Wikileaks define themselves as not-for-profit media organisation.

Wikileaks is a UX Failure

Actually no, it is just good for its purpose

A couple of days ago, Wikileaks cables from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, under the name Saudi Cables. They published 61,195 document so far, and they are expected to reach half a million documents.

In the last 40 years, Saudi Arabia continued to play a major role in the Middle Eastern politics, that’s journalists and bloggers all over the region are keeping an eye on those cables trying to find all useful information there.

Trying to find out useful stuff myself, I noticed the following.

  • There is no way to download the documents in batches or get your search results in Zip files.
  • These are scanned documents, and they used OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to turn them into text. The OCR for Arabic sucks a big time.
  • There is no way for users to edit the OCR output themselves, discuss or comment on the documents, except via a hardly usable e-Highlighter plugin on the site.

Nevertheless, the most important point in my opinion, is that Wikileaks serves as a news source. Thus, they just list the cables there for Journalists to use them however they want. All cables are treated equally, no matter if it is an important document or just a scanned page of someones passport. No sorting order based on their importance whatsoever. No grouping based on topics, just basic search.

A scanned passport page is treated as equal as a secret mail between to Saudi officials.

For me as a user, I have no interest in cables, I have more interest in topics. I’d like to be able to list topics mentioned in cables, and each topic can have reference to one or many cables.

As a news source, Wikileaks treats cables as first-class citizens, while for me as an end user, I’d rather have topics as the first-class citizens here.

I thus tried to sketch a better way to show the Saudi Cables, or any other future cables.

Users create topics out of cables for other users to find, read and vote for

It would be good to have a platform where users can create topics out of the published cables. In that topic, the creator can list all related cables with some short description why they find them related.

Other users, come to read topics, not cables. Then visit the cables each topic is referring as a second step. They also can up-vote topics, so we have a meaningful way of showing topics by their importance.

Who shall develop this idea further? Probably not Wikileaks, but I don’t know who yet. Newspapers and media outlets play part of this role of turning cables into topics, but I don’t think they should be trusted nor left as the only players here.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your comments on this.