Monday, November 23, 2009

Thinking about ChromeOS

I have read what many pundits have to say about the Chrome OS. I have read what they had to say before and after the press conference and, there is a bewildering array of opinions.

The computers that comply with the hardware specifications, will have to deal with Wave and as netbooks are often considered as computers with insufficient specifications, I expect that there will be a range of hardware ready for "must have" applications and I expect that they will all do nicely. Wave has improved a lot in stability and performance in the last months anyway..

There is much ado about "market share". I do not really care except that I expect it to become important for the adoption of open standards. Important as well is that Chrome OS is a Linux distribution, it is open source. As developers of Canonical are involved in the development of Chrome OS, it is obvious that Linux development in general will benefit.

With Chrome OS user data will be very much stored on the web, local storage will be very much a cache that can and will be deleted when need be. My "wet dream" for Wave is still a possibility, I however want it not just as part of a Chrome OS, but also as part of the browser and not just the Chrome browser.

Monday, November 9, 2009

MediaWiki conference uses Wave to work on minutes

Last weekend there was a get together of people involved in the media repository of the Wikimedia Foundation, "Commons". This was the kind of meeting where people work/discuss and when a session is done, someone is to report on the proceedings.

Given that MediaWiki is what the Wikimedia Foundation develops, it was interesting to learn that most people had a Wave account and, preferred to use Wave for its collaborative editing ability.

It sure did make us a group more productive.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Federation is tested at

Federation is about how do you get multiple Wave servers to share and synchronise content. Conceptually, it is one of the aspects that makes Wave relevant. With federation and it being Open Source, it means that we will be able to have our own Wave servers and just like with e-mail we decide what we share.

In his post to the wave-protocol group, Dan Petersen announced that experimenting with federation can now start. At this stage it is only for developers and as I understand from Tom, it is still pretty rocky; the code does not want to compile on our box.

For the MediaWikiWave project it is important that we will have our own server because in this use case Wave is connected to a MediaWiki publishing back end. Changes may originate on another Wave server, but ultimately the robot will only run on the local server.

The one question I have about the federation protocol is how Wave will recover for the other servers when the server who originated a wave crashes beyond repair.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Complete Guide to Google Wave

The dust has not settled, the code is still being written, the software / functionality is still very much alpha but the first book for Wave has arrived. The Complete guide to Google Wave does a good job at explaining about what Wave actually is today.

Defining what Wave is, is hard because it means different things to different people. At first it was "e-mail redone with the experience of today", it proved necessary to cut the link to e-mail so that it could become its own thing and for me, I concentrate on Wave as the editing front end to a MediaWiki back end.

The book as it is available today, is the "preview edition", it has its home on a MediaWiki wiki and, it is billed as a work in progress. At that it fits in nicely with the collaborative editing that is the great strength of Wave. Consider, the people that find this important are likely and fall in love with Wave are also the people what are interested in writing the book on Wave. The GoogleWave extension allows for the inclusion of a Wave on a MediaWiki page show Wave to all the people who have not been invited yet.

When you want to learn more about Wave, do read the book, it is well worth it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wave is not to replace e-mail ... yet

At the Google meeting in Amsterdam, one of the most interesting fact about Wave for me was about Wave and e-mail. While it has always been said that Wave is "how we would build e-mail today", today Wave keeps its distance from e-mail.

Wave presents a different paradigm from e-mail and this paradigm needs to evolve. In order to do so, it needs to keep a distance because otherwise it is particularly the e-mail associated aspects that improve.

Lars and Stephanie explained that in an earlier incarnation, Wave did include much functionality with e-mail in mind but that proved to hinder rather then help the development of the Wave paradigm, so they binned it. Similar functionality may be added later and will probably be added by another party.

This is similar to what we do with MediaWiki, our approach is that Wave provides superior editing while MediaWiki provides superior publishing. Our challenge is to appreciate these different strengths and bring them together. As long as we do not need to touch the MediaWiki functionality, there is the easy upgrade path for Wikipedia that we seek.

Our challenge is to find ways in Wave to leave MediaWiki alone and interface and provide necessary functionality in Wave. Some things are still missing; internationalisation and localisations is crucial not only for the core product but also for the robots. The use of MediaWiki authentication and authorisation, including blocks, is crucial. As crucial is the availability of the Wave code so that we can play with the look and feel, add toolbars and add to the toolbars. The fun thing is that our use case provides the Wave developers with concrete challenges. It has already served to punch holes in some theories and help improve them.

All in all, Wave is awesome and it was wonderful and productive to meet in person.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

15 features in five minutes

A nice video that demonstrate 15 features in five minutes... Well worth it !

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Wave wet dream

I have been asked several times where I see Wave go. The last time I was asked where I see Wave in 5 years time.. not Internet years. What I did was look hard at Wave for what it does, and look at Google for the kind of things it has been doing.

For me, Wave is an environment where the functionality of e-mail, chat, wiki comes together. What we have done in the MediaWikiWave project is provide Wave with a publishing back end. This is something that MediaWiki does really well. I expect that Wave will continue to integrate parts of the puzzle that is computer software and data.

Google is getting into operating systems with its Chrome OS. Add to this Moore's law and in five years time a computer with Chrome OS, with over a terabyte of storage is not a wild idea at all.

When something like a terabyte is used for caching, I can imagine that this cache is maintained by Wave. In this cache you find e-mail, Wavelets, Wiki pages and other information that is of interest to a user. Wave being Wave, will cache this information and updates it in the background. This information will be available on request.

Wave in its architecture allows for multiple servers. It is not necessary to know on what server a particular Wavelet is available. I think that a user is not that interested in any particular server, he is interested in the data being available. Only when the data is manipulated is there a need for immediate feed back to servers or other computers.

I think this is doable. Part of the cache is already there in Google Gears and this makes this vision evolutionary progress.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wave and education

We met at the first class restaurant at the Amsterdam central station and we discussed the potential of Wave in an educational setting. As you can imagine, many issues with Wave were discussed but the question was: "Is Wave ready for an experimental course where educators try to find out if Wave is a tool that makes sense in education".

When Wave is to be used in education, Wave itself will not be the subject and in this experiment it will be. The audience if the experiment will be educators who are interested to learn if the new paradigm that Wave presents is this leap forward. Such an experiment does not necessarily require everything that is needed for students: internationalisation and localisation can be left for later, it will be easy to find the necessary Wave invites. Functionality that makes sense in an educational setting like new content that is triggered either by the teacher of by conditions can be left for later as well.

We need to learn if Wave adds value. When it does and, we believe it will, the other open issues will need to be addressed as well. First we have to learn if Wave can enthuse educators.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Promissing prototype..

On the Wave page of "Featured prototypes", there is also room for a few promissing prototypes.. We are really pleased that our MediaWiki-Wave software has made the grade.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't stop me now, I am having a good time ...

There are several things that are not so nice in MediaWiki, edit conflicts is one and wikitext is another. The MediaWiki Wave project is happy to show you that edit conflicts and several types of wikitext can be a thing of the past.

Wave provides a great colloborative editing interface, with a realtext interface. This is the MediaWiki that everybody can edit.. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meet Mr Murphy

Today we are to produce a little bit of video about our MediaWiki Wave product. Everything was working, we had two bits of code that were trivial to merge.. but it was not.

When code is alpha, things change and Wave is still very much alpha software. Tom is working hard to get rid of errors and to get the functionality to work again. The deadline for delivering our video is nigh.

So Murphy is not welcome.. Please Mr Murphy go away !!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Going walkabout

One of the persistent noises at Wikimedia mailing lists are those made by those who see a conspiracy everywhere. Who always assume things that there is more to the story. One target that is increasingly considered evil is Google, even though one of Google's aims is not to be evil. And given their size, it is assumed that everything is targeted to bring about world domination.

The one “attempt at world domination” that I personally hope will succeed is Wave. I love it because it brings so many aspects together of applications that are on their own incomplete and/or dysfunctional like e-mail, forums, chat and wikis. For me, Wave provides a platform, a protocol that is intended to be extended. It allows you to add to it and make it better like we are doing with the MediaWiki Wave interface. This is possible because people are invited to add to the Wave protocol as long as they implement the functionality described on the public reference implementation as well. All the resulting software will be available under a free license and consequently even the FSF is interested in how Wave evolves.

World domination requires an evil genius but the genius behind Wave are Lars and Jens Rasmussen. They had enough of being the big guys behind Google Maps and decided to do something new. Their thing was to do technical things and not grow pointy hair. They called their project Walkabout... Walkabout is this Australian thing where you remove yourself from civilisation to experience the world to come back and tell about it.

They certainly told the world about it. They renamed Walkabout Wave and they mixed and merged many of the paradigms of computer communication; e-mail, chat and used that as a starting point because they also brought Wiki and collaborative editing in the mix.

Wave is heady stuff. I find I am still grappling with its potential because while on the one hand it provides a much richer experience then e-mail or chat, the interface on the other hand suggests that it is still centred on small groups of people sharing the environment. In most environments, business or personal that makes sense.

We are however integrating Wave with MediaWiki. Wikipedia articles can have hundreds of contributors and they do not really know each other. In a wiki all articles are mine to edit, the authorisation is not based on me as an individual but on me as part of a group. What we already demonstrate in our project are the immense benefits Wave provides. As we progress it becomes clear that the inclusion of a Wiki in an environment that started of with the merger of the electronic equivalents of a letter and a telephone conversation is similar to throwing a newspaper into the mix.

We have to get this right because how else are we going to conquer the world

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rigged demos

When you demo, you show a scenario. You know how to wow the public and you consider what is of interest and makes people anticipate the moment when they can get their hands on the code. The moment of truth, when the software is not used within a scenario, where the article that is edited is no longer called "elephant", but can be any article.

Consequently, it is no longer convenient to hard code "elephant" because people might want to write an article called "tsunami" or "spring tide" when they think that "wave" is a bit tame. There are five such hard coded gotchas. In stead of a predetermined solution, we want the same flexibility as in all Wikis; you determine the name of the article.

So our demoes are rigged, but we are removing the rigging and make it what you see is what you get.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Preparing for some serious testing

We are really happy to welcome 50 testers from Combat testing to our roster of people willing to test what we are developing for the MediaWiki Wave interface.

So first an update, we have code that does syntax highlighting. Templates are no longer a real problem and neither are citations. What is a problem is to make a button that allows people to switch from WYSIWYG to Wiki syntax and vice versa. It is quite crucial that we get over this hump because it prevents us from rolling out new functionality.

In addition to the 50 testers from Combat testing, we have 9 Wikimedians willing to test. Nie who either asked for a profile at Wikimania or asked for a Wave account. Only nine of the original fifteen people registered at our forum as asked. We have indications that all 15 now have a Wave account. So when you did not do so, please register at the Forum.
The testing plan will consist of two phases:
  • get baseline measurements on the usability of the first iteration of the WYSIWYG functionality and learn/ask what should be / could be different
  • get measurements on the usability once the lessons learned are incorporated in the WYSIWYG functionality
We hope / expect that by Monday we will have something to show for our efforts.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy birthday Tom

In the Wikipedias it is quite normal to show appreciation by giving people a "barnstar". His parents must appreciate Tom a lot because they gave him the ultimate barnstar; a star of his own.

The HPG818672, has been named "Tom Maaswinkel"..
Happy birthday Tom !!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Who you gonna call

When you get a screen like this, it is rather frustrating .... What to do, who to call??

Google Amsterdam

When Tom learned that Douwe Osinga was in the Netherlands, it was a great opportunity to seek a meeting and learn what the time line is for Wave.

If one thing is clear, it is that by the end of September 100.000 people will gain access to the Wave environment. Beyond that a lot of hard work is still to be done to make Wave ready. For us in the MediaWiki Wave project, it is clear that we will not wait for the APIs that will be ready in "two weeks". What we can do is sanitise the existing code, and include new functionality like the syntax highlighter written by Kim. There are plenty of things we can add to our code, using MediaWiki authentication is one of them and we will.

When you meet people like Douwe, it is a great moment to ask and inform about the issues on our end as well. There are two key show stoppers that will prevent adoption of Wave in the Wikimedia Foundation they are:
  • Wave must be published open source
  • Wave must include internationalisation infrastructure
In the way Google is developing Wave, they want to provide a stable product that will provide people a stable basis for further development. Some of the software provides this basis and this allowed for our project while other parts are just not ready. This is a reasonable rationale but it is equaly understandable that the WMF will not adopt software that is not published open source.

Given that there are Wikipedias in over 250 languages, all software has to be internationalised. At this time, the core Wave functionality includes the message structures that provide the basic building blocks for internationalisation. It is not clear how these building blocks are to be used in our software. It is not yet clear how we will interface with the Wave data; in MediaWiki we distinguish between the language of the content and the language of the interface. Wave does allow for multiple languages in the content.

What will be interesting is how we will resolve the issues we have with projects that use incorrect language codes. This is an issue that the WMF should address anyway. The easiest option would be to support only those projects with advanced software that conform to the relevant standards.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The presentation

I had hoped to publish both the presentation and the video of our presentation at Wikimania 2009 at the same time. As it is, the video has not yet been uploaded and I do not want to wait with providing you with the presentation.

The presentation went well. We did well to test the environment before the presentation; we had a glitch that was easily solvedas there was not the stress of a public watching.

When you introduce completely new functionality, it is important to inform and involve as much as possible. We found that there was a lot of interest for what we had to bring. Many people indicated that they were interested to test the Wave approach and many of the developers were interested in a Wave Sandbox account.

Disruptive technology

When I understand Wave well, it is disruptive technology. When people talk about Wikipedia, one aspect of it is how it proved disruptive innovation as it changed the face of the market for encyclopaedic information.

What I got out of the feedback of our presentation at Wikimania, is that our MediaWiki Wave interface has the potential to be disruptive as well. Real time collaborative editing is what we will bring to MediaWiki and that will be disruptive. The current history pages of MediaWiki and its assessments expect serial changes by individual editors. All our tools to supress vandalism rely on this.

In the recordings of Wikivoices podcasts we experimented with collaborative editing and, it allowed us to write quality articles in a short period of times. Experiences like this gives me the conviction that Wikipedia can do with a bit of disruption of its own.

For those who claim that the end is neigh... I asked Luca de Alvaro what he thought about collaborative realtime editing; he first asked me if there was reliable historic data and then told me that it just needed a different algorithm.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another mode of communication

Given that we want to have at least 100 people testing the MediaWiki Wave functionality and given that at this stage Wave itself is not the platform to use, we were looking for a forum.

Given that FUDforum is the latest software being localised at, it was considered for this task. So, our forum can be found here :)

Do the Wave

Tom created some waves with his presentation at the New York Wiki conference. As I am preparing a presentation about MediaWiki Wave at the moment, I received his presentation that is now available for your amusement as well..

Friday, August 21, 2009

Preparing for Wikimania

Wikimania 2009 is approaching fast and, it is important for us to present our project there as well. We have been told that we will be able to present our project so Tom, Kim and Gerard came together to discuss what to say and what to present.

We looked at our current functionality, we uploaded code to the Google project SVN even though it is of not much use at this stage. It still needs a lot of TLC before the code is in a state that approaches the "Brion ready" state.

We discussed the things we have to do before Oktober. We need people testing our code and we want to give interested MediaWiki developers access to Wave. We are comfortable that we can achieve both. Just watch this space for more information..

In our presentation, we will explain how we got involved, why we think Wave is important and we will demo what we consider are the key features for our MediaWiki Wave integration.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A nice article on Wave

I read two interesting articles about Wave..
I find it interesting that people argue that Wave will fail. For me Wave provides a lot of technology that fits in with my dream of a vastly more usable Wikipedia. The best part is that the technology has many more applications.

The one question I do not have an answer to yet, the question that can be a deal breaker is: what about the internationalisation and localisation. The perfect answer is: what about it, this is how you do it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twitter too

When I was still in school I was taught that if you want to get the message out, you start with telling what you are going to say, then you say it and finally you recapitulate what you just said. That sounds boring but if you do it well, it works really well

Tom has just created the MediawikiWave Twitter account. He will keep you informed about the things he comes across while developing the software. This blog is intended to explain what it is we are doing. The major things will end up on the blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alternative logo ...

We are happy with a first alternative logo... the flower in the Mediawiki logo is replaced with the Wave logo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Logo needed ...

The MediaWiki Wave project needs a logo.. a logo that demonstrates why we do it.. Bringing better usability to Wikipedia using the new paradigmas brought to us by Wave.

So we dabbled a bit with the gimp and we now have something that is ok. It is ok except for the fact that this is a combination of two trade marks.

So I will ask the WMF and Google for permission to use their trademarked logo for this project. Obviously when someone comes up with something nice, we may go for that in stead.

MediaWiki Wave, the introduction

MediaWiki is the best known Wiki engine. it is used for Wikipedia and many other projects inside and outside of the Wikimedia Foundation. Over time MediaWiki has grown in functionality and at the same time it became hard to use. This has been recognised and the Usability Initiative is developing much needed improvements to make MediaWiki more usable for people new to Wikipedia.

Google Wave is a brave new attempt to bring new functionality to well established categories of applications like e-mail, text messaging, wiki and it does it by integrating the functionalities of all of them in a compelling new technology framework. Key elements are the ability to edit in real time with multiple people, an innovative way of showing the history of a wavelet and all this in a WYSIWYG environment

The MediaWiki Wave project brings this new open source framework to MediaWiki and it aims to show the way how MediaWiki can become more useable for its editors. At this time, the project is planned to run until the beginning of October and at that time it should provide a fully functional editing interface to MediaWiki content. MediaWiki and Wave developers will have to work hard to make this happen. Obviously, this project is run with full knowledge of the Wikimedia Foundation.

This project will not impact the MediaWiki parser. This project is not aimed at the user interface for people reading MediaWiki content.