MediaWiki as a presentation application

I gave a presentation this morning as part of Faculty Technology Days 2007. I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to talk about weblogs and wikis, and I couldn't come up a reason why not, so they slotted me in. In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of thinking about weblogs, wikis, academic publishing, and being Open, Connected and Social. So I decided to try to subvert my presentation slightly, into a more open-content-is-good kind of talk (but still based on blogs and wikis for much of it). What better way to do that, than to present directly from a wiki? It's worked very well for Brian Lamb – all of his presentations are wiki-driven.

Yesterday, I came across a link to some Firefox Greasemonkey scripts for use with Mediawiki. (aside: I'd thought I'd seen the link via Twitter, but can't seem to find who said it there – I remembered it being from Scott Leslie, but it could have been through del.icio.us, or via a comment he made on a blog somewhere…)

Anyway, on scanning through the list, one jumped out at me. Not literally, but that would have been cool. The "Wikipedia Presentation" script sounded very cool. I'm a big fan of the wiki-as-presentation style, and this mashed up a Mediawiki page with the awesome S5 html presentation engine. By installing this script, it automatically enables viewing any Mediawiki page as a full-screen slideware presentation.

So, I installed it.

And it failed. The current version of the script has been updated for the current version of Mediawiki. I'm using an older version (because my server doesn't have the latest PHP bits to run the latest MediaWiki). Older Mediawiki pages use div elements to mark sections of a page, while newer versions use spans. After some extremely complicated editing of the Greasemonkey script (changing the 3 instances of "span" to say "div" instead) I was off and running. My modified (i.e., reverted) version of the Greasemonkey script is available here.

The cool thing, if you're using a Mac (and, really, what ISN'T cooler if you're using a Mac) is that you can install an application called Mira to enable using the Apple Remote to control Firefox. I bound the back/forward buttons on the remote to the left/right arrow keys, and I was navigating through a Mediawiki page as a full-screen presentation, using a wireless remote.

With the script installed, the wiki/presentation page for this presentation should show a "Start Presentation" link right beneath the article title.

There was one minor tweak I needed to make. By default, the content of the slide starts too far down the screen. When using a projector, you may be stuck at 800×600, and a bunch of that was sucked up by empty space at the top. So, I overrode one of the styles to make it start higher up. There are a couple of ways you can do this. If you have the Web Developer extension installed, just add a new User Style Sheet containing the style below. Otherwise, edit your Mediawiki skin (in my case, the file at /skins/monobook/main.css ) to add this:

#wikipedia_presentation {
margin-top: 0 !important;
}

I gave a presentation this morning as part of Faculty Technology Days 2007. I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to talk about weblogs and wikis, and I couldn't come up a reason why not, so they slotted me in. In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of thinking about weblogs, wikis, academic publishing, and being Open, Connected and Social. So I decided to try to subvert my presentation slightly, into a more open-content-is-good kind of talk (but still based on blogs and wikis for much of it). What better way to do that, than to present directly from a wiki? It's worked very well for Brian Lamb – all of his presentations are wiki-driven.

Yesterday, I came across a link to some Firefox Greasemonkey scripts for use with Mediawiki. (aside: I'd thought I'd seen the link via Twitter, but can't seem to find who said it there – I remembered it being from Scott Leslie, but it could have been through del.icio.us, or via a comment he made on a blog somewhere…)

Anyway, on scanning through the list, one jumped out at me. Not literally, but that would have been cool. The "Wikipedia Presentation" script sounded very cool. I'm a big fan of the wiki-as-presentation style, and this mashed up a Mediawiki page with the awesome S5 html presentation engine. By installing this script, it automatically enables viewing any Mediawiki page as a full-screen slideware presentation.

So, I installed it.

And it failed. The current version of the script has been updated for the current version of Mediawiki. I'm using an older version (because my server doesn't have the latest PHP bits to run the latest MediaWiki). Older Mediawiki pages use div elements to mark sections of a page, while newer versions use spans. After some extremely complicated editing of the Greasemonkey script (changing the 3 instances of "span" to say "div" instead) I was off and running. My modified (i.e., reverted) version of the Greasemonkey script is available here.

The cool thing, if you're using a Mac (and, really, what ISN'T cooler if you're using a Mac) is that you can install an application called Mira to enable using the Apple Remote to control Firefox. I bound the back/forward buttons on the remote to the left/right arrow keys, and I was navigating through a Mediawiki page as a full-screen presentation, using a wireless remote.

With the script installed, the wiki/presentation page for this presentation should show a "Start Presentation" link right beneath the article title.

There was one minor tweak I needed to make. By default, the content of the slide starts too far down the screen. When using a projector, you may be stuck at 800×600, and a bunch of that was sucked up by empty space at the top. So, I overrode one of the styles to make it start higher up. There are a couple of ways you can do this. If you have the Web Developer extension installed, just add a new User Style Sheet containing the style below. Otherwise, edit your Mediawiki skin (in my case, the file at /skins/monobook/main.css ) to add this:

#wikipedia_presentation {
margin-top: 0 !important;
}

Wiki vs. Drupal Book

One of the big reasons I had for making the switch to Drupal is the great "Book" content type. It allows structuring of individual pages into a navigation hierarchy, and generates the "table of contents" and inter/page navigation automatically. I wanted to use it for writing longer articles, and wish I'd had it in place to use for the Interface 2006 ePortfolio background information article .

Initially, I wrote up the background article in a wiki, thinking it might be handy if others were able to edit. But, nobody has, and I think the article is less useful/usable as One Long Page Of Stuff. It would make more sense in smaller, bite-sized pieces that could be individually linked. Smaller granularity, allowing for reuse or something equally wishful.

So, to test out the waters, I just moved a copy of the Interface 2006 ePortfolio background article into a structured book here on my blog.

What's the difference between the two? The wiki page version is theoretically more "open" – others are able to edit it. The Drupal book version is theoretically more usable as a reference – easier to navigate and link to. It's also got comments enabled, so feedback is still pretty easy. Any thoughts on the two approaches?

One of the big reasons I had for making the switch to Drupal is the great "Book" content type. It allows structuring of individual pages into a navigation hierarchy, and generates the "table of contents" and inter/page navigation automatically. I wanted to use it for writing longer articles, and wish I'd had it in place to use for the Interface 2006 ePortfolio background information article .

Initially, I wrote up the background article in a wiki, thinking it might be handy if others were able to edit. But, nobody has, and I think the article is less useful/usable as One Long Page Of Stuff. It would make more sense in smaller, bite-sized pieces that could be individually linked. Smaller granularity, allowing for reuse or something equally wishful.

So, to test out the waters, I just moved a copy of the Interface 2006 ePortfolio background article into a structured book here on my blog.

What's the difference between the two? The wiki page version is theoretically more "open" – others are able to edit it. The Drupal book version is theoretically more usable as a reference – easier to navigate and link to. It's also got comments enabled, so feedback is still pretty easy. Any thoughts on the two approaches?

Interface 2006 ePortfolio Session Background Wiki

Patti and I are putting a wiki page together to support our ePortfolio session at Interface 2006 in Lethbridge this Thursday. The session is nominally about the ePortfolio pilot project we’re doing with our Faculty of Education, but I’m hoping we’ll get to have a discussion about ePortfolios (HATE that “e”) in general.

I just added some “What is a ePortfolio?” content, and it feels like it could turn into a thesis pretty darned quickly. Not sure I want to go down that road, though…

The wiki page is really rough at the moment, and woefully incomplete, but we’ll be polishing it up over the next day or so.

Patti and I are putting a wiki page together to support our ePortfolio session at Interface 2006 in Lethbridge this Thursday. The session is nominally about the ePortfolio pilot project we’re doing with our Faculty of Education, but I’m hoping we’ll get to have a discussion about ePortfolios (HATE that “e”) in general.

I just added some “What is a ePortfolio?” content, and it feels like it could turn into a thesis pretty darned quickly. Not sure I want to go down that road, though…

The wiki page is really rough at the moment, and woefully incomplete, but we’ll be polishing it up over the next day or so.

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, etc… for classrooms

My copy of Will‘s book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” just came in. Looks like it’s going to be a pretty good read, providing the perspective of an in-the-trenches teacher, rather than just the geek echochamber I usually expose myself to…

Will Richardson: Blogs, Wikis, Podasts, and other web tools for classrooms

The book is definitely on top of my nonfiction reading list (my fiction reading, on the bus ride commute, is currently another Gregory Benford book I’m deliberately reading out of sequence…)

My copy of Will‘s book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” just came in. Looks like it’s going to be a pretty good read, providing the perspective of an in-the-trenches teacher, rather than just the geek echochamber I usually expose myself to…

Will Richardson: Blogs, Wikis, Podasts, and other web tools for classrooms

The book is definitely on top of my nonfiction reading list (my fiction reading, on the bus ride commute, is currently another Gregory Benford book I’m deliberately reading out of sequence…)

Sustained Wiki Spam Attack

wiki.ucalgary.ca has been under a sustained spam attack all day. What started out as a minor irritation has grown into something that is impossible to ignore. The spammer is somehow getting around both Bad Behavior and Spam Blacklist extensions (I’ve blacklisted their URLs, but they keep getting edits into the system). This is one of the more frustrating aspects of trying to do things in an open manner. If there is the slightest possibility that something will be subverted for spamilicious purposes, it will be. And most likely it will happen before more than a handful of legitimate users are able to take advantage of a service.

These cretins are being rather clever (or, they’ve gotten some good Script Kiddie l337 tools) because they’re coming from many different (and changing) IP addresses, and each edit is accompanied by its very own account creation. So I can’t just block IPs, or roll back all edits by a user. So, I’ve had to disable account creation for now until I can figure out wtf to do about this.

To the spammer(s): may you rot in the most insidious inner circle of hell, reserved for parasites like yourself who find it necessary to suck energy and resources from (otherwise) free and open educational resources.

wiki.ucalgary.ca has been under a sustained spam attack all day. What started out as a minor irritation has grown into something that is impossible to ignore. The spammer is somehow getting around both Bad Behavior and Spam Blacklist extensions (I’ve blacklisted their URLs, but they keep getting edits into the system). This is one of the more frustrating aspects of trying to do things in an open manner. If there is the slightest possibility that something will be subverted for spamilicious purposes, it will be. And most likely it will happen before more than a handful of legitimate users are able to take advantage of a service.

These cretins are being rather clever (or, they’ve gotten some good Script Kiddie l337 tools) because they’re coming from many different (and changing) IP addresses, and each edit is accompanied by its very own account creation. So I can’t just block IPs, or roll back all edits by a user. So, I’ve had to disable account creation for now until I can figure out wtf to do about this.

To the spammer(s): may you rot in the most insidious inner circle of hell, reserved for parasites like yourself who find it necessary to suck energy and resources from (otherwise) free and open educational resources.

Vindictive Wiki Spammers

wiki.ucalgary.ca got hammered by a vindictive wiki spammer last night. But, here’s the thing – the spam prevention blacklist worked perfectly. The spammer wasn’t able to add any of their own links to the wiki. So, they decided to punish me by vandalizing 50 of the most popular pages on the wiki with an apparently random (and invalid) spam URL.

The software they used to do this evil deed automatically created a new account for each edit, and the whole thing took them less than 10 minutes to do. It took me 45 minutes to undo, even with rollbacks etc… because of their insidious creation of 50 separate accounts for 50 separate edits. I would have just reverted back to a nightly database backup to blow them all away in one fell swoop, but we had actual valid users making actual valid edits, and I won’t blow any of that away. Better to manually remove the detritus than to lose a single valid edit.

I’ll be installing Bad Behavior today, when I get a chance It’s not like I have anything better to do than to play a game of Wiki Detente with a cretin who would vandalize an open academic resource because I wouldn’t let them add their link to their ViagraCasinoPenisEnlargement Google Juicer website factory…

The signature used by this roach shows up on a few sites on a quick Google. This is insane.

Update: I just installed Bad Behavior for MediaWiki – took a whopping 60 seconds to install and configure. I’d tried a previous version, but it got a bit, well, overeager about blocking stuff. To the point that even I couldn’t view or edit anything. Had to kill it last time. Hopefully this time will be better…

wiki.ucalgary.ca got hammered by a vindictive wiki spammer last night. But, here’s the thing – the spam prevention blacklist worked perfectly. The spammer wasn’t able to add any of their own links to the wiki. So, they decided to punish me by vandalizing 50 of the most popular pages on the wiki with an apparently random (and invalid) spam URL.

The software they used to do this evil deed automatically created a new account for each edit, and the whole thing took them less than 10 minutes to do. It took me 45 minutes to undo, even with rollbacks etc… because of their insidious creation of 50 separate accounts for 50 separate edits. I would have just reverted back to a nightly database backup to blow them all away in one fell swoop, but we had actual valid users making actual valid edits, and I won’t blow any of that away. Better to manually remove the detritus than to lose a single valid edit.

I’ll be installing Bad Behavior today, when I get a chance It’s not like I have anything better to do than to play a game of Wiki Detente with a cretin who would vandalize an open academic resource because I wouldn’t let them add their link to their ViagraCasinoPenisEnlargement Google Juicer website factory…

The signature used by this roach shows up on a few sites on a quick Google. This is insane.

Update: I just installed Bad Behavior for MediaWiki – took a whopping 60 seconds to install and configure. I’d tried a previous version, but it got a bit, well, overeager about blocking stuff. To the point that even I couldn’t view or edit anything. Had to kill it last time. Hopefully this time will be better…

Tikiwiki as a “secure” wiki?

One of the biggest questions I get from people who want to use wiki.ucalgary.ca is “How do I protect or lock a page?” I’ve had to respond with a gentle suggestion that the wiki is an open resource by design, but that doesn’t go very far. There are valid reasons for locking down a wiki – ranging from sensitive information that shouldn’t be In The Wild, to protecting privacy (K-12 collaborations can’t have info about kids leaking onto the ‘net for obvious reasons).

It really felt counterproductive to just refer folks to other external tools like Writely. They’re great tools, but if wiki is to be a valued resource on campus, it should serve all core requirements. I’m struggling with the possibility of migrating away from MediaWiki (which doesn’t handle security, by design), or possibly adding a second “secure” wiki as an option.

I spent an hour or so this evening playing around with TikiWiki – some pretty fully-featured stuff (if a little “busy” as a result) that should solve any/all issues. I’ll keep playing with Tiki to get a better feel for it.

One of the biggest questions I get from people who want to use wiki.ucalgary.ca is “How do I protect or lock a page?” I’ve had to respond with a gentle suggestion that the wiki is an open resource by design, but that doesn’t go very far. There are valid reasons for locking down a wiki – ranging from sensitive information that shouldn’t be In The Wild, to protecting privacy (K-12 collaborations can’t have info about kids leaking onto the ‘net for obvious reasons).

It really felt counterproductive to just refer folks to other external tools like Writely. They’re great tools, but if wiki is to be a valued resource on campus, it should serve all core requirements. I’m struggling with the possibility of migrating away from MediaWiki (which doesn’t handle security, by design), or possibly adding a second “secure” wiki as an option.

I spent an hour or so this evening playing around with TikiWiki – some pretty fully-featured stuff (if a little “busy” as a result) that should solve any/all issues. I’ll keep playing with Tiki to get a better feel for it.

Read/Write Web presentation (slides and more)

I was able to put together a version of the presentation as an “enhanced podcast” using a borrowed copy of Garage Band ’06. It worked very well for the task, with one glaring issue – apparently GB can’t handle audio longer than 65 minutes, so the last couple of minutes of the presentation audio is truncated. No big loss, as it’s mostly just wrapup (and there is an 11-minute section of awesome Q and A around the 30 minute mark – at the “Wiki Discussion” chapter).

Here’s the Enhanced Podcast version, as well as an interactive Flash version (maybe that will work well if your mp3 player is playing the full audio at the same time), a .pdf version, and a .zip of all slide images (but that loses the build effects used in the Flash version). Also, the source Keynote file is available.

The whole shooting match is released under a Creative Commons license (attribution, non-commercial, share-alike), so have at’er if you have the Mad Skillz to produce a better version (or make the audio suck less), or want to remix it into something else.

I was able to put together a version of the presentation as an “enhanced podcast” using a borrowed copy of Garage Band ’06. It worked very well for the task, with one glaring issue – apparently GB can’t handle audio longer than 65 minutes, so the last couple of minutes of the presentation audio is truncated. No big loss, as it’s mostly just wrapup (and there is an 11-minute section of awesome Q and A around the 30 minute mark – at the “Wiki Discussion” chapter).

Here’s the Enhanced Podcast version, as well as an interactive Flash version (maybe that will work well if your mp3 player is playing the full audio at the same time), a .pdf version, and a .zip of all slide images (but that loses the build effects used in the Flash version). Also, the source Keynote file is available.

The whole shooting match is released under a Creative Commons license (attribution, non-commercial, share-alike), so have at’er if you have the Mad Skillz to produce a better version (or make the audio suck less), or want to remix it into something else.

Read/Write Web presentation (audio)

I’d planned on releasing a full presentation+audio version of the presentation, but it’s going to take me weeks to sync up the 105 slides to the 1-hour audio track.

So, in the meantime, here’s the audio-only portion of the presentation (27.2MB MP3). Not sure how well it stands on its own, but it might come in handy for someone.

The only editing I’ve done to the audio was to remove the 6 minute preamble and embarrassing intro (as Mr. Expert Guy – gack – which is why you hear me mention it at the beginning of the audio). Sorry for the audio quality – it was recorded directly to my iPod via Belkin TuneTalk at an incredible 8KHz, and tweaked in Audacity to make it suck less.

I’ve been told that some schwanky new G5 systems (quad, no less) are in transit to the Learning Commons. When I get mine, I’ll give GarageBand ’06 a shot at making the “video” version with slides from the presentation. It’s just going to take too much time to manually do it in iMovie. I’d give Breeze a shot, but converting the Keynote to .ppt format would so totally destroy the transparencies used on many slides…

I’d planned on releasing a full presentation+audio version of the presentation, but it’s going to take me weeks to sync up the 105 slides to the 1-hour audio track.

So, in the meantime, here’s the audio-only portion of the presentation (27.2MB MP3). Not sure how well it stands on its own, but it might come in handy for someone.

The only editing I’ve done to the audio was to remove the 6 minute preamble and embarrassing intro (as Mr. Expert Guy – gack – which is why you hear me mention it at the beginning of the audio). Sorry for the audio quality – it was recorded directly to my iPod via Belkin TuneTalk at an incredible 8KHz, and tweaked in Audacity to make it suck less.

I’ve been told that some schwanky new G5 systems (quad, no less) are in transit to the Learning Commons. When I get mine, I’ll give GarageBand ’06 a shot at making the “video” version with slides from the presentation. It’s just going to take too much time to manually do it in iMovie. I’d give Breeze a shot, but converting the Keynote to .ppt format would so totally destroy the transparencies used on many slides…