screenshots of the new pages and features!
The Home page
Here’s a quick before and after view of the home page
Let's dissect the new home page so you can better understand what's going on here.
Rotating "catbird" video
This rotates through three videos. You can watch a video on the home page and jump to the video detail page and we’ll remember the spot in the video where you were last watching the video. Also notice that the video player is larger and is also designed for a widescreen (16:9) format.
Easily see what’s new on Channel 9
Similar to YouTube, you can now easily find what’s new on the site by using the filters at the top – the most recent, the most viewed, or the top rated videos for the last seven days.
Like its name implies, the Cool Stuff section of the homepage is where we showcase fun and cool stuff related to Microsoft. The bulk of this content comes from Channel 10’s Sarah Perez who has a great eye for finding interesting tidbits on the Web.
The Community Activity area lets you get a pulse for what’s happening on Channel 9 – how many users are online, how many comments or discussions are on-going, etc. It's like a dashboard of what's going on.
The Browse page is new to Channel 9. It's designed to help you navigate and discover our large library of video content on the site. As you can see below, you can filter content both on the top and on the left hand pane.
All across Revolution 9, we've added tabbed filters based on the type of data that you're looking at. For example, on the browse page, you can search all content for the most recent, most viewed or top rated content. For the most viewed and top rated content, you can, similar to YouTube, add an additional filter to see the most viewed videos this week (the last 7 days), this month, or of all time.
Content by Author
The authors browse page is unique in that unlike the list of videos, this view gives you an alphabetical list of content contributors to Channel 9 using their profile picture.
Tag Cleanup and Tag Pages
The tagging system on the current Channel 9 allowed any content contributor to build tags. Over time, and with many more contributors, what's happened is that we've amassed a huge number of tags such that the number of tags is overwhelming, the way we tag videos is inconsistent, some are pointless (ex: video and videos tags) and some tags are just variations on the exact same thing (ex: PDC, PDC Talk, PDC 2008, PDC+2008, PDC08). We can clearly do better. For the final release of Revolution 9, we're going to go through and clean up all of our tags and make sure content creators are tagging content consistently. Further we're going to only allow site admins to create new tags so we don't run into this problem every year or so. With our tags now cleaned up, you'll be able to go to a tag page, like the Windows Azure tag page below and filter just videos Azure videos by most recent, most viewed and top rated. Just like the browse page, you can further filter the results by week, month, and all time.
Shows and Series Pages
As the number of content contributors has grown, so have the types of content where we wanted to formalize how we think about them.
- A show is typically a regularly scheduled (ex: weekly) video that doesn't really have an end date. Show videos can stand on their own in that one show doesn't build on another, meaning if you missed last week's episode, you can see this week's episode and it should still make sense. Silverlight TV and Ping are good examples of Channel 9 shows.
- A series is a finite list of videos on a particular topic. Unlike a show, videos in a series are interrelated and each video in a series typically builds on each other. A good example of a series would be Erik Meijer's 13-part lecture series on functional programming or the History of Microsoft series.
Here's the before and after of our show pages:
Diving into the new show page, you'll notice the large banner for custom images, the area for authors of a show, and, like other pages on Rev 9, you can sort the list of shows here as well.
We've improved upon the built-in Bing search integration currently on Channel 9 so that you filter by content type, including blogs, shows, series, and forum threads.
Pinnable full-screen videos
Revolution 9 uses Silverlight 4 for the video player and we've updated our player to use one of my favorite features, pinnable windows. This feature lets you see a video on one monitor full screen while working on another monitor. To use this feature, simply click the full screen button shown below.
Anonymous commenting on videos
For users without a Channel 9 account, we've added the ability to comment on a video without needing to create a Channel 9 account. This only applies for videos though as you'll still need a Channel 9 account to comment on the forums or to rate content.
The New Ratings System
We’ve changed the ratings system from a thumbs up/thumbs down system to a five-star ratings system. It’s also much more prominent, both on the page and in any list of videos we have across the site (see below). To calculate the ratings for existing videos, we are making thumbs down votes be a rating of “1” and a thumbs up rating be a “5”. Like the previous rating system, you must be logged in to rate content. Our future goal is to be able to use your ratings to suggest videos that you might like, similar to the way that viewing and rating products on Amazon.com or videos on Netflix.com can then suggest content that you might enjoy.
Improving the discoverability of downloads
To help improve the discoverability of our video downloads, we've replaced the dropdown menu with three key video formats. Instead of a small line of text dropdown box, the list of video downloads is much larger and right next to the video player. [Hopefully] you can't miss it
Better integration with iTunes and Zune
We’ve always had RSS feeds with MP4 and Zune (WMV) formatted enclosures but getting that content into the Zune or iTunes software wasn’t as easy as it could be. In Rev9 we’ve added direct links (like
this) that will take you right to a page where you can subscribe to a show, series or blog in either iTunes or Zune.
We've also improved user profiles for both contributors and niners. For niners like Bas, you'll see tabs for discussions and comments as shown below.
Channel 9 Forums
To help improve the discoverability of our site feedback and Tech Off forum, clicking on forums from the top navigation takes you to the list of forums pictured below. This should hopefully improve the signal-to-noise ratio so that the right content is posted in the right forum.
Instead of radically changing how the forums worked, we worked on addressing some of the top feedback that we've received from you.
The first feature is that we've removed AJAX paging in favor of typical post-back paging for the next page of comments. We've also replace the back/next model of paging in favor of the more common page by page number shown below.
We've also added inline links to each of comment pages directly in the thread title for easier navigation.
Finally, we've replaced threaded conversations with the much-beloved ability to quote the text of another comment.
Improved Code Formatting
Now licensed under Creative Commons
Thanks to the work of our fearless leader, Jeff Sandquist, Channel 9 video content is also now licensed under this Creative Commons license. This helps clarify how you can reuse and redistribute our content, as we get emails from folks wanting to copy these files inside of their company or burn DVDs for their user group.
Goodbye wiki and Sandbox submissions
Given the proliferation of wiki's at Microsoft we are retiring the Channel 9 wiki in Revolution 9. We expect the wiki to move to Florida and enjoy shuffleboard and 5PM early bird dinner specials. If you'd like the content in the wiki, let us know and we can provide you a SQL script dump of the wiki content that you can use to your heart's content. Similarly, given that the Sandbox originally launched before CodePlex or code.msdn.com, both of which have a much richer feature set (versioning, issues, discussions, wikis, etc), we are no longer accepting submissions the Channel 9 sandbox. Unlike the wiki that's being retired, sandbox projects will continue to be available, but commenting and submissions to the Sandbox will be frozen (in carbonite).
Test Drive coming soon
Next week, we'll be releasing a version of Revolution 9 on a separate test domain that you you'll be able to play with in parallel with the existing site. Depending on the amount of feedback we get, and bugs that we have to fix, we may end up replacing the current Channel 9 site within a few weeks following the test release.
Let us know what you think
Hopefully you are as excited about this update as we are, and, as always, let us know what you think about Revolution 9!
The Channel 9 Team