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Wiki Plugin for OpenOffice Idea

September 5th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

I’d like to see the creation of a wiki plugin for OpenOffice.

You install the plugin, which adds a toolbar or palate to OOo on your computer. The toolbar contains specific tools useful for browsing, making, editing and managing wiki pages. Among these tools would be an address bar, such as found in web browsers, a link manager tool, and some others.

Since OOo is a WYSIWYG word processor, the wiki would also be completely WYSIWYG. Unlike other wikis, there is no difference between viewing and editing a page; there’s no need for different modes that are accessed using an �Edit� button.

The pages themselves are stored in an OOo Base database in your home folder and can be shared across a network using the zero-conf (aka “Bonjour”) protocol.

The actual pages are stored in ODF instead of HTML, as used by other wikis. Using ODF gives more precise control over the elements on a page, and formats the pages for printing by default. Thus, it’s easy to take wiki content and print it out for sharing as hardcopy pages.

Using ODF also allows for wiki pages to be created from within Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw�something that has not been done with existing wikis, and which may add new workflows and possibilities to the wiki concept.

A small office or workgroup could make better use of an office suite wiki than an expensive, complex server-based content management system. It will cost less (since it’s free) and be easier for users to understand.

There should be a way to store a wiki on a WebDAV server such as OSAF’s Cosmo or any other.

In some ways, it’s an ad-hoc, lightweight version of the tools being developed by O3 Spaces.

(I’ve made a page to keep track of this idea here: OOo Wiki Extension.)

“OpenDocument is Bringing a Renaissance”

August 18th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Bob Sutor posits that “OpenDocument is bringing a renaissance of document creation and publishing.”

His arguments are quite clearsighted. The office suite has been a fixed product for a long time, when, from the perspective of its users, it should have morphed and mutated to fit dozens or hundreds of different specialized niches. The monolith is a dinosaur, the new mantra should be “smaller, faster, and specialized.”

“I know many of you will be thinking open source here, but the existence of commonly implemented open standards that are beyond a single vendors control means that there will be multiple, competitive implementations. This means better, more usable features, better security (because people will compete on this element), better performance, and lower cost. It is important to remember that ODF is just one example here. Were going to see this repeated over and over again for other standards and in many industries…”

“What will also happen will be the development of high quality SDKs created for ODF and some standard things you want to do with it. For more than thirty years, UNIX users have used a string of filters to process, analyze, reshape, and format information. The binary formats used by WYSIWYG office applications dulled our senses to what we used to know how to do.

All of this will lead to a collapse of the office suite market, but well still see the creation of even more documents that are more widely used and, fundamentally, just more useful.”

Steve Hargadon: Two Open Source Interviews, K12OpenSource, Wikispaces

August 11th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Steve Hargadon interviews educators using open source in South Africa and Indiana (USA) today:

“I started very early in order to be able to catch Hilton Theunissen in South Africa, who has led the tuXlab project to install Linux thin-client in 200 schools. Then late in the day Mike Huffman and Laura Taylor provided insight into the Indiana Affordable Classroom Computers for Every Secondary Student (ACCESS) program.

These are both fascinating interviews, and along with the interview with the folks from Atlanta Public Schools last week, they are confirming a pattern that deserves some real exploration: high-priced, high-maintenance computers have led to relatively little actual student time in front of them (35 minutes a week per student in the case of Indiana, at a cost of $100 million a year!); low-cost computer solutions provide significantly more actual time in front of computers for students, and the result is dramatic engagement by students and teachers, and significant academic success…”

You can download the audio in MP3 or ogg format from his post linked above.

Steve also runs a really great website called K12OpenSource, in which he argues the merits of open source software for educational environments. (Of which I am a strong supporter.)

(K12OpenSource uses a nice hosted wiki service called Wikispaces.)

Mac OS Forge and Darwin Calendar Server

August 9th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Apple announced a new hosting site for open source Mac-related projects at

Of most interest to me at this moment are the Wiki Server project mentioned yesterday and the CalDAV-based Darwin Calendar Server. It’s touted as working with all standards-capable clients, like iCal, Mozilla Sunbird, Chandler, and more.

(Meanwhile, Apple has moved a number of its projects, including Darwin Calendar Server, to the Apache 2.0 license.)

Apple’s Leopard Wiki Server

August 8th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Apple is jumping into the world of wikis with its announced “Wiki Server” for Mac OS X Leopard (server version).

They’ve taken a step beyond most of the wikis available for intranet use now: “…the Wiki provides access to a shared calendar, mailing list and blog for communication and podcasting.” These features are very interesting!

Also, they seem to have made it entirely WYSIWYG: “No syntax or markup knowledge is required the Wiki Server comes with full drag-and-drop support.”

To recap: “Once you create a Wiki website and give access to members of the workgroup, everyone will have the same capability to contribute to the site. And its not limited to just text and images you can also access a group calendar to track meetings and deadlines or send messages to a mailing list to keep others informed. There is a blog feature thats perfect for brainstorming or commenting on work. And theres an option for subscribing to a podcast so if anyone missed that important conference call they can catch up on the news.”

Mitch Kapor on Wiki Politics, and Hula Project Web and Calendar Server

August 7th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Mitch Kapor spoke on The Case for Wikifying Politics at this year’s Wikimania Conference (which I missed). Andy Carvin transcribed Kapor’s talk on his blog. It’s fascinating and wonderful to read something progressive and optimistic in the world of political thought today.

Hula is an open source email and calendar server based on code donated by Novell. The project’s been running for a year and a half now, and has reached alpha-level code. I noticed new screenshots of the web interface which include some great ideas. They’re summed up in the dashboard view of the application, showing an overview of the user’s email and calendar events for the day. See the screenshots at Hula’s tour page.

Interview: “How and Why Wikipedia Works”

July 10th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Dirk Riehle interviews three major Wikipedia contributors (in the English, German, and Japanese language Wikipedias). A very scholarly article, his abstract reads:

“This article presents an interview with Angela Beesley, Elisabeth Bauer, and Kizu Naoko. All three are leading Wikipedia practitioners in the English, German, and Japanese Wikipedias and related projects. The interview focuses on how Wikipedia works and why these three practitioners believe it will keep working. The interview was conducted via email in preparation of WikiSym 2006, the 2006 International Symposium on Wikis, with the goal of furthering Wikipedia research [1]. Interviewer was Dirk Riehle, the chair of WikiSym 2006. An online version of the article provides simplified access to URLs [2].”

WikiCalc Screencast

July 4th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Dan Bricklin continues to hack away at his fascinating WikiCalc project. SocialText offers an intriguing screencast of WikiCalc’s current development state here.