Subtitlr, crowdsourced video subtitling
Subtitlr was in development 2007-2008 and retired in 2012.
Ever since the first proof of concept in 2007, when I mashed up Jeroen Wijering’s JWPlayer to play flv files from around the net and display them with subtitles, this idea seemed like it had great potential.
I first thought of it when I saw a cartoon illustrating the double-slit experiment; I realized I could never create such content, but I could bring it closer to people I cared about.
The proof of concept used a file hosted on Google Video, which is now long gone, and some subtitles I created and translated manually.
Soon it turned from a single url and a single .srt file into a platform wannabe, allowing anyone to submit or edit subtitles for any flv video file found on the web.
It was well ahead of its time, and plagued by many problems:
- links were constantly changing; even youtube links that I resolved by following a couple of hops changed sporadically.
- there was little content to attract users; everything on the site was done by me (couple of “hotlinked” TED talks with manually transcribed subtitles) and translated by me and a couple of interested friends. Far too little to kickstart a revolution.
- No visitors meant no volunteers to transcribe and translate more content. Chicken and egg.
There was a couple of bright moments, like the one where an anonymous good soul decided to translate an entire 10 minute talk into Hebrew.
1 00:00:18,951 --> 00:00:20,542 הגעתי לתחום חקר המוח עקב העובדה 2 00:00:20,582 --> 00:00:25,854 שאחי אובחן כמי שסובל מהפרעה מוחית - סכיזופרניה 3 00:00:25,904 --> 00:00:29,692 כאחותו, ומאוחר יותר כאשת מדע 4 00:00:29,738 --> 00:00:34,827 רציתי להבין איך זה שאני יכולה לקחת את חלומותי 5 00:00:34,851 --> 00:00:39,235 לחבר אותם למציאות שלי ולהגשים אותם
I didn’t even notice it until I got a huge spike of visitors.
Below are some screensnaps of what it looked like. It sure was ugly, although it went through a couple of redesigns in what might be my first attempt at split testing.
Well, good content was the best part of it and much of that came from TED; when TED rolled out “TED translations”, it basically spelled out the end of Subtitlr. Not to mention Youtube which added captioning, and of course DotSub, a service born at around the same time.
When it was quite obvious its best days were behind it, I had one last shot by converting it to a funny clip subtitle editor (more accuratly, Hitlr Subtitlr (tm)) to have some fun.