Thoughts on Wikity for WordPress

I spun up a new instance of Wikity today at http://wikity.chrisaldrich.net/ to test it out for potential use as a personal online wiki. My goal was also to test out how it may or may not work with IndieWeb-based WordPress pieces too.

Below are my initial thoughts and problems.

The /home/ page has a lot of errors and warnings. (Never a good sign.)

It took me a few minutes to figure out where the Wik-it! bookmarklet button was hiding. Ideally it would have been in the start card that described how the bookmarklet would work (in addition to its original spot).

The Wikity theme seems to have some issues when using for http vs. https.

  • Less seems to work out of the box with https
  • The main card for entering “Name of Concept or Data” didn’t work at all under https. It only showed the title and wouldn’t save. Switching to http seemed to fix it and show the editor bar.

I’ve tried copying over from Aaron DavisWikity instance, but the cardbox seems to fail on my end.

  • Nothing seemed to work at all when I had my site as https. In fact, it redirected to a URL that seemed like it wanted to run update.php for some bizarre reason.
  • On http I at least get a card saying that the process failed.
    • Not sure what may be causing this.
    • Doesn’t seem to matter how many cards it is.
    • Perhaps it’s the fact that Aaron’s site is https? I notice that his checkbox export functionality duplicates his entire URL including the https:// within the export box which seems to automatically prepend http://
    • Copying to my own wiki seems to vaguely work using http, but failed on https.

Multiple * in the markdown editor functionality within WordPress doesn’t seem to format the way I’d expect.

Sadly, the original Wikity.cc site is down, but the theme still includes a link to it front and center on my website.

The home screen quick new card has some wonky CSS that off centers it.

Toggling full screen editing mode in new cards from the home screen makes them too big and obscures the UI making things unusable.

The primary multi-card home display doesn’t work well with markup the way the individual posts do.

The custom theme seems to be hiding some of the IndieWeb pieces. It may also be hampering the issuance of webmention as I tried sending one to myself and it only showed up as a pingback. It didn’t feel worth the effort to give the system a full IndieWeb test drive beyond this.

Doing this set up as a theme and leveraging posts seems like a very odd choice. From my reading, Mike Caulfield was relatively new to WordPress development when he made this. Even if he was an intermediate developer, he should be proud of his effort, including his attention to some minute bits of UI that others wouldn’t have considered. To make this a more ubiquitous solution, it may have been a better choice to create it as a plugin, do a custom post type for wiki cards and create a separate section of the database for them instead of trying to leverage posts. This way it could have been installed on any pre-existing WordPress install and the user could choose their own favorite theme and still have a wiki built into it. In this incarnation it’s really only meant to be installed on a fresh stand-alone site.

I only used the Classic Editor and didn’t even open up the Gutenberg box of worms in any of my tests.

Summary

The Wikity theme hasn’t been maintained in four years and it looks like it’s going to take quite a bit of work (or a complete refactoring) to make it operate the way I’d want it to. Given the general conceptualization it may make much more sense to try to find a better maintained solution for a wiki.

The overarching idea of what he was trying to accomplish, particularly within the education space and the OER space, was awesome. I would love nothing more than to have wiki-like functionality built into my personal WordPress website, particularly if I could have different presentations for the two sides but still maintain public/private versions of pieces and still have site-wide tagging and search. Having the ability to port data from site to site is a particularly awesome idea.

Is anyone actively still using it? I’d love to hear others’ thoughts about problems/issues they’ve seen. Is it still working for you as expected? Is it worth upgrading the broken bits? Is it worth refactoring into a standalone plugin?

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Webmentions with WordPress for Open Pedagogy

Webmentions with WordPress for Open Pedagogy
Abstract: With growing support for the W3C Webmention spec, teachers can post assignments on their own websites & students can use their sites to respond and interact. Entire classes can have open discussions from site-to-site owning all their data and eschewing corporate surveillance capitalism.

Missed my presentation for PressEdConf20 on Twitter earlier and want to read it all bundled up instead? The “article” version appears blow. You can also enjoy the Twitter moment version if you like. 


ONE

Chris Aldrich
Chris Aldrich

Hello everyone! My name is Chris Aldrich. I’m an independent researcher in a variety of areas including the overlap the internet and education. You can find more about me on my website https://boffosocko.com

Today I’ll be talking about Webmentions for open pedagogy. 


TWO

For a variety of reasons (including lack of budget, time, support, and other resources) many educators have been using corporate tools from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and others for their ease-of-use as well as for a range of functionality that hadn’t previously existed in the blogosphere or open source software that many educators use or prefer.

This leaves us and our students open to the vagaries and abuses that those platforms continually allow including an unhealthy dose of surveillance capitalism.

Wall of security cameras looking down at two women
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

THREE

In the intervening years since the blogosphere and the rise of corporate social media, enthusiasts, technologists and open source advocates have continued iterating on web standards and open protocols, so that now there are a handful of web standards that work across a variety of domains, servers, platforms, allowing educators to use smaller building blocks to build and enable the functionalities we need for building, maintaining, and most importantly owning our online courseware.


FOUR

Some of these new W3C specs include Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, IndieAuth, and Microsub. Today I’ll talk abut Webmentions which are simply site-to-site @mentions or notifications which don’t involve corporate social media silos.

For those who’d like more information about Webmentions and how they could be used, I’ve written a primer for A List Apart entitled Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet.

Cartoon of baseball player hitting a ball with a bat to a waiting player with a tennis raquet
Illustration by Dougal MacPherson
Image courtesy of A List Apart

FIVE

Many common content management systems support Webmention either out of the box or with plugins including: our friend WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, and many others.

Webmention rocks logo
Webmention rocks

SIX

WordPress can use this new standard with the Webmention plugin. (Surprise!) I also highly recommend the Semantic Linkbacks plugin which upgrades the presentation of these notifications (like Trackback, Pingback, or Webmention) to more user-friendly display so they appear in comments sections much like they do in corporate social media as commentsrepostslikes, and favorites, detected using microformats2 markup from the source of the linkback.


SEVEN

Another plugin I love is Post Kinds Plugin (Classic editor only at present) which automatically parses URLs I want to reply to, like, bookmark, etc. and saves the reply context to my website which helps prevent context collapse. My commentary and notes then appear below it.

(I also use a plugin that saves the content of URLs on my site to the Internet Archive, so I can reference them there later if necessary.)

Example of a reply context with author name, image, title, and short synopsis


EIGHT

These plugins with WordPress allow teachers to post course content and students can then post their responses on their own sites and send notifications that they’ve read, listened to, or watched that content along with their ideas and commentary.


NINE

Examples of webmentions in a course setting: Greg McVerry and I ran an experiment with Webmentions in a class in 2018. 

Example assignment: https://archive.jgregorymcverry.com/5570-2/

Notice the replies underneath which came from other sites including my response which is mirrored on my site at https://boffosocko.com/2018/08/04/highlighting-some-of-my-favorite-edtech-tools/

Example podcast post for a class: https://archive.jgregorymcverry.com/2toponder-episode-one/

Notice the listen webmention in the comments which links to my listen response at: https://boffosocko.com/2018/08/06/2toponder-episode-one-intertextrevolution/ where I own a copy of the context and my own response. As a student, even if the originals disappear, I’ve got the majority of the important content from the course.


TEN

When the course is over, the student has an archive of their readings, work, and participation (portfolio anyone?) on a site they own. They can choose to leave it public or unpublish it and keep private copies.

[Copies for Facebook, Google+ or Big EdTech Giants? They can ask for them nicely if they want them so desperately instead of taking them surreptitiously.]


ELEVEN

As a concrete example, I now have tagged archives for all the work I’ve done for EDU522 with Greg McVerry who also has his related posts in addition to a variety that he subsequently archived.

Fluffy cat head that moves with the fur underneath it appearing more like rocket exhaustion as the cat "takes off" into the air


TWELVE

By taking the content AND the conversation around it out of the hands of “big social media” and their constant tracking and leaving it with the active participants, we can effect far more ethical EdTech.

Gif of grain silo on a farm collapsing in on itself.

[No more content farming? What will the corporate social media silos do?]


THIRTEEN

Imagine Webmentions being used for referencing journal articles, academic samizdat, or even OER? Suggestions and improvement could accumulate on the original content itself rather than being spread across dozens of social silos on the web.

gif of Kermit the frog sitting on a desk excitedly flailing his arms and legs

[Webmentions + creativity: How might you take their flexibility and use it in your online teaching practices?]


FOURTEEN

There’s current research, coding work, and thinking going on within the IndieWeb community to extend ideas like private webmentions and limiting audience so that this sort of interaction can happen in more secluded online spaces.

I’d welcome everyone who’s interested to join in the effort. Feel free to inquire at an upcoming IndieWebCamp, Homebrew Website Club, event, or in online chat right now.

Huge group of diverse attendees at IndieWebSummit 2019 waving


FIFTEEN

I’ve also been able to use my WordPress website to collect posts relating to my participation in conferences like PressEdConf20 or Domains 2019 which included syndicated content to Twitter and the responses from there that have come back to my site using Brid.gy which bootstraps Twitter’s API to send Webmentions back to my website.

If Twitter were to go away, they may take some of my connections, but the content and the conversations will live on in a place under my own control.


Thanks for your time and attention! I’m around on Twitter–or better: my own website!–if you have any questions.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich