Random #fedwikihappening ramblings

The Christmas break is over. It’s the start of a new week and I’ve completed some holiday tasks (complete a run through of Dragon Age Inquisition, watch the final series of The Newsroom, and upgrade the family computers to Yosemite). Time to start engaging with #fedwikihappening and trying to make sense of how it connects with other work I’m doing.

The new routine

The new routine around SFW goes something like

  1. Log into my SFW.
  2. Join the neighbourhood(s) I’m interested in .
    Currently this is limited to the #fedwikihappening folk. Over time the hope would be that this diversifies and in some cases specialises. Finding, forming and contributing to the right neighbourhoods would seem a key success factor for on-going use of SFW. And this is perhaps also one of the major hurdles. More on this below.
  3. Load up the recent changes.
    Having joined the right neighbourhood, the recent changes list reflects what’s been going on. Time to catch up on what folk have been doing.

One challenge for SFW

The issue with creating the right neighbourhoods in part comes down to the difficulty of people understanding what is different and potentially beneficial about SFW. Maha Bali identifies a large part of that in this blog post

I’ve written a lot about how I would love to make cMOOCs more understandable to other people, and that I think it might not be possible unless they actually experience them…(5 barriers listed)…But how do you encourage people to experience them, given how much of a mindset-shift that would entail? And the time investment and change in your work process it would require in order for it to work out well for you enough that you relax and enjoy it instead of stress over it or worse, drop out completely?

While describing the difficulty around understanding cMOOCs, I see this applying to SFW as well.

During my last ramble into the #fedwikihappening neighbourhood I came across a couple of related articles: Experiencing Imposter Syndrome and Incremental Caging. I came across these articles just as I was thinking about Pattern Entrainment. Incremental caging in turn reminded me of adaptive stretch.

These two patterns are fairly large members of the set of patterns that make up my schema. These are factors I see all the time contributing to the limitations of institutional e-learning. Factors that aren’t limited to teaching staff. Institutional leaders and support staff – both from central L&T, but also central IT – suffer from the same problems.

These are also factors I see in my teaching (helping pre- and in-service teachers think about how ICT can help in their teaching/learning). Factors which appear to require the solution Maha suggests – “people to experience”. This is why my courses tend to focus on creating/encouraging learners to gain experience with new technologies and the pedagogies that they enable. But even this isn’t always sufficient. As the experience can fail to break the existing schema and instead is understood through those existing schema.

Adding my new site to the neighbourhood

I’m still not listed on the happening folks page. Time to fix that. This was one of those little tasks that didn’t work the first time and I couldn’t immediately see what I was missing. Until I was reading through this post titled “Using Federated Wiki in the Classroom: Getting Started” from @holden. The trick was to use the “icon” for the page as the thing you drag. Combine that with opening my profile page with shift-click to get it to appear at the end of the list of pages, and bob’s your uncle.

There are some other interesting points in Mike’s post around the experience of using SFW in a class. I can’t help comparing some of this to my experience with BIM and individual student blogs. Some quick observations/comments

  • The difference size creates.
    I’m using BIM in a class of 300+. Mike’s current experience is in a class of 20. I think the order of magnitude difference in numbers makes a significant difference in workload/issues. e.g. manually setting up the class circle. Something I currently do by creating OPML files.
  • Roll your own class circle
    SFW allows students to create their own circle. With my course the same outcome is achieved through a combination of feeds/feedreaders and WordPress’ follow feature. I do have a feeling that more students use the follow feature than feeds. That might be interesting to explore.
  • Tracking recent changes
    The recent pages approach works with 20 students, but would it work with 300. This is not something I’ve done well with BIM/blogs. A challenge I’d like to set myself this year to improve.
  • Different metaphors
    At some stage a blog post has to be published. It is complete. SFW, as Mike notes, is more a personal journal that allows for incomplete contributions.
  • The “twins” approach to compare students’ work is something very different.

SFW as a pattern language

patterns in elearning

Back when I was reading about idea mining I had a vague sense of deja vu. This was quickly resolved as I explored some of SFW space and came across articles like Positive Outdoor Space. Ahh, design patterns and pattern languages. Confirmed by discovering articles such as Pattern language and the connection Ward Cunningham (originator of SFW) has with design patterns.

As this 1999 paper suggests, I have a lot of time for the design pattern idea. The paper even proposed a process for enhancing e-learning based around design patterns, constructive patterns and pattern mining (the ugly, obviously 1990s image to the right). A colleague and I started working on that, but nothing ever came of it. Ten years later I reflected on that experience in this blog post and proposed three reasons why design patterns didn’t work in our context (the obvious other reason is that we weren’t very good at doing this).

One point that doesn’t come out strongly in that old post is the difficulty of abstraction. Pattern mining/writing requires some significant capability with abstraction. Both to identify a practical problem/solution and abstract that into a general pattern, but also to simply grasp the value of pattern languages in the first place. This is demonstrated in the observation that the object-oriented programming (OOP) community adopted the concept of design patterns much more readily than architects (the design pattern idea was developed by an architect). Really good OOP folk are very good at abstraction.

I’m not sure that the broader community has this capability. This can be seen somewhat in the early struggles some of the #fedwikihappening folk had with idea mining, not to mention questioning whether something is lost by this approach

The third place for e-learning – gathering ideas

One of the vague applications I’m considering for SFW is in term of gathering ideas for papers/frameworks. I have a tendency to create frameworks – e.g. the BAD mindset – in my attempt to understand the world. I’m after a way to group together resources and ideas that fit within those frameworks. A page on Third Place is the spark for this. This resonates with some vague ideas I’m having around the BAD mindset. So how to do this?

First attempt

  • Create the BAD mindset page
    Will borrow various bits from the paper.
    Was going to do this all on one page, but I don’t think that fits with the SFW way and I can see it reducing reusability. So time to move it out into separate pages for Bricolage, Affordances, Distribution.
  • Add to each of those pages a brief definition and a “See also” section into which I can copy references to related pages.

Creating all those separate pages and ensuring some consistency requires a bit a work. But the hope is that this “framework” will help in the future as there will be “slots” into which useful resources can be added.

Could go on for a lot longer, but will bring this to a close for now.

FedWiki 7, 8 and 9 – Moving, catching up and engaging

Thanks to the good folk of @reclaimhosting I know have a FedWiki working as part of my own domain – http://fedwiki.djon.es/. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the move creates two problems

  1. A small loss of data.
    In setting up the new fedwiki there was a need to copy over the old one. However, just after that copy (of which I was clueless due to ignoring email) I got inspired and added something. Not a big problem, but something to explore how I might remedy this within the fedwiki model.
  2. Re-connecting with the neighbourhood.
    With a new home, I have to explore how best to reconnect with the #fedwikihappening neighbourhood.

Beyond those, I just have to catch up and delve a bit deeper.

Recovering the lost data?

A brainstorm whilst laying in bed on Sunday morning led to the creation of this page on ideas for future papers and the creation of the first paper idea page. Nothing earth-shaking in either and I could perhaps just re-create them manually on my new FedWiki. But I want to see if there’s a more “fedwiki way” of doing this.

One approach is the one I stumbled across earlier

  1. Visit the page and get the URL – http://djones.federatedwiki.org/view/welcome-visitors/view/paper-ideas
  2. Construct a new URL that combines aspects of that URL with my new FedWiki site.
    The format is my fedwiki’s “home page” http://fedwiki.djon.es/view/welcome-visitors/ followed by the page slug for the paper ideas page. The page slug is the

    Which gives

  3. Visit that URL
  4. Fork the page to my new fed wiki
  5. Visit the first paper idea and fork that page.


Updating your icon

Have been replying to this comment on an earlier post and have noticed folk have figured out how to change the icon used to indicate forking etc.

Happening Folks and fancy icons

Will have to figure out/come across how to do that in this session. Documented toward the end of this blog post. Requires access to the file system and using that to replace an icon.

Question: Do I have this access? Probably not. Would rely on @reclaimhosting having installed a single FedWiki instance within the file system I have access to, not likely.

But the neighbourhood to the rescue. Alex North has shared an interesting kludge that I should be able to replicate. Here’s the process

  1. Find a new icon.
    Possibly the step I’ll have the most trouble with. Hate taking/choosing selfies. Will stick with my Twitter profile image. Not the best representation, but hopefully distinctive.
  2. Convert to PNG and right size.
    Seashore on the MAC to the rescue.
  3. Find the values for a PUT request using Chrome.
  4. Use curl to make the change.

Problem: Would have liked to copy and paste the curl comment from Alex’s wiki page, but SFW supports drag and drop. Trying to drag the mouse over the page moves the paragraph, it doesn’t allow you to select. Would have to be a work around for that.

So the command is the following. Appears to be leveraging SFW’s reliance on JSON to communicate to send it the new icon. This is a great example of the BAD mindset – a bit of bricolage leveraging the affordance of technology and relying on distribution.

curl -X "POST" "http://fedwiki.djon.es/favicon.png&quot; -H "Cookie: YOUR_COOKIE" -H "Content-type: application/json" -d "{\"image:\": \"`base64 < ~/Desktop/flag.png`\"}"

Sadly I’m getting a 403 response. Verbose output of curl seems to suggest that the cookie is accepted. Appears that the server is saying “can’t do that”. Perhaps something with the way my server has been configured. The icon is at the expected location, perhaps the ownership on the image file is such it can’t be over-written?

Oh well, no great loss. Bugger it, lets annoy the reclaim hosting folk and see if they can help remedy this.

Time to try again.

So, first problem is user error. Missed a vital point through existing schema/expectations.

Not getting the 403 error anymore, moving onto a 500 Internal Server Error. Reporting as a type error.

On the plus side, @reclaimhosting have come to the rescue. The version of SFW they are using to provide me with my bit of fedwiki space has its own space on github. By which I can gain access to the “file system” of my wiki and replace the icon (via a pull request). All done. Great example of the BAD mindset. Have to blog about this separately.

And my new icon is showing up other places in FedWiki space.

Catching up with the neighbourhood

Was going to leave a comment on Alex’s page sharing the 403 problem, but that raises a question about my profile page and the moving of my SFW. If I use the practice of starting my comment with [[David Jones]] is it going to point to my old profile?

Actually, it appears to have worked. i.e. pointing to the new site. But is this because I’m logged in as me and [[David Jones]] points at the new site? What if I view these pages via the old site?

Yep, looks like it does connect back to the old site. Bugger.

Enough time thinking about the technology and implications of the move, time to engage in the neighbourhood. Of course, the wrong profile link has the potential to limit neighbourhood connections.

Ahh, others have linked to the concrete lounge article, which of course points to the old site. *sigh*

Perhaps if I just fork the page with the new server and perhaps modify the new concrete lounge article to point to it? It’s now a few days later, this seems to be working but can’t be sure.

It’s now Boxing Day and enjoying the traditional (for some) Australian past-time of watching the Boxing Day test match and doing a bit of catch up.

Started with creating an initial article on pattern entrainment and related articles on adaptive stretch and psychological dissonance. The latter articles sparked by articles from others on incremental caging and impostor syndrome.

More later.

FedWiki Daily #6 – Mining, fracking and exploring the process

And onto daily #6 of #fedwikihappening. I’m hoping this will start explore what the process might be around using fedwiki in my day-to-day thinking. To that end, I’m planning to

  1. Read and do a bit more idea mining.
  2. Explore how to catch up on what’s happening in fedwiki space via fedwiki (and not Twitter).
  3. Follow the paths that have been created by my neighbourhood.


Lots of things I need to read, but I came across Klemm (2002) today while marking an assignment. The points cited made it sound interesting and potentially relevant to #fedwikihappening and then I read the abstract

Conversation is central to human interaction. The usual way to conduct asynchronous “conversations” over the Internet is to post e-mail messages on an electronic bulletin board, with messages organized by topic. However, such environments do not allow us to exploit the richness of conversation theory for effective collaboration. This presentation will review key elements of conversation theory and describe our collaboration experiences with Forum MATRIX, a software application that runs in a Web browser and allows users to share and edit multi-media documents, plus make in-context links and notes

This is where Idea Mining (and perhaps fed wiki) bumps up against my normal approach for sharing what I read. Idea mining is focused on producing a short nugget summarising a particular idea. When I normally share what I read, it’s a summary of the whole paper (e.g. this one) not of an idea.

Sadly the paper didn’t delivery what I’d expected/hoped. See my standard summary if interested.

Running out of time, so perhaps straight onto catching up. Engaging is probably a more beneficial practice right now anyway

Catching up

Recent Changes

Connect to my fedwiki and away we go.

Interesting to watch the neighbourhood “icons” change as navigating from page to page. Notice also the indication that there is a “newer” version of the concrete lounge page. Appears @timklapdor has forked it and added a comment.

That’s one way to see changes, I wonder what the recent changes shows? A collection of changes, appears that @timklapdor has been busy and that he’s the only other person showing up on my recent changes. Suggesting he’s the only one in my neighbourhood? Perhaps because his is the only fedwiki I’ve forked pages from? We’ll see how that changes as I engage more.

Have been out to buy a Xmas present. In my absence my neighbourhood has grown. The list of “icons”/chicklets along the bottom has grown significantly. It appears there needed to be some time for all the connections to catch up. Suggesting that I needed to be connected to my fedwiki for this to happen. i.e. it didn’t happen overnight when I’m guessing much of this happened.

Which suggests that if I revisit my recent changes page, it should be significantly expanded. The image to the right success!

Now to catch up/find the good stuff and build.

Idea fracking

Idea fracking got a call out, so let’s start there. It appears idea fracking is almost an anti-pattern or in opposition to idea mining (not quite). But some of the origins of idea fracking arises from how ideas spread and one of the comments picks up on this “idea spreading”. Strikes me as two separate discussions, perhaps calling for two separate pages.

Do I add this as a comment? Do I do this by forking and adding, or can I edit the page directly as suggested in some of the other discussions going on? Does the video for daily #6 – which covers commenting – answer this? Not really.

Apparently @holden has a problem with comments. Comments are a way of avoiding fixing documents.

Which brings me to the other way of commenting, simply make the change and see what others thing/do. If others don’t like my change, can they remove it? Well, not from my copy, but they could from their own.

As I’m still getting used to fedwiki and still finding my way within the #fedwikihappening community, I’m loathe to take on the task of fixing the document, rather than commenting. Time’s also a factor.

I’ll leave idea fracking there and move on. Will be interesting to see how things evolve.

Reverse creativity, that scene in jaws and emergent development

Reading through this sequence of pages (it’s rather cool how with a single URL I can share the navigation sequence I used to get to this) ends with a comment apparently from Alan Levine (though he’s not using @holden’s recommended format, so I could be wrong about the identity. The point is the comment talks about software development experiences that aren’t driven by requirements and plans. This links to a topic near and dear to my heart – teleological versus ateleological processes.

Time to write an article, or at least to self-plagiarise. So

  1. Add a comment and link to the currently empty pages.
  2. Start writing the pages.
    Fedwiki doesn’t appear to like borders on tables.
    Oops, orange halo of death. Login. Ahh, have a lost stuff? No. Local changes has the stuff. Good. ANd here comes the neighbourhood back again.
  3. Think about whether there needs to be a broader process types page
    Added that article

Looking good

I’m starting to get a feel for fedwiki and am liking what I am experiencing. I could see how the type of community and process it supports could be valuable. Some questions

  1. How will it scale?
    The neighbourhood idea should help, but I wonder if it can become overwhelming.
  2. Can it scale?
    Is it too much of a change for folk to handle?
  3. Can I keep up?
    Haven’t had the time to engage more fully with the process. But keep in the cMOOC advice in mind, you don’t have to do/see it all.


Klemm, W. (2002). Software issues for applying conversation theory for effective collaboration via the Internet. Proceedings of the 2002 International Conference. Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://www.cvm.tamu.edu/wklemm/Files/ConversationTheory.pdf

Concrete Lounge

Concrete Lounge

The Concrete Lounge is a nascent analogy intended to help explain the need for more people to take on the role of Digital Renovator. Especially in the context of university-based educational technology.

The argument being that universities need to focus more on enabling digital renovators than just trying to create perfect systems (that end up as concrete lounges)

(This is also a duplicate – of at least the initial version – of this Federated Wiki page).

Concrete lounge

Imagine you’ve just moved into a new house. To your surprise when you enter the lounge room you discover that there is a concrete lounge set up in the prime position.

Assuming that it’s impossible to remove, what do you do?

Of course, you add some cushions, a mattress and just about anything else you can think of that will make the concrete lounge somewhat fit for the purpose of lounging

You modify, adapt, engage in bricolage and generally renovate the environment that you are given to suit the task.

University e-learning

The problem is that when it comes to learning and teaching, the environment provided by most universities (for a huge variety of tasks) is no more fit for purpose than a concrete lounge.

What’s even worse is that there is essentially no capacity to modify, adapt, engage in bricolage and generally renovate the environment.

The inability to renovate arises from two sources

  1. Low digital fluency.
    The 2014 Horizon report(s) identify the low digital fluency of staff as the number 1 “significant challenge impeding higher education technology adoption”.

    Perhaps just a bit of the problem is because the technology to be adopted is a concrete lounge.

    But perhaps the low digital fluency makes renovation a step too far.

  2. A mindset that has technology SET in concrete.
    That’s the argument in this paper. The mindset underpinning university education technology has SET (acronym from the paper) the technology in concrete. i.e. it can’t be changed.

Raising the question, Are universities ready for digitally fluent staff?

You want digitally fluent faculty?

Starting to write for Fedwiki – Daily #4 (and 5)

Time to start using Fedwiki to do some writing.

While fedwikihappening has provided a Fedwiki for me, I’ve decided to go the “one of my own” approach and via various constraints will be using this one. Hopefully it may end up being connected with my nascent domain

Don’t think of it as a site

I have been thinking of Fedwiki as a site. Illustrated by the idea of “one of my own”. A site that is easily inter-connected with other Fedwiki’s, but still a site. So interesting to see the suggestion not to think of it as a site, but rather as a custom browser – “it is a custom piece of software your (sic) will use to browser federated wiki-space”.

Setting it up

My fedwiki is blank. I’ve claimed it, but time to add some information. The first suggestion is a bio page, in part because it can become your signature in federated wiki space. There’s a video that explains the process.

A little surprisingly we’re being discouraged from doing any heavy formatting in what we write. Makes it more difficult for reuse, apparently. Worries me a little. Will see how that pans out. And the suggestion that a normal linking approach should be limited to internal wiki links. Which does seem to be slightly ignored by some in appropriate contexts.

I’m a writer of raw HTML and my writing is littered with lists, headings and other layout/presentation artefacts intended to make it easier to understand. This means that the suggestion to do away with formatting will be a struggle. Hence the thought that I’ll start initially by sticking with the HTML stuff and see how that plays out. Perhaps a first sign of my inability to adapt to the new medium?

In my bio, I wanted to describe myself as a digital renovator and link to a fedwiki page that @holden has already created.

First attempt was to just us [[Digital Renovator]] and see if it auto-magically connects to existing stuff in federated wiki space. No, that didn’t work. Not that surprising.

Question: How do (can) I correctly link to @holden’s digital renovator page? Or is that very question showing my “old web” background? Time will tell.

I’ll leave that link to an empty page in my bio and fix it later on.

Oops, there’s the orange halo of death. Appears I got logged out. Back in we go. Hasn’t auto picked up that we’re back. Can’t find the icon to reconnect and push this back to the server. Back to the previous video. Ahh the icon I thought would do it was titled “Fork this page”, which I didn’t think was appropriate. But it does work.

Bio page done.

Connecting with others

The next task was to start Idea Mining.

Question: Actually is there a page on idea mining out in federated wiki space? How would I discover it? (Google?) How could I connect with it from my fed wiki?

The video above actually talks about how fedwikihappening folk can ask a question. But I assume that because I’ve got my own fed wiki, I’m not actually linked in with the other fedwikihappening wikis. I’m guessing @holden and his crew (is there a crew?) did some behind the scenes work to get this set up.

Which leads to what I want to do next

  1. Do I need to and how would I get links into the other fedwikihappening wikis?
  2. Can I find out if there’s already a page on an idea within federated wiki space?
    I assume a search would work. But I suppose the fedwiki approach might revolve around following interesting folk, seeing them post something interesting, and then forking their work. i.e. see task #1.
  3. Can I link/fork to another’s post?
    Is “link” even the right word in federated wiki space?
  4. Do a bit of idea mining.

Question: For this to

First stop is the “How to Wiki” page that is there by default in my (and all?) fedwikis.

The Follow Links page offers some explanation on the background.

I can see why #FedWikiHappening isn’t going down the path of explaining all this first up. Get people idea mining first without struggling with the difficulties.

Ahh, there’s the idea of a neighborhood.

The copy page has some suggestions by which you can manually view external pages, after a bit of experimentation (rather than search/read the documentation) I discovered this is the format I was after http://djones.federatedwiki.org/view/welcome-visitors/journal14.hapgood.net:3000/digital-renovator

This displays @holden’s page into my fedwiki – this really reinforces the idea of fedwiki being a browser. I cannot just do a Google search, find @holden’s page and enter the URL into my browser. Doing this appears to meant that I’m viewing federated wiki space through @holden’s browser, not mine. This is why forking will not work, because I don’t have permission on his wiki.

However, if I use the above method (or other methods that are simpler) then I am viewing @holden’s page through my fedwiki/new browser and here I do have permission to fork.

And now when I click on the “digital renovator” link in my bio page I get taken to my local copy of @holden’s page. And there are various ways back to his version.

There’s more here than meets the eye. Time perhaps to jump to the set task which seems a bit simpler and leave further exploration of fedwiki space to later.

Happening folks

My Generation by thjordan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  thjordan 

But first, perhaps see if I can link to the happening folks.

  1. Take a link from @timklapdor’s fedwiki to the happening folks – http://tim.au.fedwikihappening.net/view/welcome-visitors/view/happening-folks
  2. Transform that into a URL that will allow me to view the page through my browser – http://djones.federatedwiki.org/view/welcome-visitors/tim.au.fedwikihappening.net/happening-folks
    I’m sure there is an easier way to do this
  3. Fork this page to my local site.
  4. Add a link to the beginning of my site.
  5. Update the list of happening folk to add in a link to my wiki.

    There seems to be some unique method being used to add those links. Not just straight internal links, but something extra. Need to explore the documentation a bit more.

    In theory, it appears dragging the URL of a fedwiki page and dropping it in a factory should do it, but not currently working for me.

Idea mining

The suggestion is that idea mining should arise from our regular reading. Be a summary of an idea that resonates. I can see the value in that approach, but I’ve been thinking about other uses. This time of year is when I finally get some time to think about my own ideas and writing. Recent paper presentation sand discussions have sparked a range of ideas, time to get those ideas out there and gather thoughts.

So create the December journal page and get writing. Ahh, now that I’m part of the neighbourhood I can see some related links appearing at the bottom of the blank page. That suggests to me that if I were to add a new blank page titled “React vs Respond” then fedwiki should suggest to me this page from @timklapdor with the same name?

Yes!!! Starting to get the hang of this.

Fork and comment experiment

Which suggests that if I visit Tim’s page and fork it, I can then make some comments/suggestions. The latest video talking about neighbourhoods offers to answer some of this.

So the approach appears to be

  1. Visit the page.
  2. Fork it locally.
  3. Add a comment down the end with a link to my bio page.

And look at the neighbourhood grow.

So, comments added. Will be interesting to see how well fedwiki lets Tim know about the comment.

Add my own

Time to add my own idea – Concrete Lounge. Will copy that page into another post on this blog.

Can I roll my own federated wiki? (not yet)

So I now have a federated wiki of my own. Rolled by the good folk of #fedwikihappening.

But it doesn’t feel like it’s mine. It’s on someone else’s server. Which sort of defeats the purpose of a federated wiki a little. Though I do recognise it makes it easier for folk to get started, which may not be a good thing?

The question this post is attempting to answer is, can I roll my own federated wiki?

Easy but not quite a good fit

There are some easy methods for installing the tool

However, it assumes a certain type of environment. One that I don’t have at the moment. I may have to get such an environment, but let’s see if I can kludge it into the environment I do have.

Use the source

Kludging will require playing with the source. So download that.

A source that would appear not destined for command line installation. Not a lot of suggestions how to do that. At least until you find the installation guide.

Will use this to install it locally and explore what is required. Will figure out if and what might be required for hosting in the cloud later.

Ahh, it appears that the installation guide is slightly out of date. The following doesn’t work with the current code
cd Smallest-Federated-Wiki/server/express

But the first step of that installation guide was to install NodeJS, which provides the npm command which is used to do the default installation approach.
npm install -g wiki
But that breaks if you don’t have write access to /usr/local/lib/node_modules. Suggesting I’d need to install NodeJS in my user account on the remote site.

That appears to have worked. With everything in /usr/local/lib/node_modules

Installing locally

It appears that NodeJS can be installed locally by using the source. However, I wonder if I can run the wiki as a stand alone server on the host? Only one way to find out (short of asking).

Bugger, get a “virtual memory exhausted” error when compiling NodeJS. Initial searching appears to suggest that the problem is with a bug in the version of gcc – 4.4.x

Next steps?

Options include

  • Still need to answer the question whether or not I could run the wiki as a server on a different port.

    The docs might say.

  • Ask the good folk at reclaim hosting for some insights.
  • Follow @holden’s advice and go with another host that’s known to support fedwiki.

Initial steps with the #FedWikiHappening happening

So I’m starting another MOOC. Though it’s not a MOOC at all. It’s apparently a SiCMOOC (small intimate Connectivist MOOC). Though that term is labouring a fad for more than it’s worth. Much prefer the term the organiser (Mike Caufield @holden) is using a happening

The happening metaphor is borrowed from theater, where tightly structured but ultimately meaningless events combine with the actions of audience-participants to produce unique, emergent meaning.

Specifically, I’ll be participating in the Federated Wiki Happening (#fedwiki seems to be the hash tag update: #fedwikihappening it is). The best current description seems to be this Google doc. I’ll attempt to use my blog as a journal of the experience. So here goes.

At first glance the happening shows some of the characteristics of a cMOOC. Each day we’re getting a “daily” to spark off ideas and tasks.

Daily #1 – Interesting people to be sure

Setting the scene. Letting us know what to expect. Linking the happening back to the early Wiki days and setting the happening up as the source of the first federated wiki community. More than learning a new tool, we’re helping co-develop its culture.

Federated wiki is easy to install – the coder in me wants to get to that straight way.

Daily #2 – An introduction to idea mining

The main activity for this happening is collaborative journaling using federated wiki. The nature of federated wiki – a focus on reuse and connection – makes it different than blogging or other media.

Apparently Idea Mining is a useful approach

the translation of things we read, see, and think into named ideas and examples that we can connect to form larger and more various thoughts.

As it happens the same connections that got me into this happening has provided me with a ready made example. After attending my ASCILITE’14 presentation and as part of a Twitter conversation @timklapdor tweeted

To which the happening’s illustrious organiser (@holden) replied with an illustration of Idea Mining around the idea of “digital renovator”. AN ideas that I briefly mentioned in the presentation. (Actually, I only added that slide the night before as part of my last edits).

Task: Must explore how to expand/extend/reuse that page once I have FedWiki installed. Must start using Trello for my FedWiki todo list.

Question: I assume page (as in Wiki page) is the correct term for a part of a FedWiki?

In recent cMOOC tradition we’re starting out the happening with a suggested process. This one summarised in this video.

The video critiques some of the current options (social bookmarking, twitter) we use around social media when we currently find something interesting. Instead replacing it with creating a page in Federated Wiki that captures the idea.

A lot of the “goodness” that might arise from this practice does appear to arise from Mike’s skilled use of it. Remembering connections with other ideas and taking the time to make the connections between them.

Question: How well will folk (like me) who are currently using social bookmarking and other limited means take to this type of active process? Will it only work for the motivated and capable folk?

It also illustrates that a lot of benefit arises when there are other folk using this same approach and tool. Hence perhaps the importance of this happening and its aim of creating the community.

Question: Watching the video as Mike connected ideas, the obvious though was whether anyone has harnessed something to visualise the “idea map”?

Question: Wondering also how the inevitable problem of “same idea, different label” gets handled?

Daily #3 – Skirting the orange halo of death

Apparently there’s an interface issue we should be aware of.

Mentions that Federated Wiki – “a federated data-ware JSON driven platform” – includes lot of difficult stuff. This type of change isn’t easy.

Question: When combined with the need for FedWiki users to be motivated and capable (see above), does this mean that the adoption cost of FedWiki will be too high? Too high for me? What about too high for some of the courses and the students I teach?

Apparently the problem focused on here has been a problem in a course. And a problem for some of the happening participants. This video summarises the problem and the solution. In essence, it appears to be a caching issue. In essence, the changes you make in a FedWiki page are made in a browser. Whilst you have a valid Internet connection (or permission to edit a page) the changes get updated on the server. But if your connection/permissions doesn’t exist, you get a orange halo and the updates are only in your browser. You have to hit a button to get it updated on the server (once your connection/permission is back).

Apparently we get our fedwiki homes in a couple of days. Can I wait? Should I try to go it alone and install it? Looks like a Ruby application.

Perhaps I should read a bit more about Federated Wiki. This Wired story seems like a good place to start and asks a question similar to the above – “But is it too nerdy to catch on?”. It also mentions the challenge of overcoming social media inertia.

And a TEDx talk from Ward Cunningham himself explaining the federated wiki.

“What is” and “what might be” – evidence of a problem with institutional e-learning?

The following does a compare and contrast between the “what is” of university e-learning systems and the “what might be”. There are three sections

  1. The task – describes a fairly common task someone teaching online might wish to undertake.
  2. What is – describes how that task is completed in existing institutions (using Moodle).
    The point of this post isn’t to suggest that Moodle is bad. I’m sure that other similar systems would have similar problems. If not for this task, there would be other tasks for which they are bad. This is also not meant to be a criticism of the LMS. I could do a similar description with an e-portfolio tool. I could do a similar task for BIM (something I wrote).
  3. What might be – describes an alternative (much better) approach to achieve the same task in much the same environment.
    An alternative that is built upon/around Moodle and is largely only possible because Moodle is open source.

The argument is that for many common tasks required for “good” learning and teaching, there is a huge chasm between “what is” and “what might be”. A chasm that I know from personal experience exists with many, many other tasks (e.g. one and two). The existence of these chasms raise a number of questions that I’d like to explore further

  1. Why do these chasms exist?
    The paper this stuff comes from proposes one explanation.
  2. What other chasms exist?
    A very wise invited speaker at ASCILITE14 suggested that “Innovation comes from solving problems”. These chasms appear to be problems crying out to generate some innovation. Mapping out what chasms there are and analysing them would appear to be interesting and useful from a number of perspectives.
  3. What impact do these chasms have on the quality of learning and teaching?
    I believe they have a fairly large negative impact. Would be interesting and useful to identify that impact and its size.
  4. How can these chasms be closed?
    How can and should universities change how they develop and support their e-learning to close up these gaps.
  5. What is the impact of closing these chasms?
    Is it worth it? Is it sufficient to improve learning and teaching? What else is needed?

The task

As someone teaching an online course, it might not be that unusual for you to want to

  1. Find out how students are accessing/using the resources and activities you’ve made available via the course site; and
  2. Contact those students who haven’t accessed a particular resource.

Can you do this with the system you currently use? How easy is it? How often do you do it?

What is?

To complete either of these tasks in Moodle, you start by logging into your course site. Here’s an example (click on the images to see larger versions)


So what Moodle feature will help you identify how students are accessing resources on the course site? How do I access this feature?

With Moodle, the feature are the reports. Where you find the reports depends on the customisations that your institution has done to the look and feel. Corporate branding rules! For this institution you access the list of reports under the “Navigation” tab on your course home page. If you find the right place within the Navigation tab you are presented with a list of reports.

How many times are students accessing resources?

Assuming you want to find out how often students are using the resources and activities on your course site, which of the list of reports in the following will you need to use? Do you know?


Perhaps you might like to try a bit of trial and error to discover which it is. Well there’s a slight problem with that. Assuming you’re a little nervous about finding the right report, what happens next isn’t going to help. If you click on one of the report links, what you see next (for a very long time) is a blank page.


No indication of anything happening on the Moodle end, just a blank page with your browser doing its “waiting for something from the server” animation of the mouse pointer. At one institution the wait was 4 minutes and 50 seconds, but I’ve seen longer. This is the time it takes Moodle to initially complete the calculations necessary to show you the report.

The point is that this long period of no action is not conducive to follow through. Most people won’t wait this long for something to happen on the web, especially if you’re not certain about your choice in the first place. This is particularly problematic within the context of a University LMS where teaching staff are experienced with the LMS regularly timing out because it’s fallen over (especially during the first couple of weeks of semester).

If you do wait, you’ll see something like the following. Which is the activity report from Moodle. It shows the number of “views” for each resource in the order they appear on the course home page.


But there’s a problem here. If the question you want to answer is “how many times are the students using the activities and resources?” then the above report can’t really help. This is because it shows the number of views on resources by all people on your course site. Students, teaching staff and anyone else who can access your course site.

Another problem is that the activity report doesn’t tell you how many students have accessed a resource. It’s impossible to know whether the 389 views of the News Forum from the above report is from

  1. 389 students accessing the news forum once.
  2. 1 student (or staff member) clicking on the news forum 389 times.

Which students aren’t accessing particular resources?

To answer this question, you will need to use the “Participation report”. It will allow you to choose which resource you are interested.


But there is a problem. There are some optional modules for Moodle that don’t support these reports. So you can’t get details about who’s accessed resources using those modules or not.


But let’s assume you select a resource that is supported.


At this stage you will have to wait again, how long will depend on a range of factors. Eventually you will see a page showing who has or hasn’t accessed the chosen resource.


By default Moodle shows this information a page at a time. If you’d rather see a list of all the students on one page, then go to the bottom and select all


Contact those students who haven’t accessed a resource

The participation report does have the ability for you to send a message to selected students. So you can select all those who haven’t accessed the resource and send a message.


This allows you to type in a message that will be emailed to the appropriate students.


One problem is that these messages are not personalised. You can’t add in a personalised salutation “G’day Fred”.

Summary of limitations

From the above there are a few limitations/difficulties with this process

  1. Finding which feature/report to use isn’t immediately straight forward.
  2. There is a lot of waiting while calculations are done.
  3. During that waiting there is no visible feedback suggesting that Moodle is making progress (rather than just simply crashed).
  4. Resource usage can’t be limited just to students (or to specific groups of students).
  5. No method to see the number of students who have accessed a resource, rather than the number of clicks.
  6. You can’t find out who has accessed a resource with some modules.
  7. The messaging system can’t be personalised.
  8. The tables of statistics about usage are displayed in tables separate from the course site.

What might be?

The following show what might be if your institution has the MAV installed. The lucky folk at CQUni have the MAV installed.

If your institution has the MAV, then you will need to

  1. Use the Firefox browser to access your course site.
  2. Install the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox.
  3. Have the MAV Greasemonkey script installed on your Firefox browser.

How many times are students accessing resources?

With MAV installed, you now have to turn it on. This again is hidden under Navigation (at CQUni).


Once you turn MAV on with your browser. You will have to wait….for 3 seconds (not the minutes you have to wait for Moodle reports)


Beyond being a much shorter wait, another important advantage of MAV is that it will show a MAV specific animation to indicate that it is working.

Once your 3 second wait is over, you see something like this. Can you see the difference?


Can you see how all of the links on the course page have different background colours? Some are red, some orange, some yellow, some green. This is a heat map.

The redder the background colour the hotter the link is. This means that more students have been clicking that link. Important: MAV only shows what students are doing.

The greener the background colour, the cooler the link is. i.e. it’s being used less.

While MAV is turned on a heat map will be added to all links on all Moodle pages you visit. There is no longer any significant wait when you visit these different pages. You don’t need to turn anything else one, or visit any other page. You see the usage embedded in the page.

For example.


If you’d rather know how many students have accessed a link – rather than how many clicks there have been on the link – then you can change the configuration of MAV.


And the heat map will now be based on the total number of students who have clicked on a link. If you look really closely at a link in the following image (click on the image to see a bigger version) you should be able to see something link (111 students) at the end of each link.

MAV adds the actual count to the link.


This feature also works on any Moodle page.


Working on any Moodle page is important. This means that when you view a discussion forum, you can tell how many students have accessed a particular post in the discussion forum.

If you’d only like to focus on a particular (Moodle) group of students. You can change the MAV configuration to focus just on particular groups. You even have the option to add teaching staff back into the count.


MAV does work on any page. Even the activity report page from Moodle. This also clearly demonstrates how the Moodle report combines both teaching staff and student usage in its counts. Look closely at the difference between the number of “Views” listed in the table produced by Moodle and the number of “clicks” that have been added in the brackets to each link.


It also works on any Moodle page. Even those produced by modules that don’t support the Moodle participation report. The following shows MAV working on one such module.


Contact the students who haven’t accessed a resource

MAV also helps you contact the students who haven’t accessed a particular resource.

If you click on the number of clicks/students in brackets that MAV adds to each link….


A dialog box will pop up and show you a list of all the students who have accessed the resource and all the students who haven’t. With each group you also have the option (at CQUni) to “Nudge with EASICONNECT”.


This is a link to another CQUni system that allows teaching staff to make or record different types (phone call, meeting) of nudges or contacts. One of the nudges is a personalised email message. EASICONNECT provides a messaging system not unlike a mail merge facility.


Summary of limitations and benefits

MAV is not perfect, perhaps its biggest limitations are

  1. Only usable via Firefox.

    Ruling out other browsers and mobile devices

  2. Have to have the MAV plugin installed.
  3. Still not hugely easy to find and turn on.
  4. Requires the institution to install and maintain something beyond Moodle.

But it has some significant benefits

  1. The statistics are represented visually and embedded within the normal viewing of the course site.
  2. It will work on any Moodle page for any Moodle link.
  3. Much faster response and there is visual feedback of progress being made.
  4. Usage can be limited to students, various groups of students and other users.
  5. The heat map can be based on either number of clicks or number of students.
  6. Is linked with an enhanced messaging system.