UBC Wiki Content – To Go

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Merrick Brown

The UBC Wiki just keeps scaling new heights. For some time, every content page of the UBC Wiki has featured a link on the bottom-left sidebar for the “embed code” for that page’s content – the same functionality that works so well for YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud, et al… That means that instead of copying, and then reformatting wiki-text output into a new environment, a quick copy-paste of a few lines into any HTML environment will do the trick. The advantages of this method:

  • it is much faster and easier to do
  • the content will automatically adjust to the look and feel of the new context
  • instead of “copying” a static block of text, images, videos and links, you are effectively “subscribing” to dynamic syndicated content. When the base wiki material is updated, those changes will be rendered automatically in all downstream contexts (if you are a downstream user and don’t want these updates, you can syndicate/embed a specific version of the page’s history)

In addition to the embed code, CTLT’s crack Web Development team has also developed a wonderful WordPress plugin that allows for a little more control how the output renders, and also works on any MediaWiki page (including Wikipedia).

The latest hotness is the addition of “embed stats”, which can track the reuse of any individual page, or see the reuse system-wide.

Since I am used to reactions that run from blank stares to outright hostility when touting the advantages of syndicating content, I am pleasantly surprised to see so much reuse. Our megapower-users in the Department of Mathematics and the UBC Library are making especially good use of this functionality. For instance, this tutorial on creating persistent URL’s on electronic library holdings is posted on our university’s Copyright information site, the Library’s Help centre, and has also been added to someone’s Blackboard course.

Looking at the UBC Wiki’s embed stats I am struck by how commonly wiki content is reused in a private learning management system. But then again it makes sense, especially for those who want elements of both open and private approaches to online learning. This particular arrangement allows for open content sharing, dead-easy collaboration, content updating and remixing… yet can be applied in an LMS with all the control freak comforting enriched features that environment may provide.

We’ve already seen the UBC Wiki emerge as an indispensable content and knowledge management space for internal documentation, course materials, campus life and all things UBC. Combined with the remarkable Wiki Books functionality (example of a math book here), we now have a platform that is powerfully featured, but unlike some hyped alternatives (ahem) is also intrinsically collaborative, highly interoperable and open source.

See also Scott Leslie’s fantastic overview of MediaWiki as an open textbook engine (and much more), part of his already epic series on open publishing tools for educators.

You can download the source code for the EmbedTracker plugin from the team’s Github page.

9 thoughts on “UBC Wiki Content – To Go

  1. Wondering if there is a reason the actual wiki embed extension for mediawiki isn’t also in the Git repository (as I think the “embed tracker plugin” is just the tracking component, but maybe I have that wrong.)

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