I can hardly believe it: the current version of BlueSpice, BlueSpice 2, will be four years old this year. It feels like just a few months ago that we announced Version 2. Anyway, it is now time to start thinking about a new version and to continue writing the road map.
At Hallo Welt! we have spent the last months collecting ideas, and checking and weighting requirements.
At our yearly strategy meeting, Markus Glaser presented his technical plan. So now it is official that we will publish a new BlueSpice Version 3 in the first quarter of 2018. The road map for our new MediaWiki distribution contains essential innovations and improvements we have wanted for a long time. BlueSpice 3 will achieve a new level of stability and flexibility.
A new VisualEditor
With BlueSpice 3, we replace the existing TinyMCE editor with the VisualEditor from MediaWiki. Some will already be familiar with this editor from working in Wikipedia. The VisualEditor is much more stable and is specially developed for MediaWiki. The optimisation for MediaWiki offers many features we have wanted for a long time. You can, for example, edit templates very conveniently without having to understand wiki markup or to deal with the source code. Unfortunately, editing tables is not at the level which we would like. Overall, however, the editor is a big step forward, technologically too. We will go into more details soon in a blog article.
A new search engine: search without schema using Elasticsearch
We are replacing Apache Solr with Elasticsearch in BlueSpice 3. One reason is that Wikipedia has also switched to this search engine. More important for us though is that the new solution lets us search without schema, and that the present system is very limited in its possibilities. With Apache Solr, one must set up which metadata is to be indexed. Once set up, this search schema takes a great deal of effort to change. MediaWiki semantics will provide us with much more and differing metadata in the future, so we will need a significantly more flexible solution. A schema-free search function fits the situation well and will include the most varied metadata.
Semantic Candy: the wiki is getting more intelligent
Semantic functions are extended and integrated with BlueSpice. We already offer, for example, the extensions PageAssignments and review of semantic metadata (author, reviewer, release status and many more). This semantic metadata is searchable and wiki articles can be queried, listed, sorted, filtered or collected together in books intelligently with this metadata.
More action: the workflow can do more than just send emails.
The workflow tool Review will be more dynamic. One of the oldest extensions in the BlueSpice program will be completely renewed in this release. This will mean that in the future, every individual operation can be combined with an action. For example, a special message can be sent, a responsible person named or a button shown. It is also possible to start a review within a continuing review process, if, for example, an error needs to be handled. The new Review will support these possibilities. The design will become more concrete as the development process continues.
On top of this, the new Review will keep its data persistently. Currently, work flow data is deleted at the end of the workflow process, and review processes that have been closed are no longer reproducible. This no longer fits our requirements for this tool. This additional function rounds off the Review function well.
Rights management focused on roles
The developers are concentrating once again on rights management and the PermissionManager with BlueSpice 3. We have wanted to build up the templates “roles” and mask the individual permissions for a long time now. Just like in WordPress, the PermissionManager should, in default mode, show a collection of pre-set roles (e.g. Admin, Editor, Author, Reader, Not logged-in) to set up the Wiki and Manager much more leanly.
Of course, one can define further roles and give these special permissions, but in the future, this will take place in an expert mode. A nice by-product of focusing on roles is that the manager will be significantly more stable, as less data will need to be moved back and forth when changes are made.
The user interface: responsive and user-friendly
You will notice more stability and flexibility in the user interface and when working with BlueSpice 3. Up to now, BlueSpice was displayed on mobile devices with the extension MobileFrontend, also used by Wikipedia. However, with BlueSpice 3, we are introducing a responsive skin on the basis of Bootstrap. The skin will be redesigned. We have set ourselves the challenge of assimilating differing interaction technology: ExtJS, MediaWiki und OOJS UI. The user experience will be more balanced and the designs of the three components, MediaWiki, ExtJS and BlueSpice will be consolidated.
BlueSpice Social: MediaWiki gets a sophisticated timeline function
With the working title “BlueSpice Social”, Hallo Welt! is building a new communication and discussion system for MediaWiki. In the same way as Facebook or Twitter, BlueSpice will feature a timeline on which one can share ideas and content. You can comment on articles on the timeline and evaluate them. And one can carry out discussions in permissions-protected namespaces. One’s own contributions are shown on a timeline on one’s user page. Last but not least, the timeline functions across the system: one can discuss an article, and these discussions are shown on the corresponding article.
Of course, all discussion entries are searchable. And the previous functions like Blog, Shoutbox and RatedComments will be replaced by BlueSpice Social.
BlueSpice Factory: new, tested wikis at the push of a button
With BlueSpice 3, the MediaWiki distribution will be constructed and delivered in a totally different way. With the working title BlueSpice Factory, we will build a uniform fully-automated production and testing environment for BlueSpice. New builds of the software will be created, packetised, automatically tested and archived on a daily basis. This is a big step for the stability of the product. Above all, it will allow faster forwarding of product improvements to the users. It is also possible that the technology behind this will lay the foundations for future delivery and updating of production systems.