BlueSpice provides a user dashboard for every user, which supplies so-called “portlets” with several information and statistics. This portlets can be activated and placed in the dashboard individually. You can choose from 10 different portlets (for some of the following portlets, further settings can be made) :
RSS feed: Import any RSS feed you want e.g. the BlueSpice blog.
Calendar: Display a calendar with a marker on the current day.
My edits: See a list of pages you recently edited and call up a page by clicking on it.
Most edited pages: Have a look at the list of most edited pages, sorted by their edits, to see which pages are regularly updated or which topics activate users to contribute.
Most viewed pages: The list of the most viewed pages, sorted by their views, may indicate which topics are very popular for users. Maybe this is a hint which pages are that important that they should be linked in the left navigation.
Most active users: Get to know who is very engaged in the wiki by using the list of the most active users, sorted by their edits.
Your responsibilities: Get a list of pages you are responsible for to keep an overview of your tasks.
Number of users: Statistic of the number of users.
Number of edits: Statistic of the number of edits.
Number of pages: Statistic of the number of pages.
Page templates easen the process of creating new articles in the wiki, because they provide a pattern for the content. Users get a clue of what information is needed here and what is missing. The templates also cause a more homogeneous structure for articles of the same content area.
Here´s a description how to create and provide page templates:
Create a new page in the namespace “template”, for example “Template:Organization”. You can edit and format this page like usual – add headings, tables and boxes here to create the framework for the content, which should be added. After you saved the structure for the page, you need to make it available for your users.
You need administrator rights, because this must be done in the admin tab in the left navigation. There you will find the menu item “Page templates”. Click on the green button to add a new template and a dialogue opens.
First, choose the name of the template (e.g. Organization) and add a description to explain the use of this template. The template name and the description will be shown in the selection, when someone creates a new page. Now, choose the namespace, in which the template should be provided. In the next drop-down menus, you can choose your template. In case of our example, this will be “Template” in the menu for the template namespace, and “Organization” in the menu for the template. Confirm your changes and the template will be added. If an user creates a new page in the namespace you assigned, he will get the possibility to choose the template and start writing with the given structure of content.
A wiki is a place for documentation in general, but sometimes it is also used to describe how to use the wiki itself. For this reason – and also for other computer code-related descriptions – you will need to display code snippets to explain how something works. But how to do this without getting an error of the wiki syntax? Especially if you want to give an example for wiki code – it won´t work, because the wiki interprets it as a functionality, link or markup.
There is a very simple trick: just let the wiki know, that the next characters are no wiki code. You can do this with the <nowiki>-tag. Here is an example:
The wiki won´t show the number of characters or set the link to the special page, it will just display the text between the tags in your article.
Especially for computer code, there is an additional <code>-tag. This formats the text with a light grey background and another font to highlight a code snippet. Combine the two tags to display code in an article, e.g.
The functionality to use the spell checker of your browser, is already included in BlueSpice free. What you need is to install the appropriate dictionary for the language you want in your browser. Those are available as addons. After you installed the dictionaries, you only need to activate the spell checker in the editing mode of your wiki article. Just open the menue of the spell checker with a simple command:
If you want to keep your users up-to-date and provide them the latest news and information from an external site, the RSS feed is the media of your choice. And you can also use this great functionality to display the news in your wiki. Just get the URL from the RSS feed from the website you want to import. In our example, we took the RSS feed from our BlueSpice blog. And here comes the example:
Put the URL between the rss-tags. Additional variables can be used, to configure the output on the page. “max 4” means, that only the last four news will be displayed and “highlight=”MediaWiki BlueSpice” marks the words “MediaWiki” and “BlueSpice” wherever they appear in the text. This is how our example looks like in the article:
And there is also an extra portlet in your dashboard, where you can display the RSS feed, too. Open your user dashboard and add the “RSS-Feed” portlet. All you need to do now is to click on the cog wheel icon and insert the URL in the dialogue. Save it and get the latest news!
Sometimes it can be useful to change the title of a wiki article, but without moving the page. This means, that the URL stays the same and all links that refer to this site remain active. Only the title in the content will be displayed differently.
For example: You created the page “Prices” as a subpage of “Products”. The title will be shown this way “Products/Prices”. You don´t like it, because you only want “Prices” to be shown as the page title? Just use the variable DISPLAYTITLE to define any title, which should be displayed. Here is the code, according to our example:
There are lots of use cases for this feature, e.g. if you want to shorten a very long title, if you want to hide the prefix of a namespace (like turning “Portal:Quality Management” into “Quality Management”), and so on. Or also if you want to overcome the MediaWiki obstacle of the mandatory capital letter (for example an article about the “IPod” looks much better if you change it to “iPod”).
Attention: Please take into consideration, that it could confuse your users when they are looking for the article. They keep the title in mind, but can´t find it because the wiki system is still using the real title of the page.
Communication and notification – the end of the classical discussion pages
Another MediaWiki construction site is delivering good news: The MediaWiki Communication System. This concerns the discussion pages. These will soon disappear, in the form we know them now. More precisely: The discussions pages will fundamentally change and merge with the notification system.
The reconstruction of the MediaWiki communications system will take place through two new extensions:
Echo allows the individual following of changes, gives an overview of the whole system and is a framework for a variety of communication services. Echo is already in Wikipedia as a new notification system.
Flow makes discussion easier. One can more easily follow discussion processes; answers are shown via Echo. And much more. The aim of these developments is to build up a modern discussion and collaboration system for all Wikimedia projects. An interactive prototype is already online.
Anyone who has written or improved Wikipedia articles in the last few years, already knows about the Visual Editor, which has now reached a certain maturity. (See the post by Nathalie Köpff on this subject). Creating such an editor is a big project. Unlike other web applications, an editor for Wikipedia must not only work with different languages (for example right to left languages), but also be able to process the multitude of wiki functions, the template system, the magic words and many more things besides. So for this, the wiki text parser Parsoid needed to get a totally new technological basis. As Wikipedia develops further through web standards (browsers, protocols, languages), the task will remain a complex one for a long time. However, it is also a rewarding project which has significance for the whole web community – as, for example, no commercial provider would develop an editor for over 100 languages and make it available for free.
Nevertheless, the project is still controversial in the Wikimedia community to this day. This is partly because the introduction of the editor has lead to significant complications. The editor was simply not ready to use when it was implemented for the first time.
The scepticism in the community towards the editor, however, also has to do with the fact that its increasing use allows for a wide reaching dropping of Wikitext. What, for some, is a good opportunity is, for others, a loss of design potential. As up to now, it was possible to build many small tools with the standard resources (for example templates or overview lists). Even simple formatting is significantly more efficient for experienced wiki text users.
However, over time, Wiki code, which should make editing easier, has almost had the opposite effect. Editing a wiki article needs a certain amount of experience and skill. This is, however, not sensible, as many hand-made functions can be done more elegantly with corresponding extensions.
A great deal of identity and a bit of wiki philosophy is attached to the transition to the visual editor. For some wiki authors, it may be a restriction, but for the wiki world outside Wikipedia, it is a great leap forward. The standard ways of using wikis have changed; most wikis work in much less complex ways than Wikipedia, which has always been a special case with its own particular demands. For this reason, a native visual editor is a long overdue step for many MediaWiki users. It is necessary so that wikis can be used to build up new free knowledge hubs on the web.
Simultaneous editing of texts
A further, very ambitious project was introduced at Wikimania 2014. The aim is to enable the simultaneous editing of texts, that one already knows from Google Docs. This has been considered for a long time. However, the necessary resources for the project were not there. Now, the Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Erik Möller, has announced that the first prototype should already be available in a year. This is very exciting news.
Two points are not being discussed at the moment, but could become important in the future.
Speech2Text: Texts in wikis should be increasingly possible to dictate. “Speech2Text” is developing into a standard as the speech recognition software has made great strides in the last few years. We will see that speech-control can be performed in Google search.
Draft function: On top of this, a real draft function is needed for MediaWiki. Every trust and NGO with local groups needs to be able to develop texts for projects, for example. Up to now, they have been diverted to Google Docs or Etherpad. But these two applications are totally inappropriate for the public collection of knowledge for a number of reasons.
For this reason there should finally be the chance in MediaWikis to edit a first drafts with just a small circle of authors before the text is released generally.
Overall, we at Hallo Welt! see this development as very positive as MediaWiki will become more user friendly. Using it will be more intuitive and working with the editor more stable. Our enterprise distribution will take these developments on, customise them and make sure they are continually developed.
There is a lot happening for MediaWiki at the moment. Further development of the software has been getting recognisably bolder for more than a year. It is getting exciting! In 2015 we will see many changes which up to now have been being worked on in the background. In just a few years, the system will no longer be comparable with today’s MediaWiki. Both the technical architecture and the user guidance is being rethought and tailored to the new expectations of the users. We want to quickly introduce you to the newest development projects.
The new impulses in MediaWiki development come primarily from the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the operator of Wikipedia and its sister projects. The foundation sees its core task for the future as software development and is looking to build up its personnel in this area a great deal. The new executive director of the foundation, Lila Tretikov, announced in October 2014 that the majority of investment will flow into product development and software development. Within this, priority will go to building up mobile functionality (for more on this see the entry by James Temple). Continue Reading