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Archive for the ‘Wiki’ Category

Google is closing down their Wave, but that doesn’t mean that the clever technology behind this collaboration platform will be lost forever. On the contrary: “The main sub project of Apache Wave is ‘Wave in a Box’, a stand alone wave server and rich web client that can serve as a Wave reference implementation.”

There is a Wave-in-a-box demo at this address: http://waveinabox.net/auth/signin?r=/. Alternatively, you could try and run Apache Wave  yourself – on Google app Engine with Walkaround.

Remember: there are still a few weeks left to retrieve your Google Waves and put them in your local Wave-in-a-box ;-)

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There are several good apps for editing text on Android, and one of them is Writer. Whereas Textwarrior (see my previous post) is a developer tool, Writer is for those of use who just want to produce well-formed texts. Yes, you can take simple  notes with it, but since Writer supports the Markdown markup it’s a good tool for the preparation of nice office documents – or poetry, or literary exploits.

The Markdown syntax gives Writer a touch of Wiki-ness, and the philosophy of its creator is similar as that of Ward Cunningham: “keep is simple” .But no, Writer is not a Wiki, and it was never intended as such. I can’t help thinking, though: would it be difficult to add  a mechanism to link to either other Writer documents or external http:// links?

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Luckily for me, Joel Spolsky isn’t a prolific blogger – so I can read most of what he writes during occasional visits of his blog. And when he writes, it pays to read his words. You may not always agree with his points of view, but he will have you thinking – and that’s a good thing.

Another good thing is his announcement of Trello. Trello is a web-based applications, that essentially allows you to juggle with lists of “cards” on a “board” – you can think of it a tool to play with small, adhesive note slips on a virtual wall. Sounds simple, and it is simple, actually. Trello is smart enough to help you organize the cards and lists and boards in a more sophisticated way, by providing the possibility to add dates and “organisations” of users. That’s why some call it a Kanban tool: one of the possible applications is indeed a Kanban board.

But Trello can do more than that. Use it to manage your personal to-do list, or to organize projects, or to gather ideas around a specific subject. I can see how it can help you structure and write articles or even a book. And that’s where Trello differs from more project-specifc tools like Basecamp. Basecamp has projects, customers, to-do’s, calendars and a dashboard – a practical approach. But if you want to organize your projects other than by calendar, then it gets harder. And that’s where Trello could help you, with its more unstructured concepts of lists and cards. No, Trello isn’t “better” than Basecamp, it’s different.

I could help but think of Wikis, when I found that Trello allows you to use Markdown markup in your cards. Simple markup for texts in combination with a lot of freedom in how you organize your content: two essential features of a Wiki. But Trello isn’t a Wiki: it has more structure than a Wiki (which only has “pages”), and it does not use a Wikilink mechanism to connect bits and pieces of the content. Still…

You can use Trello for free, and if Joel can be trusted that will be the case for a long time – so why not give it a try?

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In September 2006, Clay Shirky published a column on his view about the editorial process of the Citizendium: “Larry Sanger, Citizendium, and the Problem of Expertise“. A few days later, Larry Sanger – co-founder of the Wikipedia and founder of the Citizendium – responded to the criticism in “Larry Sanger on me on Citizendium“. Basically, the debate is about an essential question for any “content store”: who is going to produce the content to publish?

For a paper encyclopedia, this question is a non-issue: there is no simple way to have everyone chip in and write (or draw, or whatever) a piece of what is wanted, and then ask a panel of experts to wade through the collected material and distill a coherent encyclopedia from it. So there you have the essential “expert model”: an editorial panel looks for the “best” expert on the subject matter required, and asks them – with or without a form of peer review – to produce texts etc.

Does that model, which more or less corresponds to what Larry Sanger organised for the Citizendium, work on the Internet? Well, according to Ars Technica, it doesn’t: “Citizendium turns five, but the Wikipedia fork is dead in the water“. The comparison, in terms of existing lemmas and in terms of daily edits is clearly in favor of the Wikipedia model… Time to call victory for Clay Shirky?

I’m not entirely convinced, since there may well be other reasons for the limited succes (I don’t call it a straight failure, because it isn’t) of Citizendium. Does the world really need two (or even more) encyclopediae? I don’t think so, and I do not think that I am the only one to do so. So why would anyone, expert or not, invest time and energy in a less successful endeavour, compared to the Wikipedia?

The expert model, albeit in a modified model, does seem to work for other encyclopediae. Take the Austria-Forum (http://www.austria-lexikon.at/), for example. The Austria-Forum is using Wiki-software to build an encyclopedia about Austria, but they do not allow any user to edit the content of the encyclopedia itself. Users can interact with the editors through the “community section” of the site. A 2008 paper titled “AUSTRIA-FORUM: A CITABLE WEB ENCYCLOPEDIA” explains the system. The number of entries in the Austria-Forum may not match that of the austrian version of the Wikipedia, but it would take a detailed analysis of a significant number of articles to call one of a higher quality than the other.

In the end, the real question is not whether one way of working is better than the rest. What matters is that the way things are organized fits within the context. If it helps you reach the stated goals, works fluidly, and can (is) adapted when circumstances change, then it can’t be bad? Just make sure that you what you’re doing – and reading the articles mentioned is a good way of getting to know quite a few obstacles that you might encounter.

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What Ruby? Mirah!

These days, at least in Europe, the word ‘Ruby’ is mostly associated with the frolicking of Italy’s prime minister, and not with the programming language of the same name. From the diminishing number of news items on the Ruby Inside news site I deduce that the language has reached a mature and stable state – which is good, really!

But that doesn’t mean that people like Charles Nutter just sit back. Charles took the Ruby syntax and used it to define Mirah, a JVM programming language that looks a lot like Ruby (but isn’t Ruby nor JRuby). What does it look like? Well, check out the intro that Charles wrote for DDJ: “Language of the Month: Mirah“. It’s a most interesting effort, and apparently Mirah can even be used to develop apps for Google App Engine and Android.

Of course, I also have to mention the fact that the Mirah site contains a Wiki, written in… Mirah, of course. Nothing fancy, but if that bothers you, just grab the code and make it better!

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As some of you lay know, every year Bruno and I organize the WikiPodium sessions. Although the word ‘wiki’ is in the name of those events, we don’t limit ourselves to wikis: the list of subjects covered on the WikiPodium site should make that clear. In an enterprise context, we know that “governance” is becoming increasingly important, for all kinds of activities within a company. That’s why we’re looking for somebody (or somebodies) with hands-on experience the on the way Wikipedia community organizes itself to “govern” what is, at least in principle, a platform where anyone can edit the content. If you think you can explain that subject, and if you are prepared to answer questions on the subject, that would be great! We would love to hear from you – just contact us, preferably by email to wikipodium@gmail.com. Thanks!

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Aah, the power of RSS. Check out wikiriver.org, aka. “All the news about WikiLeaks in one place, updated in real time“.  Wikiriver.org is an example of a “river of news RSS aggregator“, as Dave Winer calls it, and Dave knows all about it, since he wrote the software and the HowTo.

Is wikiriver.org important? I think so. It’s a political statement, of course, but one that I like. Freedom of speech is important, and “la raison d’état” has been called upon too many times in the past to be a valid excuse for hiding diplomatic and political conversations.

But I also want point to the technical/technological aspects of the “river of news” concept: using a well-known, simple and widely available protocol (RSS) to build topical news pages may not be revolutionary, yet in a not too distant future it may well change the way we use the Internet to find the information we’re looking for. Since it’s “just RSS”, you can wrap it up and present it any way you want – it doesn’t even have to remain a web page…

I’m filing this under the Wiki category – after all, even if Wikileaks is not a Wiki, it’s name will remain linked to the concept for a long time ;-). But essentially, this is about content management – expect features like a news river to pop up in other CMS systems!

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In the article “A Coder’s Guide to Writing API Documentation“, Peter Gruenbaum writes:

Wikis provide a structure for more-complex APIs. Wikis also allow you to easily update or add to documentation over time without needing access to other tools or servers. In addition, the group collaboration aspects of wikis enable entire teams — even your users — to contribute. However, slapping together a wiki and hoping your developers and users will write the docs isn’t a very viable API documentation strategy…

For those of you who think that the “let’s hope someone will write the documents” strategy fails for Wikis only: no, it does not. In fact, it will fail no matter what CMS you use. Wikis will show the failure sooner, if only because they – more than any other content managament system (CMS) – rely on online collaboration to generate their content. So whatever CMS you use, you should plan the governance of your site – and that includes a plan to build and maintain the content of the site. Any good course/workshop about Wikis should talk about governance and its importance – and Bruno and I will do so in our Wiki Workshop on Thursday.

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We’re Doing It Again

Next thursday, Bruno and I will repeat our workshop on Wikis.

Workshop "Aan de slag met Wiki's"

Workshop "Aan de slag met Wiki's"

For details: click on the picture (in Dutch).

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Wiki Notebook

I have used WikidPad at work to take quick notes of all kinds of things: useful URLs both on our intranet and on the Internet, preliminary project documentation, todo’s, and more. So why not use it at home, on my Mac?

Well, there’s no reason not to – but things aren’t as simple as they could be: first, you have to make sure that you have the right environment installed (Python 2.6 and the corresponding wxPython library). There are quite a few pages on the Internet that tell you to download and install a *.dmg file for the Mac; however, there are currently no *.dmg files to be seen in the download library on SourceForge!

Luckily, downloading and unzipping a source distribution is sufficient – as long as you know how to start a Python script to launch the application (in short: start a Terminal session, cd to the WikidPad source directory, and type python WikidPad.py).

There’s probably a reason for not having a Mac distro of this nice application, but I haven’t found a good explanation so far. I did note that the home page of the application says “wiki notebook/outliner for windows“… Come on, guys, py2app is perfect if you want to “Create standalone Mac OS X applications with Python“, and it does the same for Windows, of course. So what are you waiting for?

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7th WikiPodium Was A Succes

One good session, one photographer, two iPads, at least three iPhones, and above all: many satisfied attendees!

WikiPodium 2010-09-21

WikiPodium 2010-09-21 (Flickr)

PS. You’ll find the WikiPodium site over at Wikispaces…

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I’ve tried the Dropbox hint from Pascal: put your TiddlyWiki HTML file on your (private) Dropbox folder, and have your own (private) Wiki under your own control when using your smartphone. That situation would be ideal for anyone – like me – using multiple computers to access and update the Wiki.

Unfortunately, the standard browser of the Nokia E63 smartphone isn’t compatible with TiddlyWiki. Specifically, the browser isn’t capable of displaying the Wiki correctly, let alone store the page in a local or remote filing system. Opera Mini doesn’t go much further: it shows the top part of the page, but doesn’t allow scrolling or displaying a full menu…

I’m guessing that Pascal was using a iPhone, because even the Android browsers don’t allow for the saving of Tiddlers.

I have found a local E63 Wiki, called Fubuki. However, Fubuki isn’t compatible with any other Wiki, and it doesn’t run on any other platform either. I’ll have to continue looking for a good note-taking solution with hyperlink facilities. Hints are welcome!

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Love this pangram: “Foxy parsons quiz and cajole the lovably dim wiki-girl“. Why? Because it has the word ‘Wiki’ in it, of course, and it’s currently the only one to do so on the List Of Pangrams in the Wikipedia!

If you like (english) pangrams, get your daily dose at The Daily Pangram website. And here’s a neat one in Dutch: Ach, yoghurt is ‘n exquis drankje, proef zelf waarom ‘t u bevalt. – to me, that’s neat because it’s a complete and ‘normal’ sentence.

Now I wonder: has anyone ever written a story in nothing but pangrams as sentences? And how about coding a program in pangrams – a single statement isn’t too hard, I think, but a complete program?

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Word Of The Week

The word of the past week is WikiLeaks, of course! Although not a Wiki in the classical sense of the word, watchdog sites like this are essential in a democratic society.

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US Diplomats Go Wiki

The US State Department has started to use a Wiki called the Diplopedia: “A new paper (PDF), written by a former Diplopedia project lead and a Rice University professor, chronicles the genesis and growth of the wiki in fascinating detail. For instance, the paper makes clear that bringing a wiki into State wasn’t a matter of open source idealism as much as an attempt to solve a practical problem.” The paper mentioned is currently a pre-conference draft, but I’m sure the definitive version will also conclude that a good governance model is essential in order to create a succesful Wiki.

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