Browse Category by Semantic

Agile prototyping: “MediaWiki is like a white sheet of paper for data”

The Wikipedia software MediaWiki is a well known solution for collaborative knowledge platforms. It is less popular, but not less ideal, for the development of prototypes and new platforms.

At this year’s Semantic-MediaWiki-Konferenz (SMWCon) in Frankfurt, our Hallo Welt! Technical Manager Markus Glaser talked about this connection between MediaWiki and prototyping. Here are the slides of his presentation.

Markus Glaser started his presentation explaining different forms of prototyping. His introduction was followed by showing MediaWikis richness of functionalities. By combining and expanding these functionalities, you can develop new and very specific applications. MediaWiki already provides a large toolkit, which allows quick adjustments without having to program completely new functions.

The semantic MediaWiki extension packages, which can be used to capture and query metadata, are certainly worth mentioning. Those are very useful, if for example data models are being modeled or user interfaces and operating elements still have to be positioned. Of course BlueSpice for MediaWiki supplies a wide range of options. Responsive skins like Chameleon are the basis for stylish surfaces. And with Lua you have a script language, with which the construction of a page can be designed very dynamically.

That means MediaWiki is an ideal base to build agile new knowledge platforms. The flexibility of MediaWiki means a great advantage in time. You don‘t have to be a programmer to build these prototypes, because a lot of these things can already be done with the  integrated tools of MediaWiki. Like this you get a working system at an early stage, with which you can gather important experiences.

Nevertheless users should be aware that, despite the variety of integrated tools, developing a new knowledge platform is always complex and cost-intensive: planning, meetings and adjustments take time. After the development of an alpha or beta version, individual functionalities have to be professionalized and programmed independently.

You might say that the development of a stable productive system takes as much time as the development of the beta version for the first test users. However, the time and the risks of development are significantly reduced with the prototyping based on MediaWiki.

Military Wiki: Standard Profile, Article Rating and Gamification

Jason Bock works for a company called DSA, which primarily does IT Support for the US Department of Defense. He is responsible for milWiki, a military enterprise wiki started in 2008 to be an „online internal encyclopedia for the US Department of Defence“. Milwiki is one component of an overall suite of DoD social business tools called milSuite. The milWiki alone supports 400.000 users and contains more than 20.000 articles in more than 7.000 categories.

In 2010 Semantic MediaWiki and later Semantic Forms were introduced to milWiki, which had a major impact on the data integrity.

In his talk at the Enterprise MediaWiki Conference 2016 in New York Jason Bock informed about some social aspects they built into the system also implemented by the functions of Semantic Mediawiki.

Standard Profiles

  • Instead of „normal“ wiki user page there is a template/form with certain fields,
  • Minimum information of the user like name, foto, skills, location and some tags to match across users,
  • Alternatively, the PageNotice extension can add a template with information on acquired points or badges in the header or footer of the user page.

Article Rating/Reviews

  • Customer wanted to have a rating tool like in TripAdvisor
  • Elected to go with the SemanticRating extension which places a form on any wiki page generating a subpage for the rating and the review.
  • Implemented an template which shows all ratings and reviews in a list attached to the article
  • Calculation from all the ratings on the subpages to get an average score of „stars“

Point System

  • Introduces elements of gamification to the wiki
  • Rewards users for creating, editing and gardening efforts
  • Special feature: points for users for each additional author who contributes to a page that user created
  • Point calculation shown in a sidebox on user page

Automated User Badges

  • Manually badges did not work,
  • Automated badging system like in Foursquare and ProjectNoah (National Geographic),
  • Rewards participation within specific topic areas,
  • Helps to identify the experts for certain topics,
  • Tap into Semantic Ratings effort to reward users who receive positive reviews on articles.

At the end of the talk Jason shows some very useful code examples concerning the mentioned social functions.