Archive | February, 2007

Some contradictory feedback

13 Feb

We just got these two pieces of feedback on our Point-and-Click editor within 25 minutes of each other:

oh pbwiki. just when i think you couldn’t make it any easier… there you go again. it is a beautiful editor and it couldn’t be simpler. thank you for your great work! i have started pbwikis for several of my jobs as a grad student and this new editor has only helped grow their popularity.

thanks again!

Yeah!!! And then this one:

I can’t stand it.

Hmm. Well, we do let you switch from the Point-and-Click editor to the Classic editor with just one click. Check the top-right corner of your page when you’re editing.

-Ramit

RSS & Atom Feed "Leaks"

13 Feb

Dear wiki owners,

A few people have been surprised recently when their users accidentally republished information from private wikis to the world at large by way of an RSS / Atom feed. Here is the low-down on how this can happen and how you can avoid it.

Your users must be careful when using a private wiki to not share the private, unguessable feed URL with third parties. If a user uses a third party web-based feedreader like Bloglines or Google Reader and pastes in the private feed URL, they have given that third party access to the feed, which may likely contain private data, such as email addresses, page names, and snippets of page content.

Some of these third parties may decide to publicly republish the feed’s content, or make it indexable by Google and other search engines. This is in spite of our servers very clearly telling third party services (with the Robots exclusion policy, the Google indexing Atom extension, and the Bloglines access control feed extension) that they should not allow any material obtained on a human’s behalf available to other users. But that doesn’t always stop them, either by accident or malice, from republishing data that a user has given to them.

In order to help protect our private wiki communities from accidental disclosure in this way, we’re going to be disabling feeds by default for all private wikis starting March 15, 2007. If you own a private wiki and want to keep feeds enabled, no problem – just surf on over to the “Feeds” tab of your settings page any time before March 15 and pick “enable” and we won’t get in your way. Or you can disable them immediately if you want to prevent the above situation.

Cheers,

David Weekly
PBwiki’s CEO

Case study: cas100b.pbworks.com

8 Feb

What is Cas100b.pbworks.com?

It’s a class on communication, arts, and sciences (100b is the course designation).

Screenshot of cas100b.pbworks.com How’d you first hear about PBwiki?I took an English graduate class (I’m a grad student as well as an instructor) and decided to give it a try since I teach a group communications class. Several of my colleagues were using PBwiki and it seemed really easy.We love hearing that! So how do you use your PBwiki?Neither of us had ever used a wiki in a classroom, so we were feeling our way through it with our students. We have our own course management software through Penn State. So at the beginning, we were using the CMS (content-management system) and then having the class submit through the wiki. Finally, the students asked if they could do just one. So we turned everything to the wiki.

I really wanted a space where they could work together and see everyone’s else’s work. Our CMS is really good for individual work and student/instructor (we assign, they return) but it’s not really good for encouraging group work. The group file areas aren’t very good. One group can’t view another group’s work.

We were interested in the public and collaborative aspect of the wiki. It was a lot better than the other closed-off options we had. We want our students not only learn for themselves, but analyze other group’s work and learn from them. It would give them a different perspective from just their own groups.

We end up having a couple of groups in crisis, so other groups could see that weren’t functioning so well. I think this was very helpful.

Can you share some of the results you’ve found from using PBwiki?

The flexibility was so useful for me. Being able to just go in and change the lesson plans around, and make the chance instantly in the wiki, was really useful to me. Being able to keep up with the groups — I asked them to post their group notes so I could see who was keeping up and documenting their groups’ progress. I could step in and ask them to speed it up. I could technically have had them turn paper in, but most of them don’t use paper any more. The wiki was really useful for flexibility and keeping track of their progress in a different way.

Why’d you choose PBwiki?

Because it was easy. I’d gotten recommendations from a couple of friends, and almost without really meaning to, I had a wiki set up instantly. I’ve done a little bit of stuff on Wikipedia. Without having set up a wiki before, I was surprised how ridiculously easy it was.

How many people are active on your wiki?

143 students and 2 instructors.

Wow. What has been the biggest surprise for you in using PBwiki?

Surprised at how simple I found it. I also didn’t realize how many files my students would store (like Powerpoint files).

Would you tell others about PBwiki?

Yes, and I have. I tell them that if they ever want to start a wiki, PBwiki is a really good one to use.

Tip of the Week #6: Cross-Browser Design

6 Feb

totw-banner.jpg

PBwiki does an amazing job of maintaining cross-browser compatibility in its basic design, so much so that people have told me about editing their wikis from their Blackberries. The designers work hard getting layouts and skins to look the same in every major browser, and for the most part, you’ll never ever have to think about making sure your page looks the same in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc. That’s awesome.

Nonetheless, as people spend more time with their wikis, they will undoubtedly experiment. Maybe they learn a little HTML and create a few layouts within the content area. Maybe they are even more experimental and learn CSS to skin their wiki in bold new ways. Maybe they are really ambitious and begin fiddling with Javascript. Regardless of the situation, and especially if your browser of choice is not Internet Explorer, you’ll want to know that things look okay in other browsers. Continue reading

PBwiki in medical school!

5 Feb

Ritu S. writes…

I’m a first-year medical student and for Histology class we are assigned multiple group projects over the year. There are six to eight students per group, and we usually divide the project into sections. We each send our individual slides to one or two other students for editing and compilation. For each assignment, our professor receives 32 PowerPoint and Word documents, filled with graphics and various formats of text and “speaker’s notes” via “yousenditâ€?.

After the first assignment, a student recommended using PBwiki to streamline the group projects. Dr. Brandon liked the idea and suggested that the students could do the projects using PBwiki if we felt it would save time and make our projects more cohesive.

From Dr. Brandon’s email:

THE FINAL PRODUCT can be:

MS-Word format with pictures (always fiddly to get the pictures to stay where we put them).

PowerPoint. If you use this tool, PLEASE USE SPEAKER’S NOTES!

A Wiki. The best way to collaborate because any group member can edit the current version of the document at any time, using any computer with a browser. You can set one up for free at http://www.pbworks.com. If you’re interested, ask me, or Amy Hockenbrock, for details (the Amy-generated Physiology website at rfumsphysiology.pbworks.com is a good example).

By the end of the last project, about one third of the class groups were putting their presentations together using PBwiki. Our final is coming up and Dr. Brandon just emailed us some links to a handful of the projects, indicating that some of our test questions will come directly from those presentations, as well as some of the PowerPoint files he has posted online.

I knew about PBwiki before my professor made the suggestion, but I wouldn’t have thought to use it for a class project. It’s proven to be a pretty useful tool for a lot of my classmates and myself, more so now that I can easily study for the final using the wikis we’ve created.

Browser trends

2 Feb

We aggregate all kinds of usage data so help us make better decisions about how to improve PBwiki. Here are a few graphs I found interesting as a web geek, enjoy.

Firefox
Firefox distribution

Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer adoption

Browser family
Browser family