Category Archives: Wiki


Action Research Cycles MediaWiki Template
Freely Distributed Research Data Coming Soon?
Theatre Blogger: 52 Venues in 52 weeks
UK Online Communities
Wiki Web Hosting at Servage
SearchWiki from Google is LIVE
Learning by Doing – interview part 5

Action Research Cycles MediaWiki Template

We need to keep better tracking records for the various types of ongoing experiments that are constantly getting set up as part of daily online life.

That’s a problem I’m trying to solve, and the aim may be to have an action logging app that covers this kind of documentation eventually, in order to manage all those spinning plates while on the move, I’m talking mobile now, but in the meantime we came up with the idea of using MediaWiki templates to create structured project pages incorporating multiple cycles, on the intranet and other wikis.

MediaWiki templates provide a consistent style, even if it does look a bit blocky, and can be used to prompt for missing data, to make sure everything gets put down in words, figures and dates. Links and images too.

There are two ways of passing specific data over from the project page to the Template itself, one is using parameters that are referenced by position – 1,2,3 etc and the other is to used named parameters and I think I’m going to try using named parameters for the Cycle template. See there, I’ve already modularised the system by plumping for nested templates with the Cycle Template being called a number of times within some kind of overall Project Header template. They may not actually be nested in practice, but simply chopped together on the calling page but we’ll see about that later on once we get to the coding stage.

Action Research Project MediaWiki Template

The Project template describes the project in terms of an area of online activity to be worked on and a stated intention for improvement.

To start with I’m suggesting the following specification

DARproject $Domain, $Aim, $Strategy to test, $Notes Other variables to take into account

using the above 4 variables to define the project, we next move on to look at individual cycles:

Action Research Cycles MediaWiki Template

DARcycle $Cycle number, $Action to be taken, $Date actioned, $End date, $data collected, $Observed Results, $Reflection, $Conclusion, $Next Action to try

So that’s what I’m up to today, using Mediawiki templates to try and prototype a system for tracking distributed action research projects better online.

Update on Progress with DAR Templates

I’ve got the basic templates up and working using the specification outlined above, tweaked just a little to use positional parameters for the first two variable in the Cycle template, and named parameters for the rest. Rather than nesting templates inside each other, I’ve plumped for a simpler system of just calling the Header then instances of Cycle then the Footer from the content page, so I now have three separate templates which work together. The result is as intended.

Here’s a screenshot from a fictitious example which shows a rudimentary colour scheme and other visual indicators to try and make the functioning of the system as intuitive as possible

The next stage now is to start using the prototype templates for a small but real project as soon as possible and see how it goes.

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Freely Distributed Research Data Coming Soon?

This is the problem: Academic research findings are currently distributed mainly in expensive journals and publications. These are hard to find with restricted access and either unavailable online or only accessible by subscription via another expensive paywall. Often the source data is omitted. This reduces the number and type of people who can benefit from scrutinising the research data and limits the progress of science to the detriment of all.

It isn’t totally clear who is mostly responsible for this state of affairs, but the most likely culprit seems to be a combination of academic publishing houses, university institutions and an elite of the most established academics themselves.

Recently a campaign has been born to try to free up the results of published research from out of the hands of the worst exploiters.

Elsevier — my part in its downfall.

Elsevier is not the only publisher to behave in an objectionable way. However, it seems to be the worst.

while other blame the University establishment:

it’s not publishers. It’s the universities themselves.

And now here comes news that none other than Jimmy Wales, the man who took the credit for Wikipedia and a well known Ayn Randian, is being drafted in by the libertarian Conservative/liberal British government to help “make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to anyone who wants to read or use it.” And it’s not just the abstract, summary of findings or the written up research conclusions which are intended to be distributed in an accessible form either:

“One of the big opportunities is, right now, a journal article might be published but the underlying data isn’t and we want to move into a world where the data is published alongside an article in an open format, available free of charge”

There has also been a move by one of the big funders of research to back Open Access:

But science in general isn’t complete until it’s been published, and for the Wellcome Trust we want to maximise the impact of the research that we fund. That’s why open access is so important; research isn’t finished until it’s been published, and by publishing the results of the research that we fund in open access formats it means that as many people as possible are able to have access to the literature without any hindrance at all, and that of course will ultimately maximise the value and the outcomes of the research that we fund.

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Theatre Blogger: 52 Venues in 52 weeks

One way of standing out from the crowd is to commit yourself to a challenge that takes place over a period of time, and then blog about it every step of the way. In the film “Julie and Julia” a struggling writer who loves to cook decides to try out every single recipe from her hero’s recipe book, every night for a year:

Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats’ well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment.

365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.

How far will it go? – The Julie/Julia Project

Favourite Theatre Blogger

It’s in a similar vein to this that one of the theatre bloggers in London has embarked on a challenge called “52 weeks, 52 fringe venues”. I couldn’t name more than a handful of London fringe theatre venues myself, so I subscribed at once in order to learn more about the wider scene. I’m also recommending the blog on which the challenge is published – “Distant Aggravation” as my choice for favourite theatre blogger in Theatre Blogger Week.

Corinne Furness, who writes Distant Aggravation describes herself as a “writer and theatre maker” and has also written a post on Blogging by Numbers : On Why It’s Time To Listen (or a love letter to theatre bloggers)

Distant Aggravation

Theatre Blogger Week

Theatre Blogger Week is an idea from MusicalVerse which is due to take place for the first year on 25th October 2010, open to theatre bloggers world wide and tracked on the Theatre Blogger Week Wiki page.

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UK Online Communities

The wiki called WorkNets has a project collating a list of UK Online Communities.

UKOnlineCommunities, WorkNets. A culture for independent thinkers.


The list is young and obviously has huge gaps, as well as probably many entries which are listed more out of optimism than evidence of community, but it’s going to be well worth watching and contributing to.

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Wiki Web Hosting at Servage

I managed to get a mediawiki installation up and running on the city escapes domain with Servage web host in the end, and once working it does seem to be fairly robust as far as non-US web hosting services are concerned.


This wiki is powered by MediaWiki, copyright (C) 2001-2007 Magnus Manske, Brion Vibber, Lee Daniel Crocker, Tim Starling, Erik Möller, Gabriel Wicke, Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason, Niklas Laxström, Domas Mituzas, Rob Church and others.

MediaWiki is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

MediaWiki is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA. or read it online


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SearchWiki from Google is LIVE

SearchWiki is Google 2.0

just started rolling out around the world today, so now you can log in to Google Search and when you see search results pages you don’t like – you can edit them.

Vote individual results up or remove them, share your edits and see others’ edits for the same page.

Is SearchWiki a Wiki?

Not really.

How will this affect the standard Google search results over time? Nobody knows.

here’s a video from Google that shows how SearchWiki works, but as yet it’s still a little unclear as to how the sharing of edited Search Wiki pages will happen.

How to use Google Search Wiki

SearchWiki is simple enough not to warrant a screencast tutorial probably, but here’s a link to the Help page How to use Google Search Wiki

How to switch SearchWiki off

You might not want to see buttons and clutter in your search results so how can you use Google search without the new functionality and revert back to the plain vanilla version? Well one way is to log out from your Google account, but you find you have to log back in again whenever you want to use one of Google’s other useful web applicatios such as Gmail or Analytics.

There is a Greasemonkey script at how-to-disable-google-searchwiki which will give you the appearance of being logged out even when you are logged in, if you think that’s a good idea.

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Learning by Doing – interview part 5

Continuing the interview with Cormac Lawler, in which we begin to address the nature of “learning by doing” as it relates to distributed projects, and wiki in particular.

Cormac Lawler:

About changing of groups’ structure over time, I think my own domain (Wikiversity) is showing an increasingly strong tension along the lines of making Wikiversity a place of ‘blue-sky’ or experimental learning versus an alignment to known pedagogical forms. See Wikiversity_talk:Learning_resources#the_wiki_way.3F and below for some discursive material on this topic. It’s perhaps not an example of a change of guard as such (and the debate within Wikiversity’s development is not new), but I’m starting to see the tension as a pretty fundamental one for Wikiversity.

Andy Roberts asks:

Reading that discussion again on the Wikiversity page, it strikes me that both sides of the tension referred to are in fact agreed upon working within the same framework. The dispute, if I’m not mistaken is over the nature and quality of the learning resources which are to be accumulated in the Wikiversity. Neither side appears to be questioning the basic model of education based on learning from supplied content. The references to ‘experimental’ forms seem to remain within experimental forms of content provision, without questioning that preconception. Despite the claim that

“Wikiversity has adopted a “learn by doing” model for education”

the doing appears to consist entirely of editing pages to create more resources.
Do you think a bias towards conventional content based learning is built in to the wiki way?


It’s a fascinating question – and I think you’re right that it is to a large extent. However – and this is more on the basis of knowing the involved people, rather than on what is on the page I linked to previously – I think that there has always been a strong desire to take a broad look at educational activity, and what role a wiki can play in that process. For example, some of the “content” produced on a wiki can be a record of a discussion where someone asks a question, and people respond with answers, suggestions, and/or questions of their own. Some of the content on Wikiversity has been explicitly initiated and developed as a debate – eg I don’t know if that conforms to your view of conventional content creation?

However, this “learning by doing” is a tricky concept – and I’ve been
pushing JWSchmidt, the originator of this concept in Wikiversity, to be more
explicit in explaining to me and the community what he thinks it might mean
in practice – and in detail. So far, I’ve found the concept as applied to
Wikiversity to be infuriatingly opaque – and I can see that others do too.
It’s something that I’ve always wanted to clarify on Wikiversity – what do
we mean by learning by doing, how can someone be guided through or motivated
to begin in such a model, and what kinds of educational experiences can we
anticipate, so as to scaffold learners if, whenever, and however


How might other learning processes be facilitated through Wikiversity? I’m thinking of the newer emerging learning models such as connectivism, which would place the emphasis on the network between people and the community above content. This might require additional tools to the document based wiki, but needn’t be entirely separate.


I agree – and we’ve been discussing tools to facilitate just such initiatives on a centralised page: Wikiversity:Technical_needs including the SocialProfile extension We already have a ‘sandbox server’ to experiment with different tools – but to actually get extensions and other innovations approved on a relatively small Wikimedia wiki is difficult when in the shadow of Wikipedia. However, with community mobilisation, and more developers’ resources at our disposal (a software developer hiring was just announced yesterday, and there may very well be more) – we should continue to build on the mediawiki platform to see what it can offer in the world of connected, collaborative learning.

I see we’ve forked into a discussion of Wikiversity – and it’s very welcome! – but I also very much wanted this discussion to focus on action research and issues that we’ve both experienced in an online AR context. I think I’ll leave this to my next mail. 😉


Earlier posts in this series:

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about Wiki on the DARnet Blog