I spent 3 weeks in June 2012 in Vancouver (never a bad destination) in large part to learn from the great tech gurus at UBC.

I was reminded of something I did during that experience that somehow never got blogged. It started with a fantastic, impromptu twitter exchange started today by Mike Caulfield


(Too bad Mike is a tweet-deleter. He said something really interesting here.)

In that time I was very interested in the publishing model combination of MediaWiki and WordPress, and more about the success of UBC Wiki as well, and had interviewed several key players there. But the secret weapon, and maybe something I had not seen many other places, was something Brian Lamb had been talking about for years (I have a blog post from 2004 referencing it) — Will Engel — a.k.a. The Wiki Gardener.

Will has an information organizational mindset and tends, prunes, transplants the UBC wiki. he shared much about his role, perspective, and the workings of the UBC Wiki in a 38 minute audio interview I had recorded… but sadly never posted.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Here is is, better late than never blogged…

I might have done some work with MediaWiki when I was at Maricopa, and then cut my teeth on it more in 2007 and 2008 when I set one up for the NMC Horizon Project work (they database seems disconnected; again the Internet Archive saves the day). Before I showed up at NMC, in 2006, they had used a hosted one at MIT, still there.

MediaWiki is powerful, but such large beast to take on, and most installations use about 20% of its capability. I probably did not go much farther, but dug into extensions and even wrote my own for embedding RSS feeds (there are lots of options, the typical MediaWiki issue, lots of options).

The biggest revelation was getting a grasp on transclusion, the ability to include one wiki page content in another (and another). This provides a means of a modular construction, because when the source is updated, all changes are propagated to other pages that include them. Some simple things I recall doing are navigation, footers, (getting fuzzy).

I am now employing that same concept on my Wikispaces sites (that’s another post).

In 2012, I was working on projects at UMW, where we were using the Wiki Embed Plugin that allowed content from a mediawiki to be dynamically published to a wordpress site; same concept– if the wiki changes, the wordpress content changes. We used it moderately in ds106; the wiki is actually more of a document source area where we would compose our syllabi and many of the tips that are part of the ds106 handbook.

This was written up in The Little Wiki Engine That Could.

The larger idea for documentation is that the same content could be put on multiple wordpress sites, so common tasks, like maybe creating WordPress menus, could be written up in the wiki, but included in any course page that needed it. They use it on a larger scale on UMW Blogs.

Anyhow, I learned much about the UBC strategy and architecture from this conversation with Will. Sorry it took so long to post! I might have a few more interviews lingering in the archives.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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