BlueSpice free 2.23.3 – Beta released

On Tuesday, 10th May 2016, we released BlueSpice free 2.23.3-beta, a minor and maintenance version.

Download it here at Sourceforge.

As it’s still a beta version – the final release is scheduled for the end of May – we need YOU to put it to the acid test. Please report bugs, patches and other feedback to our Sourceforge Forums. Any feedback is appreciated 🙂

Here are some notable new features of BlueSpice free 2.23.3:

  • Compatibility: BlueSpice can now be used with MediaWiki 1.27.
  • BlueSpice API: There is now a standardized API for many BlueSpice actions.
  • ContextMenu: The extension is now enabled by default.
  • Dashboards: There is a wiki page portlet, which allows you to use any wiki page as a dashboard item. Create your own portlets!
  • ExtendedSearch: Introduces facet operators, which indicate whether multiple selections in a facet should be combined using AND or OR logic. It is now also possible to open articles in the autocomplete list in new windows or tabs.
  • Flexiskin: It is now possible to disable the background image.
  • GroupManager: Raised group name character limit from 16 to 255.
  • InsertMagic: Tag descriptions are now much more descriptive.
  • PermissionManager: Add hint flyout for every right.
  • Upload: XML and SVG files can now be uploaded by default.
  • UserMerge: Added extension to Distribution. Allows you to merge various users into one.
  • UserSidebar: There is now a “global actions” navigation tab for every user.
  • VisualEditor: Set default style for table to contenttable. This makes much nicer tables…

You can read the detailed release notes in our BlueSpice Helpdesk.

BlueSpice Featurelist 2016 online

Yesterday we published a new feature list. It was necessary to record the latest extensions. But we used the opportunity to mention a lot of important features that BlueSpice with MediaWiki as basis technology automatically includes: for example security features, many reporting functions and mobile device support.

These features have been neglected in the past, despite the fact that they show that MediaWiki is the leading system for collaborative knowledge systems for good reasons. Hallo Welt! assumed that these features are well known. Now we wanted to show that BlueSpice already includes in its standard what others advertise as an extra.

There are now 152 features grouped in 17 topics. We could have extended the list considerably, but we focused on the most important features in order to make decision-makers’ work easier.

This year Hallo Welt! will continue to expand  the extension pool of distributions and take important steps towards the integration of extensions. Of this steps our pro customers will benefit in the first place.

Moreover BlueSpice offers unique opportunities in order to develop its own products and customized solutions. These opportunities we will explain in more detail elsewhere, when it comes, for example, to the subject of technology partnerships.

Maybe another note: The feature list is not the same as the official extension list (software catalogue). The extension list shows which extensions are included in the distributions and are supported by us. The official extension list can still be found here.

Now I hope you enjoy studying BlueSpice features 2016. Comments and questions are of course always welcome.

BlueSpice in 2016

The last few months BlueSpice MediaWiki has had a great time. We see an increasing number of downloads. BlueSpice becomes more and more visible. And as a result of that, we win many new customers and are involved in incredibly interesting projects.

This makes it possible, and necessary, to push the BlueSpice project forward this year again. We have many ideas and tasks. I cannot share all the details yet, but for a start, here are some general announcements.

Firstly, we will publish two releases this year:

  • A maintenance and security release end of April and
  • A feature release end of this summer.

For BlueSpice free and pro the maintenance release 2.23.3 will support MediaWiki 1.27.0 (the next MediaWiki LTS version). For this release we have reviewed the interface security and we perfected some features (Bookmaker, PermissionManager e.a.). And we‘re going to add some more MediaWiki extensions to the distribution. Be surprised.

Some key improvements of the later feature release are already known. BlueSpice pro will support WebDAV in the third quarter of this year, which means one can edit attached files without the need to upload them separately. They will be stored directly in the wiki file system.

Furthermore we’re going to improve the usability: users will be able to find important special pages like the review page much easier. And we will smoothen the user interface and features, so that BlueSpice will become the perfect tool for all quality assurance processes.

Handling extensions will become more comfortable with an extension store. This is a large project, but we will take the first steps towards realization.

Overdue are some important tasks to nurture the BlueSpice community. A community hub is on the way. In addition, the helpdesk and documentation will be getting more attention.

Finally the partner program is to be enhanced.

A lot to do. But with your feedback and help BlueSpice MediaWiki will make a huge step forward in 2016.

MediaWiki extension ReplaceText compatible with BlueSpice

This little helper from MediaWiki enables administrators to search and replace words or text passages. The changes can be done in the content of wiki articles and in article titles. Fast and easy, because the modifications will automatically be made in all relevant articles.

  • Special page to search and replace single words or text passages in articles
  • Search and replace in article titles
  • Usage of placeholders and regular expressions
Choose a text that should be replaced
Choose a text that should be replaced

 

Form to replace text
Form to replace text

“Replace text” has been tested to be operational for MediaWiki and BlueSpice by the BlueSpice developer Hallo Welt!

Compatible with:

  • BlueSpice 2.23.x
  • MediaWiki 1.18.+

Where do you get this extension? You can download the extension “Replace Text” in the BlueSpice shop.

 

 

MediaWiki extension BreadCrumbs compatible with BlueSpice

With the MediaWiki BreadCrumbs extension it is possible to keep an overview of where you are in the wiki. The extension shows the path to the called up article and therefore provides orientation.

MediaWiki BreadCrumb: Article with navigation path
MediaWiki BreadCrumb: Article with navigation path

 

 

MediaWiki BreadCrumbs: Preferences
MediaWiki BreadCrumbs: Preferences

BreadCrumbs has been tested to be operational for MediaWiki and BlueSpice by the BlueSpice developer Hallo Welt!
Compatible with:

  • BlueSpice 2.23.x
  • MediaWiki 1.19+

Where do you get this extension? You can download the extension “BreadCrumbs” in the BlueSpice shop.

 

 

BlueSpice Release 2.23.2 – ImageMapEdit, WikiCategoryTag, EmbedVideo, MediaWiki Visual Editor, Semantic MediaWiki and even more

We released BlueSpice 2.23.2 – a minor and maintenance release. This is the first release of BlueSpice with the new “BlueSpice pro” subscription. Of course the free version “BlueSpice free” is still available on sourceforge.

BlueSpice free 2.23.2

BlueSpice free is the free wiki version of BlueSpice that can be downloaded at sourceforge.
Notable new features in BlueSpice free 2.23.2:

  • Update of notification system
  • Improved logging of actions, e.g. assign responsibility or changes in rights setup
  • Added ImageMapEdit: create image maps very easy by using the dialogue provided at the meta page of an image
  • BlueSpice is now compatible with MediaWiki’s VisualEditor
  • Bugfixes

BlueSpice pro 2.23.2

BlueSpice pro is a subscription that contains patches and updates of provided functions, continious expanding of the functions (for Standard and Premium subscriptions) and professional product support.
Notable new features in BlueSpice pro 2.23.2:

  • All features and changes like in BlueSpice free
  • Integration of Semantic MediaWiki and BlueSpice e.g. enable Semantic in the namespace manager
  • Integration of ServiceCenter: add search portals to the wiki; enable/disable category check functionality in the namespace manager
  • Bookmaker new feature: create “own books” (personal books are stored as a subpage of the user page)
  • Rating: Implemented grid filters to special page “rating”
  • Bugfixes

Please read detailed release notes for BlueSpice free and BlueSpice pro in our helpdesk.

Lobbypedia platform in Germany - mission "lobbying criticism"
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Create a wiki – tips for starting your own wiki

Creating your own Wikipedia is not at all difficult. It does not matter if you want it to concentrate on a specific theme, or if you want to create a wiki for your town or company; the basic considerations are very similar at the start. Here are some tips on what to take into account when you create a wiki. As it needs “green fingers” and a suitable environment. Although one only has a limited impact on group processes as an individual fan of wikis, there are a few elementary basic rules which will help.

Wikis need “missions”

Consider in advance what you want to achieve with your wiki. Is there a large enough target audience who are sufficiently interested? This is important, as you will need to find engaged authors who will fill the wiki with content and keep it alive. The “wiki effect” can only occur when the system is integrated into a larger overall context. This means that the wiki needs to help to solve pressing problems in a group or be a medium for constructive processes of change.

Lobbypedia platform in Germany - mission "lobbying criticism"
Lobbypedia platform in Germany – mission “lobbying criticism”

 

Wikis demand a great deal from those involved: They need to formulate their thoughts, independently develop organisational systems, create rules and keep to them. For this reason, wikis are only used when they cover a need and one can detect a practical use for the user. This can be a reduction in the daily routine work, particularly in businesses and other organisations. Alternatively it can be the simplification and acceleration of working procedures. It may also, however, be recognition from your colleagues or the creation of a collaborative working atmosphere. Wikis help, for example, to reduce the volume of circular mails. This leaves more time to concentrate on the more involved questions. The prime example, Wikipedia, owes its success not least to the circumstances surrounding it: Before Wikipedia, search engines did not really give a truly central starting point for internet research.
In public wikis, the relevance is often due to the importance of a theme of a (large) number of interested parties. Thus, for example, the Frankenwiki is a wiki which primarily appeals to residents of the Franconia. If there are enough authors within this group to create good content, then the wiki can aim for a wide impact and, for example, be valuable for tourists.

Do not aim straight away to be Wikipedia

Make realistic estimates of the probable scale of the wiki project. There is a difference if the wiki is a medium for a team or a small group, or whether it is for a larger group with somewhere over about 30 members. For the latter, it is no longer possible for everyone to communicate with everyone else directly. Small groups form, just like in other public spaces – like a Vienna coffee house, where you sit privately but can also be seen. This means, for the wiki, that an individual can no longer take care of the whole project. This also means, however, that for small groups, for example, because of the small number of participants, spelling mistakes may not be corrected and perhaps moderators will be needed.

An empty wiki stays an empty wiki

Even where a system ensures full freedom, a wiki should display a structure in advance for the contents. This can be done by creating templates, for example. You make things much easier for the future wiki authors, if you organise the site roughly in advance. Also, create some example articles. Seeding a wiki means creating a picture of how the texts can be written and setting up an initial organisational structure which can then be developed. Introductory workshops can accelerate the important explanatory processes, at least for a core group in the wiki.
In public wikis, which tend to be set up more anonymously, it is a good idea to provide, for example, introductory videos or webinars (e.g. GoogleHangouts), in order to answer questions and explain procedures.

…keep it simple

This point concerns both instructions on procedures and also the necessity to agree on certain basic rules. This is very sensible.
Too many technical features, regulations and categorisations can choke off the creativity which should unfold in a wiki. Also user friendliness is important here, and simple usability of the wiki software is essential. User friendliness functions are the prerequisite for animating the users, giving them the enthusiasm to write. This involves, amongst other things, a visual editor (WYSIWYG) so that the users can write without using wiki code, NS good search function so that contents can be found again easily.

Wiki engine "BlueSpice" includes an optimized design, search and a visual editor
Wiki engine “BlueSpice” includes an optimized design, search and a visual editor

 

Enable engaging and lively contents

It does not matter if it is a company wiki or a public one, the more the wiki engages the users, the more motivation will be generated. This applies for the design, which should be clear and uncongested and support the usability. However, it also applied to the contents. You need to make sure that pictures can be uploaded and inserted into articles as easily as possible. The wiki should also be able to be readily integrated with online services such as Google Maps, GPSies, (Youtube) videos and audio files.

GPSies
Integrate GPS tracking data into your wiki

Such functions make the contents more useful, particularly for town and region wikis. In general, you can also consider integrating your wiki into Facebook, the blog software WordPress, or many other options.

Let it grow

Trust is important in the “social web”. Nothing will work in a wiki without confidence and trust. If someone wants to keep complete control over the process, they are more likely to suffocate it. The responsibility for the process lies with the participants. Wikis open up a certain level of freedom to organise work processes in a sensible way yourself, away from rigid regulations. If a group process requires a majority of workers because they are to take on the conceptual work, then they will only do this if they have a clear prospect of implementation. And: If they are really involved and have control over the process.
This is similar for public wikis: the committed users sacrifice a large part of their free time. This should be appreciated, among other ways by allowing them to have a say. Other possible ways of showing the value you place on their contributions should be considered, in order to keep the levels of motivation high.

Technology – choosing the right system

Once you are clear about your basic structures, then you should scrutinise your technology. The various wiki systems differ significantly in their capabilities and extendibility. Do you have the right environment, a site host or will you place your wiki in the cloud? Furthermore, features and connections play an important role. The wiki should be pleasant to work with and clearly designed, and users should ideally find their feet in the system by themselves quickly and easily. When you chose your wiki software, take note of whether there is a comprehensive, publicly available help desk. Find out about how suitable it is for your users, but also for your administrators.

Conclusion

It is best to get a group together to think out your objectives and how they are to be realised. Involving more people will give you more points of view and so you will be able to avoid the pitfalls more easily. Look around for wikis which fit your requirements.
We recommend the Wikipedia software “MediaWiki” due to its worldwide acceptance and to it having the largest community of developers. If you want to “spruce up” the system, should certainly take a look at the free wiki “BlueSpice free“.

How to create a wiki easily and cast-effective? Try BlueSpice in the Amazon Cloud (Amazon Web Services), and you can start it up in just a few steps.
When it comes to the conception and introduction of wikis, it is often not as trivial as is might first seem. So talk to experts like us at (Hallo Welt! – Medienwerkstatt GmbH), who have years of experience with wiki projects, for example about our conception workshops and training courses.

View images with the Lightbox
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Lightbox extension now in the BlueSpice shop

With the Lightbox extension it is possible to display thumbnail or image galleries as full-size images in a pop-up while the background is darkened. So with a click on an image you won’t be redirected to the image’s meta page. If you want to call-up the meta page of the image, please click on the window symbols in the thumbnail.

View images with the Lightbox
View images with the Lightbox

This extension is available in our BlueSpice shop.

A part of the exchange station for abrasive materials from ASIS GmbH
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Collecting and distributing an organisation’s knowledge: Knowledge management and QM at ASIS GmbH – a use case

A part of the exchange station for abrasive materials from ASIS GmbH
A part of the exchange station for abrasive materials from ASIS GmbH

ASIS GmbH from Landshut works in the area of automation technology. This medium-sized company is focused on surface engineering for the car industry. ASIS develops and produces, amongst other things, painting and grinding finishing systems. They currently have about 120 employees.
I spoke with Jana Timinger, Technical Editor at ASIS GmbH, about how knowledge and quality management have changed as the firm has grown.

Ms Timinger, ASIS has experienced many changes in the last few years. What challenges have these changes brought with them?

We have grown from 70 employees to 120 in just a few years. As well as this, we have two locations, and many members of staff who work a great deal out and about, or at customers’ premises. This means that we always have to consider the question: How we can organise teamwork over these distances properly, for example for projects in which planners from several locations collaborate. Put most generally: How can we keep all members of staff informed of important information on a regular basis, and how can documents be centrally accessible and findable? Our previous data storage structure was not ideal for meeting these challenges.

What made you want to find a system to meet these challenges? And what were your requirements for such a system?

The first thing that set us off was quality management. For this, we had documents in a type of intranet. This was not particularly convenient, and we were not happy with it because things were often filed twice and our members of staff could not access the documents easily. In addition, our technical departments wanted to be able to keep their knowledge centrally so that it was available for everyone in that department, but also for everyone across the company. Word documents disappear too easily and too quickly somewhere on the server – they are not really able to be found again.

Now, our quality management is completely documented in the wiki and we have set up subportals for our individual departments, in which the technical departments can place and stress relevant information and news.

The quality management portal in the wiki
The quality management portal in the wiki

We also had, previously, an organisational handbook in word with company-internal rules, pictures of employees and suchlike. This has been brought completely into the wiki too.

The main requirement we had for the new solution was that it was easily accessible for anyone who needed to read it. Being able to find documents and information again needed to be much better (for example via a full text search) and it was also particularly important to prevent data being saved redundantly. We also wanted that everyone who wanted to contribute could do so without barriers being in their way.

ASIS has used the wiki software BlueSpice since Summer 2014. Which departments are involved and who is responsible for the wiki and its contents?

We have a person responsible for the general care and organisation of the wiki, who is also the point of contact for other members of staff. That is me.

Our IT department deal with the technical part, of course, but the system needs very little effort to maintain after the implementation. The technical departments, like, for example, electrical and mechanical design engineering, however, create content independently, content which they want to document and simply make known more widely within the company.

Of course, any member of staff can also suggest content which he or she would like to have in the system – and naturally, every member of staff can also place material there themselves. We have consciously decided on a very flat rights system so that theoretically every member of staff in every area can contribute to every area except for quality management. Writing is also allowed from one department to another because it is often the case that, for example, a member of the software department has knowledge which is also interesting for design engineering.

And the last area, for the present, is administration, which looks after the contents of the organisational handbook.

Am I right in saying that you have taken quality management under your wings?

That’s right. We are certified under ISO 9001, and I look after the documentation for quality management. We have moved this area to the wiki completely. We use Semantic here and almost completely avoid Word documents as in the wiki we can read metadata like ‘creator’ and ‘inspector’ easily and in an organised way, and evaluate it. This is a significant improvement. One can get an overview with just one click. This is also excellent for auditing. And maintenance will be significantly easier in the future.

Many companies do not make good estimations about the effort and planning involved in the introduction of such a system. Could you describe the phases to me please, from the planning right up to the current situation today?

Well, from the determination of the criteria and requirements up to the first workshop with Mr Heigl from Hallo Welt! and the final decision to use the wiki software BlueSpice was about three months. After this there were about two months in which the solution was realised technically and the first user training sessions took place. Alongside this training for the key users, we also carried out internal training in order to involve lots of members of staff as soon as possible so that they could get to know the system. After this, we transferred existing content into the wiki. This took about 3-4 months as we had to transfer some areas completely into the wiki, for example the whole of the quality management and administration areas. We tried to make the existing documents and procedures unnecessary as quickly as possible so that everything really can be found in the wiki and Word and Excel documents are superfluous.

Currently, we have 1,337 articles in the wiki and we are very happy with this “first version”. However, we still have a lot we want to do – there is still a lot of content which sooner or later should be relocated to the wiki. We have some clean up operations lined up for this, and working out what is best to be put in the wiki. By the way, it’s quite funny but one of the most popular pages in the wiki is the cafeteria plan and the telephone list.

What has changes with the wiki over the year it has been running?

It is very helpful that the material is kept in one place, as for most questions that people have, you can refer them to the wiki. There are, for example, IT tips in the wiki already, so that the standard questions do not have to be constantly answered individually. This saves time and avoids annoying people. A lot of information and things which seem like details, such as pictures of our members of staff, are now much more easily available via this location. The contents of the organisational handbook are also enhanced by the wiki and are looked at more often.

It is also very good that employees who are travelling also find out what has happened when they return, what the news is – a lot of information is now visible when before it often disappeared. Also, previously emails were often sent which, of course, would not reach colleagues who joined later. So the wiki is a point of reference for many questions which new colleagues have.

What lessons have you learned during the introduction and implementation of such a knowledge and quality project?

It was good that we transferred content very quickly and discontinued the other systems at the same time – this allowed us to avoid doubling. It also forced the people to look in the wiki. Unfortunately it is now still the case for some people that while they write in the wiki, they still save a “safety document” on the server – we need to prevent this more effectively.

The acceptance of the wiki is generally good. Almost all read the wiki, but writing is something else. Many still have inhibitions about writing in the wiki, because they are worried that the article might be too long or too short, or they are worried about making things worse or something similar. But when they have learned it once, the staff do use the wiki too. For this reason, I carried out targeted individual training for members of staff in key positions. And we continue to train our people to make them more familiar with the system. In particular, the departmental managers play an important role as they should set an example. And employees should not have to justify themselves when they document important knowledge in the wiki.

The year that has just passed, the first with the wiki, was very intensive. What is lined up in the future? A break?

Oh no, certainly not. Now we have the QM audit lined up, and then, above all, we will focus on the conversion to the new ISO standard. In parallel, we should bundle further content in the wiki so that more areas on the server can be decommissioned. And I will consider further how I can bring more people into the wiki, for example there is the newsletter from the general management in which, amongst other things, new employees are introduced. We could replace this with the blog which comes with the wiki. The wiki should be lively and this means it must continue to be regularly cared for.

We wish you continued success, and thank you for the interview.

Security release 2.23.1.1, and how to report vulnerabilities

Yesterday, we published the security release BlueSpice 2.23.1.1. Community user Frederic Mohr had reported a severe cross-site-scripting vulnerability with the Shoutbox, where arbitrary JavaScript code could be inserted in the box and would be executed on each page load. The fix he provided contains a minor change in the input handling. The new release fixes this vulnerability. There’s also a patch available for BlueSpice 2.23.1. The monthly release also contains the patch. Downloads and patches can be found at Sourceforge.

We highly recommend to update or patch your existing BlueSpice installations.

I want to thank Frederic for his support! And I’d like to take this chance to sketch out how we handle vulnerability reports. Usually, bugs are reported in our public forum. However, reporting a security related issue also means publishing the vulnerability right away, without giving us the chance to patch the software. Because of this, I ask you to report security issues directly to me by email: glaser@hallowelt.com. If possible, please encrypt the actual description of the vulnerability with GPG. My public key can be found on the MIT keyserver. We will then contact you, verify the vulnerability and provide a patch. After the patch is released, we will request a CVE number to have this properly documented. Of course, credits for finding the vulnerability go to the person that reported it.