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Blog from January, 2011

Disqus has a new look!

A new visual theme called "Houdini" was released today on the Disqus Product Blog , and is available to all producers currently using this discussion tool on their website. 

The upgraded features include improved commenting boxes and new custom fonts to accommodate a wide range of web designs and backgrounds. 

Learn more about how to activate this new look by visiting the Disqus Product Blog.

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In the spring of 2010, PBS began providing the Disqus http://www.disqus.com service to all stations and producers who desired to have user submitted comments on their pages. Disqus provides PBS with a unified user-experience and common functionality across all show sites.

If you are interested in integrating Disqus into your site, please contact your program manager. 

COVE Pre-roll limit reduced

PBS has reduced the time limit for when pre-roll could appear before a COVE video from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. Pre-roll is now only excluded from videos that are less than 3 minutes.

This change was made in an effort to increase pre-roll impressions and generate additional revenue that will sustain the various platforms PBS has built on behalf of the system; including COVE.  

Our team performed an analysis and found that there was an opportunity for more impressions as producers are now ingesting more short-form videos in the system. We also found that the majority of promotional content, such as trailers and previews, would continue to not have pre-roll if the new minimum threshold was set to 3 minutes.

We are always conscious of our users needs and we feel confident that this new threshold strikes a reasonable balance between impacting the user experience and sustaining the online infrastructure.  Please let your program manager know if you have any questions or concerns.

UPDATE at 4:20pm -At approximately, 12:40pm today, the TV Schedules API experienced a sharp increase in load resulting in a temporary database slow down. The net effect was seen as an intermittent slow down or outage of consumers of the API, including parts of www.pbs.org and potentially the mobile apps. To avoid this in the future, we have since doubled the database capacity. 

The TV Schedules API experienced an outage for approximately 4 minutes this afternoon. Our team is investigating the root cause.
More information will be sent out as it becomes available.
COVE Outage

UPDATE at 5:30pm - COVE maintenance has been completed for today and the system now appears to be functioning correctly.

The roots of this issue began this past Friday 1/14 when PBS noticed some issues cropping up with the COVE databases. In an effort fix this problem and ensure that this issue didn't occur again some maintenance was performed on Saturday morning at 10am. This work unfortunately created a problem where all new videos that were published would not show up to users.

Our team started to tackle the issue on Monday morning 1/17 and they were able to get the system to allow new videos to be published. The videos that had been published since 10am Saturday still were not showing up though so work continued.

On Tuesday at around noon the system was reverted to its initial state prior to the Saturday maintenance and all the missing videos became available.

Later Tuesday afternoon additional maintenance was done on the system to add capacity to the database servers and ensure that this problem does not happen. That work is now complete and everything is running smoothly.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please be sure to report any new issues through JIRA.

UPDATE at 12:34pm - Our developers have reported that this issue is now fixed. All videos that were published during the holiday weekend should start to show up in the Portal and Partner Players as the COVE caches refresh over the next 2 hours. Many videos appear to already be up and running. Check back to this blog post for more details in the next few hours.

COVE has been experiencing problems with videos not publishing over the weekend. The problem initially appears to have stemmed from an issue that occurred this past Friday. It appears that it may have also sporadically caused some videos to not play in the Partner Player and Video portals over the holiday weekend.

Our team has been working all morning on this issue and are very close to having things back up and running.

Please check back to this blog post for the latest details.

PBS has updated two of its Web policies as outlined in the Production Requirements section of Producer Exchange:

  1. All CMS plans must be reviewed by PBS at the start of any Web development project, and Drupal is not allowed for any new production due to repeated performance issues with high-traffic sites. This has been added as a new requirement at http://docs.pbs.org/display/PX/Technical+Policies+and+Specifications.
  2. The maximum page dimensions requirement has been simplified, requiring only that Web pages be viewable without horizontal scrolling on a 1024 x 768 pixel screen resolution. This is an update to an existing requirement at http://docs.pbs.org/display/PX/Editorial+Policies+and+Specifications

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, or feel free to reach out to your program manager.

Important Action Item for all Producers

We first need to follow up on the COVE release that went out earlier this week. We need all producers to check their new PBS Video portal Program Pages to make sure that their content is in the correct sections. (Full Episodes, Previews and Shorts)

This is because we have been getting reports that Content Types were not set correctly. It turns out this is because the "Content Type" field in the COVE Admin Tool was not working properly until Sept. 2010. Prior to that date all videos were getting assigned the content type "Full Episode" regardless of what the producer selected in the "Content Type" field of the COVE Admin Tool.

In many cases producer were only ingesting full episodes anyway so their videos will be sorted correctly on the new program pages.

If however you are one of those producers that are ingesting different content types you will need to go back in and re-assign the correct Content Type for all videos  that were ingested prior to September 2010 and are not Full Episodes.

You can learn more about the new program pages and the different Content Type definitions in our blog post from earlier this week.

We apologize for the extra work on this. Please let your program manger or email Dan Haggerty, ddhaggerty@pbs.org if you have any questions.

More COVE Player Upgrades

Moving on to more exciting news, we are happy to announce that another small round of upgrades was rolled out for COVE yesterday.

This was primarily an upgrade of how COVE's video player work when a producer creates a excerpt through the Partner Player.

Previously, when you used the Partner Player's excerpting feature the player you embedded on your website would display the entire timeline for the parent video.

So if you created an excerpt from minute 4 to minute 6 of a 20 minute video the player's timeline controls (scrubber bar and time display; circled in red below) would display the entire 20 minutes and just play from minute 4 to minute 6.

This was confusing to the user because it made it look like they could scrub through and or watch the whole 20 minute episode. And to make matters worse if they did try to scrub past minute 6 they would get the player's endscreen.

Now, if you were to create that same excerpt the Partner Player's timeline controls will only display minute 4 to minute 6. This is a much more intuitive way for the Partner Player to play excerpts.

We've also extended these concepts to the Viral Feature/Player as well. Previously, if a user grabbed the embed code for an excerpt the Viral Feature would play the whole video when that video was embedded on a 3rd party side. Now though, when a user grabs the embed code for an excerpt the Viral Feature/Player displays and plays just that excerpt.

These are small changes but they are a big improvement to the excerpting feature of the COVE Partner Player and its Viral Feature.

Happy Publishing.

Yesterday, January 3rd, PBS rolled out an update to COVE that included some exciting new changes and upgrades.

Program Pages

The Program Pages in the national and local PBS Video portals are new and improved. These are the landing pages for a given program in the portals. Thanks to everybody who provided their feedback on these revisions.

The biggest change you'll see are the 3 sections that content is now sorted into; Full episodes, Previews and Shorts

Each section features a different content type with Full Episodes featured prominently at the top; a feature we heard requested a lot from users and producers.
Videos are sorted chronologically by Airdate starting with the most recent and each section can be expanded to reveal older videos.

Producers assign their content to these sections by choosing a "Content Type" in the metadata form for a video. Here is how it works.

  • Videos marked with the Content Type "Episode" end up in the "Full episodes" section of the program page.
  • Videos marked with the Content Type "Promotion" end up in the "Previews" section of the program page.
  • Videos marked with the Content Type "Segment (stand alone)" end up in the "Shorts" section of the program page.
  • Videos marked with the Content Type "Clip (Will need context support)" will end up in the "Shorts" section of the program page.

You can use our definitions to learn more about what kinds of videos should be assigned to what Content Types. We recommend you review these and make any necessary adjustments to your video metadata so they appear in the correct sections.

The user is also able to filter content in each of these sections by using the "Filter by Keywords" drop down box.

When a user selects a keyword each of the three sections (Full episodes, previews, shorts) is filtered to display only the videos that have been assigned to that keyword. The Keywords that appear in the drop-down box are your COVE Program Categories. These Program Categories are assigned to a video in the metadata form and are unique to each program in COVE. They were set up when your program was first created in the system and now that the page layout has changed we recommend your review those Program Categories/Keywords and see if they need to be changed to allow for more effective filtering of your content. You can contact Dan Haggerty, ddhaggerty@pbs.org, if you'd like to change these Keywords/Program Categories.

The new program pages also include a new look for each video entry. Changes include:

  • Program title no longer included in title text
  • Air date
  • Expiration date
  • Roll-over state where the entire short description now appears

The program pages also load much quicker now as a result of this upgrade. Initial testing shows that the page should consistently load in just a second or two.

Publishing Time

The program pages are not the only thing that has gotten faster. Publishing time has been reduced even further with this release. Things went so well when we reduced the refresh rate down to 10 minutes in the last release that we decided to further reduce it to just ONE MINUTE. What that means is after you've sumbitted your metadata form and your video has been ingested into COVE you can click that "Publish" button and your video will be available to users on your program page and in the Partner Player within just a couple of minutes. Now that's fast!

We are excited to bring these new features to you and are eager to hear further feedback and any questions you might have. Feel free to leave either in the comments section below or contact your program manager.

Happy publishing!