MediaWiki

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My life at OWW has been an endless stream of messages articulating Austin’s far-too-old feature and technology suggestions that I slowly get around to adding. The “flash” (of insight) to “bang” (of getting the idea online) is not great; I would hope the time will diminish eventually. But for now, this is what it is!

The latest is a big one. That would make it a “big bang”. So maybe a better way of saying it would be a “marginal thud” to a “moderate drop”. I’ve started the process of adding support to OWW for Javascript Gadgets. This is a centrally managed method of deploying ‘sanctioned’ Javascript that then can be enabled or disabled by every user. This extension is already in use on various WikiMedia servers; we are long overdue.

What it means is that there are scores of ways people more javascript-savvy than me have created small extensions to MediaWiki that do all sorts of useful things. The ‘quick-nav’ item on the sidebar, written by Austin, as an example, could be included in this general category. I created an extension to enable it for everyone since it is so useful to anyone who has ever forgotten the last 15 pages he/she visited.

I’ll provide a full list of these extensions when I’ve completed the import of them.

Once we have access to all of them, I would imagine that a set of much more research- and life science-specific entries would be useful. Since the Venn diagram representing “biologists”, “OWW users and viewers”, and “Javascript hackers” may be initially limited to Austin, it may be a while before we have many OWW-specific extensions available.

Personally, I think we should all do our best to start keeping him company.

If there’s something you have to do over- and over- again in OWW to do your work, consider using the discussion area I’ll add in order to get the ideas flowing.

Expect the first set of Gadgets, with instructions, to be available this week.

If anyone wants to volunteer to help out with testing Gadgets prior to our including them in the central library, please let me know. We’re not limiting inclusion of Gadgets because we want to suppress open science, by the way. It’s just that in programming, anything that can fail, will. I just don’t want an infinite number of new lab notebook pages to be created just because someone wanted to automate his or her own task and didn’t test!

Here’s a link for more information on MediaWiki Gadgets:

wikimedia.org: Gadgets

By the way. Don’t confuse Gadgets with Widgets. We may add Widgets as well. Unlike Gadgets, once enabled, Widgets can be added by anyone to any of their pages. Where Gadgets are more related to creating content and using OWW, Widgets will be useful for extending OWW to interact with external data.

Thanks.
Bill

PS: Thanks again, AC.

wikisym2008Coming up next week is WikiSym 2008, the 4th International Symposium on Wikis, taking place in Porto, Portugal.

OpenWetWare will be presenting a poster and also a demo of how we use MediaWiki software to produce an environment that enables collaboration and sharing of scientific information among life science researchers.

So, what exactly is WikiSym?

WikiSym is the foremost conference devoted to using, developing and researching wikis. In our fourth year, only WikiSym brings together organisations that use wikis to meet face to face with leading and emerging vendors, active researchers and leading wiki consultants.

WikiSym 2008 explores and extends our thriving wiki community, building on the past 4 years to again bring together researchers, practitioners, and technical writers to gather, discuss, share best practices and develop knowledge .

For more details on the OWW poster/demo please visit “our” page on the wiksym2008 wiki.

LaTeX logoIn the May/June issue of the Mathematics Association of America‘s news magazine MAA Focus, you’ll find an article titled “Student Collaboration using a LaTeX wiki” [pdf].

The article demonstrates the usefulness of the LaTeX extension for MediaWiki by enabling this great syntax to be used online in a collaborative environment such as a wiki.

It just happens that the LaTeX extension referenced in the article was written by Austin Che, a member of OpenWetWare’s steering committee. Which means that we’ve had a LaTeX enabled wiki for quite a while now :)

If you don’t know what LaTeX is, I’d first suggest a read at Wikipedia’s LaTeX page.

If you’ve got a grasp of what LaTeX is, I’d recommend you head over to OWW’s LaTeX page where you’ll find information on the advantages and disadvantages, software for writing LaTeX, PhD thesis LaTeX templates and more…