creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by [ changó ]

Here I try to try to start trying to… think out loud about part of my project here at Thompson Rivers University as an Open Learning Scholar. One component is to work with Brian Long in help broadening the use of their TRU Wiki platform named “kumu” (I know there is a story there on the name).

On one hand I find myself thinking about trying to take on an understanding of the MediaWiki platform it is built on, which I’ve really not done much since my mid NMC years. But in first chats with Brian, it’s less about diving into the bowels of the machine and more about generating activity/interest there.

What they have already is not the vanilla MediaWiki, but a version with the functionality and structure that worked well at UBC meaning namespaces for the Main wiki (general info), Documentation (a smattering if stuff), and Course related wikis (yikes it’s empty). I am not sure if they have the WikiBooks part set up here.

Public domain images from Wikimedia Commons
Public domain images from Wikimedia Commons

Of course UBC had years of effort and evolution to get to the place they are today… and the key role of a Wiki Gardener.

One of the outcomes of reading and recently talking to Mike Caulfield (besides that I really really do hope to find a reason to experiment with Smallest Federated Wiki, and Mike is a Lonely Advocate). But what comes to me is the mindset that is seeded by the success of the biggest wiki in the universe is the notion of the article or the final published thing as the main goal. Of course these things do grow through a fascinating evolutionary process but the end goal is the polished reference article. If the goal is to add to public knowledge, then the Wikipedia focused projects seem better.

What about the collaborative aspects of wiki as brainstorming? What are the rough idea, development things that can be done in a wiki? Maybe it’s driving towards it as a mixing/making platform that can then push out a final “thing” as a publishing model? e.g. What are ways wikis can be a medium connected piece joined with… what? What are the affordances in doing brainstorming in a wiki rather than the easier solution I often reach for- an open GoogleDoc?

I also am intrigued by the features of Wikimedia Commons, if I understand right, a wiki here could somehow syndicate content into that? Media stuff I am always into. Can we run a Kumu Commons?

I go back to something that influenced me early- the Common Craft example of using a wiki to plan a camping trip.

So I am trying not to think about platform wiki stuff but… heck wiki design pattern stuff.

Like I said, just trying to think about trying to get started thinking about….

The post "WikiThinking" was originally thawed from a previous ice age and melted at CogDogBlog ( on October 27, 2014.


  • Christina Hendricks

    I was thinking about exactly one of these issues today. I have to miss a class for the Open Ed conference in November, and I was trying to figure out a good way to organize asynchronous brainstorming/discussion like we would have done in our very heavily discussion-focused class. I reached for Google Docs as my first thought, but (as you’ll no doubt discover if you haven’t already), asking students to put identifying information on servers in the US is a bit of an issue here in BC (you have to get approval from them in writing, and they can of course say no). So then I wondered about the UBC wiki as a space to do that.

    Not a bad idea, but in my experience some students have a hard time editing wiki pages. I’m not sure why, because the interface allows you to easily format bold, italics, bulleted lists, headings, etc. But somehow it just throws some of them. Especially when you look at the back end, it seems like unfamiliar text formatting. I wonder if we could make the editing page of the wiki look more like its output, like on Gdocs and the visual view of WordPress, it might help?

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog

      That’s been a holy grail for some time, and is not an unreasonable guess. People who are fine with MediaWiki are likely those who love writing at the command line rather than launching an application. That’s a gross generalization, but unless one is in a regular on going practice of Wiki editing, the need to remember formats and such feels like an extra layer to wade through.

      But its more than that, it is seeing the changes as you write, and not much matches the feeling of seeing people work in the same document changing it as you work on it, as “co”-llaborating as one can get.

      On the other hand, I feel like we (collectively) think of this kind of editing as mostly as the kind where N people (10? 20? 50) all try to edit the same document. MediaWiki does provide interesting facilities to work in ways where people might edit just portions of a larger work, and then others can do things to “transclude” the pieces into a whole. This is just one vague idea, but we can try to think of ways of co-editing that vary in the way it is structured or refactored. What if students each worked in portions of an argument, or research, and the activity was to assemble the parts in ways that shows how the overall meaning is shifted by different writings or arguments on the same topic? The beauty is as people updated components, all the places they are included in other documents are immediately updated.

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