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 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

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.