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Technical review of Mahara


Melissa Newman's profile picture
Posts: 112

14 September 2011, 12:35 PM

If this is not in the correct forum, I appologize in advance.

I have been using Mahara for about a month now, setting it up for school, and then beginning the school year.  I am a homeschooling parent with 4 children ages 11 (5th grade), 7 (2nd grade), and 6 (1st grade).

Technical stuff:  Running Mahara in a Linux system, Ubuntu, GNOME-Shell, with Mahara installed on a localhost system (not truly on the internet).

Why I looked into Mahara?

I liked the idea of personal portfolios.  MediaWiki, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, etc. are designed for the final work (published work) to be public.  When one is dealing with children, publishing to the public means in reality a preapproved group of users.

Even if a teacher wanted to let a child publish something to the public, it would not truly be public, but a controlled public.  In other words, a guest username and password, so a child could give it to relatives to see their work without having to require each relative to obtain their own username and password.  (feature not currently in Mahara).

Why is Mahara reinventing the wheel?

Mahara is a great product in theory, but it seems like Mahara is reinventing the wheel.   The main issue with other systems is groups, permissions, and authentication.  Instead of a student publishing a page to the public, the student should be able to publish a page to a group of friends.  Allow relationships to be assigned to students.  A student has one or more teachers.  A teachers has one or more students.  A administrator has teachers and students.  A student has one or more parents/guardians, and a parent/guardian has one or more students.

Wouldn't it make more sense to build Mahara Authentication add-ons to the more appropriate applications to meet this deficiency in other appliations, rather than trying to rewrite all of the other opensource applications in Mahara?

Friendly URLs

This is a major deficiency in Mahara.  In Joomla, in the administration page, there is a radio box (rewrite URLs).  Then the user copies a prewritten htaccess file to .htaccess.  Restart the computer, and presto, friendly URLs.  It is unrealistic to expect a student (5th grader) or even an adult, for that matter, to type in the complex URLs of Mahara to access a page.

This is an issue that every internet content application has to deal with, but I will admit, that Joomla's solution to the issue is the best.

Mahara's editor

What is the purpose of adding files to a personal repository of files if the editor does not provide a clear path for accessing those files?  The same is true with the attachments.  Why have a personal file repository is the user does not have a clear path for attaching files from the repository.

Extensions, plugins, etc.

Maybe I am not that familair with Mahara, but it seems as though other products like WordPress, Joomla, MediaWiki, Moodle, etc. provide much easier abilities to add extensions which makes the community more willing to add extensions to the application.

But this leads to another question, if Mahara just made Mahara blogger a WordPress blogger with added authentication (passwords, groups, etc.), then to add extensions, one would just need to add WordPress extensions.

The same is true for the content pages.  If a third party system was choosen as the base (Joomla, drupal, etc.), then the extension system is already written.

Group repository or admin repository

I'm the teacher.  I want to upload a bunch of files for the student to be able to include in their pages.  When I create a page I see "a single image from your file area".  This is not a true description, because I can also include an instiution file or a site file.

I am thinking that there should also be group files to represent a class, but I don't see anything about accessing files from a group.  Atlhough, if we are talking about an educational environment  shouldnt' terminology that is appropriate for an educational environment be used (classes, grade level, department, etc.)  That way a student can choose images of their own, from their friends, from their class, from their grade level, from their school.

Blogs

Students need blogs.  It makes it very easy for a teacher to just say, write a paragraph or two about such and such topic.  Blog entry is the easy tool to use.  So in this area, Mahara is fine.

I personally have never used a blog outside of Mahara, so I cannot compare Mahara's blogging to WordPress.  Although, except for the tags belong a blog entry, I don't see any way to include tags on the right side, as WordPress does.

Content Pages

I will admit, I do like the drag and drog feature or adding major sections to a page.  The adding of a group of images by simply selecting a directory and telling the software to dispay the images as thumbnails or a slideshow is very nice.  That is a great feature that I have not seen in other applications.

But the edit problem that exists with the blogger still exits with text pages, a user cannot easily access their images to include them in a text box.  I expect students to add text with their images to describe the image and why it was included.

The same is true with video and sound files.  It is easy to add them as a separate item, but not as part of a text group.

Connecting pages together

With the exception of a raw HTML link, there is no easy way to link to one page from another page.  For example, with Wikidia, if I wanted to easy link from a page about the American Revolution to a page about Thomas Jefferson, I just simply type [[Thomas Jefferson]] and the link is done.

Linking one page in another page

Education is the accumalation of knowledge.  A lifetime of education (a personal portfolio over a long period of time -- 12 years of formal education) is knowledge built upon knowledge.  Knowledge does not exist in a vaccum of a single page or single topic.  Topics have sub-topics.  Topics have parent topics.  Topics have sibling topics, as well as distant cousins.

The best example on the web for this type of setup is MediaWiki (Wikipedia).

The templating feature in MediaWiki and the already created templates of Wikipedia -- it does not exist in Mahara.  But it should exist in Mahara, because a personal portfolio is a personal Wikipedia.

Why create a page in Mahara if not to share knowledge either with one's future self or somebody else.  Yes, a student will create personal pages that do not go under the definition of an Encyclopedia.  This could be "Jonny's Grade 1 page" or "The personal journal of Harry Potter".

Summary

I don't intend to imply that Mahara is not a great product.  It is a great product, and I know that the developers have put a lot of work into it.

But from my perspective, it is time for the Mahara team to take a step back and take inventory.  What is great about Mahara that does not exist any place else.  What parts of Mahara are just repeats of other great products?  Does Mahara really need to repeat those products or does Mahara simply need to rewite the authentication parts, and combine everything together into one installation.

Money

As with everything, time is money and money is time.  Maybe copy the Calvert Education Model -- sell ATS services (assisted teaching services) -- for a fee per year, the teacher is assign a mentor (whatever else you want to call it) who is available to personally answer their questions, provide help, direction, etc.

Another option would be sell Mahara pre-installed on a netbook in a localhost environment.  Converting a Netbook over to Linux and installing all of the appropriate software to run Mahara is not easy.  But it would have to be a Mahara system that does not have any issues, and there would need to be a way to synch a student's personal Mahara with a teacher's or school's Mahara version.

End

Although I like the easy drag and drop of Mahara, I am still unsure if I will use Mahara in the long run.  If Maraha does not have a clear path for handles thousands of pages (a lot of knowledge accumulated over a lifetime of learning), I am not sure if this will be our final solution for a personal portfolio.

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3400

14 September 2011, 3:24 PM

Hello Melissa,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write such an extensive feedback. I'll answer a little later in more depth.

Cheers

Kristina

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3400

15 September 2011, 5:50 AM

Hello Melissa,

The day flew by and a little later is now much later... Thank you once again for your extensive feedback. Below are some comments and questions for you. Smile

Viewing a portfolio without having an account

You write: "In other words, a guest username and password, so a child could give it to relatives to see their work without having to require each relative to obtain their own username and password.  (feature not currently in Mahara)."

You can give a page or a collection a secret URL which will allow a person who does not have a login to view the portfolio. They could also leave comments if that is enabled. You can find the secret URL in Mahara 1.4 on the "Share" tab to the right of the regular "Edit Access" buttons.

Permissions

"Instead of a student publishing a page to the public, the student should be able to publish a page to a group of friends. Allow relationships to be assigned to students.  A student has one or more teachers.  A teachers has one or more students.  A administrator has teachers and students.  A student has one or more parents/guardians, and a parent/guardian has one or more students."

You can do that. Smile If you have friends on Mahara, you ca easily share a portfolio page or collection with them by just clicking on the "Friends" button. Also if you are a member of one or more groups, you can share with only them. Depending on the group type, you may also only be able to share with an admin or a tutor but not every fellow student.

This capability is being expanded in the LMS-MyPortfolio Interoperability Project financed by the Ministry of Education here in New Zealand (MyPortfolio runs on Mahara and the development work is made available to the Mahara community). Piers wrote a good forum post about that at http://mahara.org/interaction/forum/topic.php?id=3985#post17734

Friendly URLs

I've heard a couple of people mention those. It would be great to have them. However, you don't have to type in a URL to get to a portfolio. You can see all recent pages that you have access to on the Dashboard and then also under Groups -> Shared Pages.

Extension, plugins etc.

I think we have to keep in mind that the development of Mahara started in 2006 when other web applications were in their infancy and their growth could not be predicted. I was not involved in the project at the beginning and thus could only make assumptions but do not have insight into the decisions that were made. Piggybacking on another application could have backfired. Who would have imagined that you can now do (almost) everything under the sun and the moon in WordPress though it wasn't built as CMS?

What do you mean by "it seems as though other products like WordPress, Joomla, MediaWiki, Moodle, etc. provide much easier abilities to add extensions which makes the community more willing to add extensions to the application"? Do you mean in terms of documentation? Visibility?

True, Mahara does not have 50+ plugins that are contributed to the community, but there are developers who are actively working on creating more. Gregor Anželj is one of the most active plugin developers, but also Geoff Rowland created a bunch.

What I like about the Mahara plugin development is that we usually get to see the plugins hot off the console and everybody is invited to test the alpha or beta version (watching Twitter can be helpful there because announcement often come through there first).

Thank you for offering to set up a theme / plugin repository in a Joomla install. This will help with their organization as the wiki is not the best place for them.

Terminology

This is a tricky one. Mahara was originally developed for the tertiary educational sector (university / college) but has seen a good uptake also in the school sector. Catering to such a large audience brings language and terminology problems with it not even to speak about regional differences in terminology in even the same language. You are welcome to adjust the language file with the terms that you wnat to use.

Please also do not hesitate to submit changes for obvious logical language errors to be included in core Mahara.

Images and text editor

Do you know of an open source text editor that handles images well?

Connecting pages

Yes, you would need the URL of a page to link to it directly. However, you can set up a collection for pages that fall under one topic. Putting links to other pages in a page can become tricky if the learner does not make all these pages accessible to the same pool of people.

Mahara on a netbook

That is an interesting idea. Why would you install Mahara on a netbook instead of using it from a server? Do you want to have one installation for one student or do you want to prevent online access? Or do you want it to be accessible also when the student is offline? I would like to learn more about the scenario you are proposing as I have not had the chance to see something like that in action. Do you use Mahara in that way with your children?

I see the benefit of Mahara in its being a web application which allows a user to connect with other users not just in the way of getting feedback on their portfolio pages, but also for connecting and working collaboratively in groups where they are able to share their opinions, discuss topics etc.

A learner can start out with his portfolio at school and then move it to another Mahara instance via the Leap2A export functionality.

Handling thousands of pages

Am I correct in assuming that you mean the organization of the pages? From the technological side, Mahara can handle thousands of pages. On a user's side their are some aids already available that can make the finding of pages and also artefacts easier: Tags and the possibility to group pages into collections. A search could also be implemented to find pages more easily.

 

There are definitely many areas where Mahara can be improved, and it would be fantastic to tackle them in the community.

Cheers

Kristina

Melissa Newman's profile picture
Posts: 112

15 September 2011, 7:32 PM

Kristina,

Thank you for your reply.  I will try to answer your questions.

Viewing a portfolio without having an account

Did not know that.  Thanks.

Friendly URLs

I've heard a couple of people mention those. It would be great to have them. However, you don't have to type in a URL to get to a portfolio. You can see all recent pages that you have access to on the Dashboard and then also under Groups -> Shared Pages.

Although you can access a page through the actual URL, when a person is trying to link to a bunch of pages, it makes things more complicated.  Having friendly URLs is related to the interlinking of pages, although it is not a requirement.  See how MediaWiki links to different pages as an example.

Extension, plugins etc.

I think we have to keep in mind that the development of Mahara started in 2006 when other web applications were in their infancy and their growth could not be predicted. I was not involved in the project at the beginning and thus could only make assumptions but do not have insight into the decisions that were made. Piggybacking on another application could have backfired. Who would have imagined that you can now do (almost) everything under the sun and the moon in WordPress though it wasn't built as CMS?

What do you mean by "it seems as though other products like WordPress, Joomla, MediaWiki, Moodle, etc. provide much easier abilities to add extensions which makes the community more willing to add extensions to the application"? Do you mean in terms of documentation? Visibility?

I am most familiar with MediaWiki, so I will use that as an example to explain things.  For every major functionality that can be done, there is a "hook" before and after the operation.  A plugin can simply say "Hey, MediaWiki, I have hook, please call me before moving on."

When a user selects the edit key the following hooks are available:

* Before displaying the contents to be edited

* After displaying the contents to be edited

* Before saving

* After saving

* Before displaying formatted text

* After displaying formatted text.

Because every action has a before book and an after hook it makes it very easy to add a plugin.  It is even possible to completely replace the MediaWiki editor with a completly different editor.  Joomla does this, and then in the user settings, the user can choose which editor they want as their default editor.

MediaWiki has the ability for the user to add custom buttons to the standard editor in MediWiki.

Terminology

Maybe copy the format for Moodle where for each class the terminology can be changed to reflect local custom.

Teacher, parent, Grade Level (major), etc.

This one is not a make or break one.  It was just me thinking out loud.  Including the files and the friendly URLs are make or break issues though.

Images and text editor

Do you know of an open source text editor that handles images well?

Uh, let me see .... Mahara as a whole item.  The drag and drop that Mahara has created is fantasic.  Why can't a button be added to the existing text editor to handle that functionality, but instead of adding it as a whole section that takes up the whole column, it just gets placed as a div (sidenote) on a textbox.  Once that functionality is created, then anything that can logically be a sidenote in a textbox can be added (videos, sound files, etc.)

Maybe the implementation is simpler than we think.  Instead of opening a sub-window on top of the main article window, the user has the option for the sub-item to become an "article".  Although it would not be an actual whole article.  It is just a sub-view of an article.  This would be similair to virtual views of tables in MySql. 

This approach would solve two issues.  One would be the image issue I am talking about.  The second issue is the complex formatting of pages that I saw in a different thread.  By taking this approach, the possabilitites of formatting pages becomes endless.  Each item is a <div> and you can have <div>s within <div>s.  This can also solve the issues of linear formatting of pages for screen readers and iPads.  Atlhough instead of just automatically saying each part is a div, the user can be given the choice of <article>, <sidenote>, <nav>, etc.  to comply with HTML5.

Connecting pages

I understand a collection of pages.  An example of that would be all of the pages that a 5th grader creates over the 2011 - 2012 school year.  That is a collection, but that is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about Wikipedia, but a student's personal version that they create.  Knowledge built upon knowledge; year after year; over a lifetime.

Since I am envisioning an electronic protfolio as being a personal Wikipedia over a long period of time, I am naturally comparing Mahara to what I can do in Wikipedia.  So that leads to a basic question.  Why is it so easy to link from one page to another in Wikipedia [[my new page]], but so difficult to accomplish the same task in Mahara.  If Mahara had hooks, there could be a MediaWiki hook where a person can say "process this page as though it is a MediaWiki page.  Or they could replace Mahara's editor with something that they like better. 

Part of the problem is that article ID numbers are used to display titles instead of the actual title of the article or an abreviated version of it.  This is a core functionality of MediaWiki and Joomla.

As for the permissions, if a main page is viewable, but a child is not, and somebody clicks on the link to the child, the child page is not displayed.  Each page is taken as an entity of its own.  It is page persmission.  Although it leads to the question of if a person gives permission for a collection to be viewable, does that automatically make the individual pages viewable or are they only viewable as a collection?  There are also issues with Cache and the clearing of caches.  MediaWiki talks about that when they discuss page level permissions. 

All of the permutations need to be written out and either somebody from the Mahara team needs to make a decision about this, or else make it admin (teacher) settings.  In an educational environment involving small children, it is best to leave the final decisions to the teacher, school administrator, and parent ... just implement the most logical ones as the default.

Mahara on a netbook

That is an interesting idea. Why would you install Mahara on a netbook instead of using it from a server? Do you want to have one installation for one student or do you want to prevent online access? Or do you want it to be accessible also when the student is offline? I would like to learn more about the scenario you are proposing as I have not had the chance to see something like that in action. Do you use Mahara in that way with your children?

I am homeschooling three children.  I installed Mahara on each of their netbooks and on my own Netbook.  I did this, because I did not want them to be bound by the internet.  "The internet connection is down.  I can't do my homework."  Sorry, it is localhost, try again.

Safety for the children is a main concern.  In terms of my children, I am internet paranoid.  Parental controls don't work.  What is even worse is websites that say they have parental controls, and the parental controls don't work.  The only way to completely protect the children is to separate them from the internet.  I know that I cannot do that their whole life, but at this young age ... I try my best. 

With three children, I can manage things.  I can physically walk over to my son's computer, tell him to show me his work, and then grade it.  But a with a teacher with 30 students per class and 5 classes, that is not feasible.  That is why Mahara needs to have the ability to easily email a page to a teacher.  Obviously to email, there needs to be internet connections or the ability to save a file to a USB drive.

When a student says "email this page (and its supporting pages)", the program exports the page (similair to MediaWiki's export and export with templates), and then when the teacher recieves the email, she can then import the page into her version of Mahara or just simply view it as a straight HTML file or PHP file.

I see the benefit of Mahara in its being a web application which allows a user to connect with other users not just in the way of getting feedback on their portfolio pages, but also for connecting and working collaboratively in groups where they are able to share their opinions, discuss topics etc.

That is a benefit.  I will not deny that.  Forums are community interaction.  Chats are community interaction.  Comments are communtiy interaction.  Wikis are community interaction. 

The following are individual, but could involve community interaction:  Blogs, pages, collections.  Wikis can be individual or community.  An individual can create a wiki to maintain history, but be the only editor.  Community means that there are a bunch of editors.

A learner can start out with his portfolio at school and then move it to another Mahara instance via the Leap2A export functionality.

I think that this goes back to why a person is creating an electronic portfolio and what they intend to do with it / get out of it.

If a person is using an electronic portfolio as a "school project", then it makes sense for its to be associated with a school.  When a person leaves school, they leave Mahara.  It would be the same as a student throwing away their notebooks at the end of the school year or burning them in a big bomb fire.  They have no relationship to the material in Mahara outside of a school environment, because it is not theirs.

As I stated before, my vision of an electronic portfolio is a personized Wikipedia that a student will keep with them for the rest of their life.  It is not something that is intended to get erased at the end of the school.  It is intended to be the foundation for their whole life of learning.  Something to be built upon year after year starting in 1st grade with their first animal report that will consist of 90% images, video, and sound and 10% text to college and beyond, where one would hope that the articles are long, involved, and enrich with content that the student is proud of.

As for sharing, in the elementary school environment (in an electronic way), I would envision that teacher saying "We are doing state reports".  She assigns each student two states.  Each student hands in their report by exporting the file and emailing it to the teacher.  Then after the teacher grades the invidual reports, she can zip them together, email them to each student, and then each student can import them into their own individual Mahara.  The end result is that each student now has state reports for all 50 states.  Knowledge building upon knowledge.   Collectively working to, as a group, obtain knowledge.

Leap2A

I just did a review of the Leap2A specification:

http://www.leapspecs.org/2A/core-specification

Isn't Leap2A more for a Professional College Professor's portfolio that would have published work, collaborators, etc.  Also, has anybody created a direct relationship table between the Leap2A specification and Mahara?  Is everything in the specification able to be entered in some form in Mahara.  For example, I do not remember seeing anything about article summaries in Mahara.

As for the actual content (bulk of an individual article), that is not what the Leap2A specification is about.  The Leap2A specification is about everything else in Mahara .. which is very important for a professional adult, but not very useful to a 5th grader.

So what that means is that if the Mahara team is basing their software on the Leap2A specification, and that specification includes nothing about the details of an individual article or relationship of articles or including articles within articles, than a whole area of Mahara functionality is obviously missing -- the inter-relationship of pages, how to define them, how to store them, how to export them, and how to import them.

Handling thousands of pages

Am I correct in assuming that you mean the organization of the pages? From the technological side, Mahara can handle thousands of pages. On a user's side their are some aids already available that can make the finding of pages and also artefacts easier: Tags and the possibility to group pages into collections. A search could also be implemented to find pages more easily.

I thinking of the individual.  As stated above, my vision of an electronic protfolio is a personal Wikipedia in a which a student builds knowledge over a lifetime -- I mean literally a lifetime from 1st grade through college to adulthood.

Think about it this way.  They tell us that we forget 90% of the knowledge that we learn in school.  Why?  The students throw away their tests, papers, and notebook when a class is done.  They don't take ownership with the knowledge.

But what if instead of having students write assignments on paper, the teacher has them write an article.  What about questions on a test?  Couldn't every question on a test theoretically be a major header on an article?  What about daily homework in history and science?  Why answer them on a blank piece of paper that is thrown away?  Why can't it be the major outline of an article or the obtaining of details for an article?

When you think about it that way, how many articles is that: daily assignments, reports, test, oral presentations recorded as videos.  Now times that by a whole lifetime of education.  1st through 4th will not be many articles.  But starting in 5th grade going through college.  10 years * 36 academic weeks in a year * 2 subjects (science and history) ... that equals 720 ... but in reality that I would expect several thousand articles by the time a student reaches adulthood.  Some may be large, and some may be small, but there will be a lot.

Professional Portfolio

I understand that a professional portfolio is going to be different than what I am envisioning.  In a professional portfolio, a person would want no more than 20 items, because a person would just want to show a sample of what they do ... not anything and everything that a person has ever done in their life.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

Melissa

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3400

16 September 2011, 7:34 PM

Hello Melissa,

Thank you for your comments and further thoughts. I am not able to give you answers to all your questions because they go beyond my technical knowledge. As far as I know, Mahara does have hooks though most likely not in all the places that MediaWiki has because Mahara is not MediaWiki.

Therefore, it should be possible for you to take out the TinyMCE editor and bring in a different editor or not use an HTML editor at all (that is already possible through the admin interface and each user can also decide not to use the HTML editor).

We do not have the Moodle language string localizer functionality, but we recently made .PO files available which are easier to translate via a translation tool. So though not as easy as staying right within the software, you can still change the strings and then put your new language files in place.

The current implementation of collection is not true multi-page views, but a start (funded by Birmingham City University). All pages within a collection have the same permission rights. Thus, if you have the link to a page in a collection, you have access to the entire collection. As a page can only be in one collection, re-using a page in another collection is not possible. Recently, being able to copy an entire collection to quickly re-arrange, add onto and take out pages has been added for Mahara 1.5 with funding from Rocky View Schools in Alberta, Canada. We'd love to continue expanding the functionality to organize pages into bigger entities easily.

Thanks for your thinking behind the use of Mahara on each student's computer locally. Would it be a possibility - at least in your homeschooling context - to give you, the teacher, an account on each child's Mahara instance so that you can give them feedback on their pages right there without the need to export the portfolio and import it back into another one?

Every page - and since Mahara 1.4 also most artefact types - can receive feedback and comments. You could comment directly on these pages. If you use a course controlled group, the child could submit his page to that group and would not be able to make changes while you are giving feedback. Granted, once you release the page, he can make changes again. We do not have the possibility to archive assessed pages, but that is a feature that would bev ery useful in the future.

We use Lep2A primarily for importing and exporting portfolios. All content from Mahara is exported and can be imported into another Mahara instance to be set up the same way. It can also be imported into another portfolio software that is Leap2A compliant, but that does not mean that all things fall into the right places because each software works differently and may not offer the same functionalities as the other software.

Cheers

Kristina

François Marier's profile picture
Posts: 411

15 September 2011, 7:56 PM

There is a bug open for making it easy to pick your own images inside the HTML editor:

  https://bugs.launchpad.net/mahara/+bug/836382

Please add your thoughts to the bug report if you have any ideas on how that should be done.

Cheers,

Francois

Melissa Newman's profile picture
Posts: 112

15 September 2011, 8:55 PM

About creating a local Mahara:

Here is a link that talks about working portfolios and showcase / presentation portfolios. 

http://www.ehow.com/how_4895530_make-educational-portfolio.html

The working one would be the one on a localhost, and the presentation one could either be another part of Mahara or uploaded to an online version (especially if one is expecting other people to view it).

Melissa

Melissa Newman's profile picture
Posts: 112

16 September 2011, 6:37 AM

I think that it would be best to include a link to this discussion on the bug, because my solution is going to become more of a module than just a bug fix.

Melissa Newman's profile picture
Posts: 112

16 September 2011, 6:55 AM

Mediawiki formatting and other text formatting.

In order to make the creating of articles more flexible, Mahara should be able to recognize different formatting options.

* libmediapai (Library module to access through another program MediaWiki articles).  This would enable the easy integration of MediaWiki into Mahara.  This would allow all of the advantages of MediaWiki to be included in Mahara.

* libtext-mediawiki-perl Wikipedia and its sister projects use the PHP Mediawiki to format
their pages. Text::MediawikiFormat attempts to duplicate the Mediawiki
formatting rules. Those formatting rules can be simple and easy to use, while
providing more advanced options for the power user. They are also easy to
translate into other, more complicated markup languages with this module. It
creates HTML by default, but could produce valid POD, DocBook, XML, or any
other format imaginable.

* libparse-mediawiki-perl Parse MediaWiki dumps Don't know if this will be useful in the Mahara proejct, but I thought it would be useful to post.

* gforge-plugin-mediawiki Plugin to allow mediameki to be embedded in a tab in Gforge.  Maybe be good for a developer to see how this is done to possibly implement a similar method in Mahara.

* Libreoffice-wiki-publisher Again, another example of how to write article in Libreoffice, but then publish them to Mediawiki.  Use as an example.

* wikipediafs - Treat MediaWiki files as though they are just regular fils on a file manager.  Great in theory, but it does not seem to currently work.

* php-text-wiki This is the main one to implement in Mahara: This is the base engine for all of the Text_Wiki sub-classes.
 The text transformation is done in 2 steps.
The chosen parser uses markup rules to tokenize the tags and content.
Renderers output the tokens and text into the requested format.
The tokenized form replaces the tags by a protected byte value
associated to an index in an options table. This form shares up to 50
rules by all parsers and renderers.
The package is intented for versatile transformers as well as
converters.
Text_Wiki is delivered with its own parser, which is used by Yawiki
or Horde's Wicked and three basic renderers: XHTML, LaTeX and plain
text.
Strong sanitizing of XHTML is default.
Parsers (* and Renderers) exist for BBCode, Cowiki (*), Dokuwiki (*),
Mediawiki and Tikiwiki (*).
It is highly configurable and can be easily extended.

gitit - Another module to convert from one Wiki format to another.

pandoc - Another example to convert from one Wiki format to another.

 

Melissa Newman's profile picture
Posts: 112

16 September 2011, 7:26 AM

Working portfolio vs. Presentation portfolio

Right now, it seems that Mahara is focusing more on the needs of a presentation portfolio.  That means that the needs of working portfolio is missing from the project.

Including images into an article

  • Where can images be obtained from?
    • From a URL
    • From a File Repository
    • From a local file system
  • From a URL, details
    • Link to an image from a URL
    • copy the image to the File repository and then link to the image
  • From a local filesystem
    • Link to a file on the filesystem (assume a client installation)
    • Copy the file to the file repository and then link to the image

This is some text so things work correctly.

File repository

When a file is uploaded, the items name, description, and tag should be viewable and edited during the upload process.  But there should also be a method to add the appropriate bibliography information.  For example, in my son's report, he scanned an image from a book (allowable for fair use laws).  But he should, theoretically, included the name of the book, author of the book, publisher, date, ISBN, page number, and if possible, the name of the person who took or drew the image.  Maybe also include an area to put the text that one normally go below the displayed image.

Second, it is not clear where the images are stored.  Are they stored in the database or the file system.  Maybe include the option to indicate a directory to store the images.  For example, user "melissa" who has a directory /usr/melissa, the user could say, store my images in "/usr/melissa/Images/Mahara-images/"  Then adding images to a repository is as easy as copying the images to the directory.  Inlcude a function to "sync with filesystem" to include the appropriate database information.

One downside is file history. -- although file history does not exist in Mahara.

Page history

Okay, how does one have a database with no ability to do file and page history?  That is a major feature of Mahara that is missing.

Mahara compared to Microsoft OneNote

There are two parts to creating a page.  One part is the final presentation of the finished page.  The second part (or the first part) is the research that is done prior to creating a page.  That would be the gathering of information.  Gathing of images, sound files, and videos.  These could be physically copying the items to a file repository while at other times it just might be gathering links.  At the beginning phase, it might be links, because a majority of them will not be included in the final article.  Then later it will be copying the images that will be used in the final article.

What about text?  Links to other web pages that will be used.  Sometimes it will be copying small segments of text.  One nice feature of Microsoft OneNote is the easy ability to copy items from different web pages and then Microsoft One Note adds information about where the copied text came from.

Melissa

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