Archive for March, 2009

A new logo

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

WikiStudent has gone through several design changes in the past. In the previous two years there were three changes to the logo alone! Here they are:

logos 

At the beginning of 2007 I used a sunflower logo, then I changed it to a South African Sugarbush protea, and finally settled on the Strelitzia.

Though these logos were nice enough, they weren’t quite perfect (and the flower theme doesn’t realy symbolise studying, dont’ you think?) Also, it is about time to come up with a ‘brand’ that people will come to recognise. The new logo must be memorable, and it must never change again!

My new idea for a logo (and I had a professional designer do it for me) is a world globe:

blueglobeI’ll tell you why it’s so fitting. The ‘ws’ part of the domain ‘wikistudent.ws’ stands for ‘world site’, and Unisa students study through correspondance all over the world. Come on, the globe is Perfect!! Notice that it has Africa on the front :-)

This blog is only temporary

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

A while back I decided to keep up this blog, even after the launch of WikiStudent, because there will always be things going on in the background, and this is a good way to get feedback and make it public (so that the same questions don’t get asked over and over again).

I like this interaction I’m having with readers of this blog. More and more I’m getting the feeling that it is going to be a group effort after all. This is reassuring because it is also less likely that I’ll do something “wrong”.

But I still think that having a blog that is separate from the main site will be slightly confusing. A better idea might be to make use of the discussion tabs inherent in MediaWiki. After all, that’s what they’re there for! (Browse to any MediaWiki site and you’ll see a ‘discussion’ tab at the top of each page, along with the ‘edit’ or ‘view source’, and ‘history’.

This is just brilliant from a usability point of view. If you are on a wiki page and want to know why something is done a certain way, or give some or other feedback, all you do is go add you comment to the ‘discussion’ page right there, rather than find the blog and go look up the relevant topic etc etc. What’s also neat is the discussion sections are hidden from your average visitor to the site (who wouldn’t be interested in these discussions anyway), but for members who do want to get more involved, this facility is there.

Requirements and estimates keep changing

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Today I got an email from someone asking me when WikiStudent was going to be finished. I’ve blogged my estimates before, and even gave a due date for the wiki section, but no final completion date has been decided on.

Estimation is hard, especially at the beginning. I found an appropriate quote from a book I’m reading called Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering. Another book. Yes, I’m an academic :-)

Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering

Most software estimates are performed at the beginning of the life cycle. This makes sense until we realize that estimates are obtained before the requirements are defined and thus before the problem is understood. Estimation, therefore, usually occurs at the wrong time.

That is so true! For example, my end of April estimate for the wiki section seemed realistic, but now that I’ve decided to incorporate the entire site into a wiki (and do away with the blog and Xoops CMS) the wiki is going to need more time as it is going to have more functionality than originally planned.

The positive side is, doing it this way will mean that the site will be completed a lot sooner. Only one CMS instead of three!

I want to wait till the next release of MediaWiki, which is due around the end of May, so it definitely will not be before then. I’m even thinking of setting up a test-drive MediaWiki installation this weekend, to let people experiment and see what problems they encounter and use it as a learning experience to build a better final product.

Big decision

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Ok, after hours and hours of research this weekend, I’ve actually decided to scrap Xoops and build the new WikiStudent site exclusively in MediaWiki! I had several reasons for not wanting to do this before. Here are some of the disadvantages:

* I won’t be able to easily capture detailed information about Unisa students, like  module codes, and everyone will have to re-register.

* I won’t be able to integrate custom-coded plugins, like the Unisa second-hand textbook shop & past paper exchange, that I’d planned on writing.

But, I found so many great-looking MediaWiki sites, such as thestudentroom.co.uk, which demonstrate the potential of this great software, and I also think it’s a good move because:

* The Xoops MediaWiki plugin is a bit buggy (you have to use HTML syntax) and is version 1.7.1, while the latest MW is at 1.14.0 by now.

* There will be less confusion if there is only one website. Previously I mentioned my worries about having a blog, a website, and a wiki. Now we’ll just have a wiki.

Today I ordered another wiki book online, simply called MediaWiki. It should arrive in 2 weeks time. I can’t wait to learn more about this wonderful CMS!

Copyright - we need a license

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

During the installation process of MediaWiki, you get to choose a license to protect your content. You don’t have to choose one, but I think it’s important. I mean, imagine having a free wiki with great pages generated by your users, and then someone comes along, copies your content, and tries to sell it!So, we are going to need a license.  Many wikis use the GNU Free Documentation license:
gnu-fdl
The GNU FDL will allow you to copy the content of the wiki, provided you name everyone involved who created the wiki page and that you distribute the information exclusively in connection with the FDL. The license text must be displayed along with the document.

I’m thinking of going for the Creative Commons license,
creative-commons
Using the Creative Commons license will mean that:

You are free to copy, distribute, and display the wiki content, under the following conditions:

  1. Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
  2. Non-Commercial. You may not use the work for commercial purposes.
  3. No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon the work.