Mediawiki OER export

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2008-06-28

In the page on Thoughs on institutional OER contributions I argue that (among other things) having a good export of material from shared resources (like the OER Toolkit, wikieducator, wikieducator) is important for getting institutions to contribute. How is this requirement met by mediawiki, which is a common platform for shared content?

The OER Toolkit [1], [2], and wikipedia use mediawiki. So how might you retrieve your contributions from mediawiki.

Mediawiki does have an xml export (as well as pdf export via [3]). However, I shall argue that these are not usable enough for a typical OER author make good use of them.

I should add (Feb 2009), that this increasingly becomes: "I shall argue that these are not usable enough for a typical OER author make good use of them YET." Particularly the Collection extension for mediawiki has been developing since June last year, and offers better and better functionality.

Nevertheless, at this moment in time, some of the issues still hold.

1 Thoughts on mediawiki xml export

Mediawiki does have an xml export, which is good. (xml export is possible via Special:Export.)

1.1 Integration with wiki structure

However, this xml export doesn't easily integrate with existing wiki structures (as far as I can see):

  • When on a category page, I should be able to click on a "get all pages within this category" button.
  • When on a page with subpages, I should be able to click on a "get this page with all subpages" button.
  • When on a page that has a navigational template, I should be able to click on a "get all pages referred to by this template" button.

For the first issue, there is a work around, in that the category page can be entered on the Special Export page. However, it's not very user friendly. The novice OER contributer needs a simple button. For the other issues, the only work around seems to be to manually paste the relevant pages into the export box (or to write a script). Again: doable by a programmer, but not by your typical OER user!

This comment also (currently) holds true for the mediawiki pdf export via Extension:Collection, except for the first comment, where all pages in a category can now be added a collection. For more information about the collection extension, see Collection.

1.2 xml export vs. html export

XML export is of course the baseline requirement. However, for a general user, the option to have materials exported as a mini-site (in html) would be great.

DumpHTML does this [4], but needs command-line, administrator access to the wiki.

It would also be nice if the CC requirement of the wiki was automatically met, e.g. by putting a list of users who contributed at the bottom of each page (e.g. ordered in the amount contributed to the page). At the moment, this is only possible by manually going through the history (or by doing some clever with the xml export).

1.3 Export with related assets

Finally, it should also be possible to export pages together with relevant assets, such as images.

1.4 Extension:Collection

Extension:Collection doesn't just produce pdf: It can now also provide odt, docbook, and xhtml, which greatly goes towards export facilities one would like, so there is great potential in this. From an access point, more configurability is needed. A recent fix now lets the pdf be post-processed manually with Acrobat Professional, which allows the pdf generated by the extension to be made more low-bandwidth compatible.

2 Finally ...

Without some of the above features, it's not possible for a contributor to easily pull back content. Of course there are some great extensions (see below), and in time, they will hopefully accommodate comprehensive export functionality.

In my view, it's important to not overlook this - more general thoughts on Thoughs on institutional OER contributions.

3 Appendix: Technical summary

In mediawiki, looked at from a more technical point of view, the structures used for

  • xml download and
  • pdf generation

are separate from

  • creating subpages,
  • categories, and
  • using templates for for navigation.

I should be able to get all xml or a pdf file for a certain category, or a set of subpages, or all pages I am watching in one go.

4 Appendix: Relevant mediawiki extensions and links