Archive | April, 2007

One for the History Books

28 Apr

This is not a robot

PBwiki is going down in history. Namely, PBwiki will be included in a book tentatively titled, “The Teacher’s Guide to Teaching History with Technology: A Handbook for Teachers, by Teachers” by Justin Reich and Tom Daccord of the Center for Teaching History with Technology.

The book, to be published by M.E. Sharpe, has an anticipated publishing date of sometime in Spring, 2008.

On hearing this news Peebers the Undeniable Robot of History ®, a bit of a history buff, clanged his enormous iron feet onto his hassock, clenched his half-bent billiard between his two rows of frighteningly regular enamel teeth and sighed with satisfaction.


Curious about PBwiki privacy and security?

26 Apr

We’ve had a few people e-mail us with questions regarding the privacy and security of PBwiki. Is PBwiki secure? Is it managed by a 3rd party? Are PBwiki servers sitting in some guys living room or running at an appropriate colocation center?

In an e-mail written to one of our users, our master chief, David Weekly answered the questions above:

Our servers are in a 24/7 guarded facility in an earthquake-proofed building in San Francisco, behind several layers of locked, sealed, access-controlled portals. The servers are owned and operated exclusively by a select handful of our staff, who have had checks performed on them and have signed a strict zero information disclosure policy document. We do not use third parties to manage our servers.

The servers are secured with a custom-hardened version of the Linux kernel, with a hand-tuned per-server lockdown of services and custom assembled IP firewall rules to only permit legitimate traffic. We have many companies and organizations keeping some of their most confidential data with us; if they kept it on their own shared drives at their office, there would be a significantly higher chance of exposure from a break-in.

Yep, PBwiki is secure.

Tip of the Week #17: URL Parameters and You

25 Apr


Sometimes you might be inclined to look at your address bar and wonder what PBwiki is up to. What’s all this “?edit=1” and “?raw=1” nonsense you see hanging off the end of your wiki names? More importantly, can YOU do anything interesting with them?

Well, of course the answer is yes, they can be useful to you; otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this entry. Each of those examples represents parameters that are passed to PBwiki so that the computers on their end can know what page to fetch and send back to you. For a non-PBwiki example, when you do a search in Google, the search term is included in the address of the next page you request, and that information is used by Google’s servers to search their database for your information.

Similarly, when “?edit=1” is set on PBwiki, it says “send me the edit-mode version of this page.” You can use parameters like this one to help make navigating your site easier…

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United Nations and PBwiki Partner to Provide Global Platform for Corporate Responsibility

25 Apr


PBwiki’s mascot, Peebers the Unstoppable Robot of Collaboration (SM), is clanking his way through the august halls of the United Nations today, pressing the flesh and helping to create global corporate accord.

The UN’s Global Compact is devoted to creating an opt-in organization for corporations who wish to be good citizens. The Global Compact is collaboratively creating a governing policy document that outlines the responsibilities of businesses in our increasingly inter-connected world. They have also recently announced the “Communications on Progress.” This is an initiative to collaboratively review the would-be participants for transparency and accountability in terms of the developing standards of the organization.

To our giddy delight (Peebers positively squealed and skipped when he found out, terrifying several members of the the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean who were standing nearby), the Global Compact Office chose PBwiki to provide the platform for the collaborations. We’re helping them discover the best way to use wikis in the service of their goals. This is important, as 4,000 companies and 700 organizations from over 100 countries are involved.

Jeff Senne, Communications on Progress Manager for the GC said this:

“PBwiki has been very helpful to us in designing and maintaining an interactive space for content distribution and data capture.”

Nice, right?

I think this is a further indicator that wikis are being embraced as powerful tools by the world at large, in this case, by the global policy-making community. My personal opinion (just mine, please note; doesn’t constitute any kind of endorsement) is that the UN’s focus on dialogue and collaboration dovetails nicely with wikis in general and PBwiki in particular.

For more information, read our press release on PBwiki’s partnership with the United Nations.

Also, see the post by Jürgen, one of the UNers in charge of the project. Here’s the UN’s press release on one of the elements of the Global Compact that uses PBwiki. And, here’s a nice write up on the project by the Bivings Report


Brief PBwiki outage

24 Apr

We and the rest of the world were unable to access our San Jose data center for a few minutes this evening (around 5pm PST) — apparently somebody bumped the wrong fiber optic cable. Your wiki’s data was completely safe and most users were able to access their wikis at all times.

We’ve discovered a subtle case which could cause those wikis with a tabbed sidebar to be unavailable or to load very slowly during this outage. It’s been fixed in our version control system already, and won’t happen again. We’re taking other measures now to ensure we’re able to better tolerate this kind of rare network problem.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for using PBwiki!

Tip of the Week #16: Beginner's Q & A

24 Apr


As PBwiki becomes a more unified and simple-to-use product, it naturally grows outside of the scope of tech-junkies and computer-geeks, creating a target audience that includes everyone from SUPAH L33T TECHNO-DWEEB’s like me to somebody’s grandma trying to share her latest knitted masterpiece. Therefore, today I address five of the beginner questions I’ve seen most recently in the PBwiki forums and elsewhere. Even though many of these questions are basic for some of you, remember that everybody has to start somewhere, even when making a peanut-butter sandwich.

(For friends who are further along, I ask that you wait patiently until tomorrow, when I’ll put up something more to your tastes…Thanks!)

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KILL! CRUSH! DESTROY! (or, Help me reach out to the media)

23 Apr

The Giant Clanking Robot of Perfectly Reasonable Vengeance®

I don’t need to tell you that PBwiki is a giant robot, clanking through the forelorn alleys and lonely highways of the world, shooting lasers out of its eyes and sizzling the Ignorant. That’s because you helped to build PBwiki and you know it to be a Thing of Collaborationâ„¢.

I do have to tell others, however. Most will be welcomed, weeping and relieved, into its cold, metal embrace. For others, the robotic klaxon will serve as a cautionary tale. Either way, I can’t do it without the help of the PBwiki faithful. Sure, I know reporters and editors. What are you talking about? I know like a million. But I don’t know all of them. How could I? So I need your help.

Is your brother the tech reporter for the Robotic Sun-Times? Does your sister-in-law cover education for National Public Robot? Is your college roommate the reviews editor for Robots and Gardens? If you’ve got anyone out there in the mythic world of the “mainstream media” please let me know by emailing me at curt(at)pbwiki(dot)com so I can convince them to help me warn the world at large of what you and I already know.

Woe betide the unprepared when the Giant Clanking Robot of Perfectly Reasonable Vengeance®, appears unheralded on the horizon.*

Help me help you. Help me help you. Help me help you.


*I don’t know. I guess there are like two robots, and they’re fighting. Or maybe it’s just one robot, but with two aspects. Or maybe it’s like the robot from The Day The Earth Stood Still, not having a nature sufficient unto itself, but rather reacting to those it comes into contact with, thereby being either a kind of savior or an agent of punishment, depending on how a given person behaves.

New feature: Autosave

19 Apr

Attention students: You now have one less excuse to use — “the wiki ate my homework” line is now history!

When working on a document in our Point-and-Click editor, we’ll automatically save a draft every 3 minutes. If your laptop runs out of battery, your cat closes your browser, or your new copy of Windows Vista crashes on you, no worries, you can now resume (close to) where you left off. We hope you will find this new feature useful and non-intrusive.

How does it work? Just edit your wiki as usual. If your browser crashes, resume editing and you’ll be prompted to resume the autosaved version.

Also, we built Autosave so drafts won’t clutter the Recent Changes or Wiki History.

The autosave feature is free for all PBwikis using the Point-and-Click editor.

Tip of the Week #15: Links

18 Apr


Hey folks! Sorry it’s been so long since the last update, I just got back from a trip to London and now it’s back to the real world for little ol’ me. I hope everybody has been well and is ready to jump in with some more PBwiki tips…

In the past week or two, I’ve seen a lot of questions from users on the forums about how to link from one page to another, link to somebody’s e-mail address, or to do special things like open in a new window or break out of frames. Those options are all available for folks in both the Classic WikiStyle Editor and the newer Point and Click Editor.

First off, we’ll briefly review links in general for our newest users…

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Did you miss the press PBwiki YackPack press conference?

17 Apr

Don’t worry, we recorded both press conferences (2PM and 6PM PST).

You can check out the recordings and all prior press coverage here: