Monday, April 20, 2009


I'm pleased to be able to finally announce a pretty cool event. A group of education researchers from Old Dominion University have been awarded a grant from the MacArther Foundation to pursue usability enhancements to MediaWiki wikis especially as pertains to books and collaborative education.

A brief overview of the grant is available, I'm trying to get my hands on more information and will post it as I have it.

This group of researchers have been active on Wikibooks, which is where I met them and started working with them. Some of their books, Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education and Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment, have been highly successfully multi-semester class projects that serve as good archetypes of other such projects in the future.

This project, called "WITTIE", will not benefit Wikibooks directly, since some of the necessary controls on their experiments won't work in a large open site like Wikibooks. However, I am very hopeful that many of their results will be able to be implemented in Wikibooks, Wikiversity, or other education-based wiki projects after the grant period has concluded.

I'm working with this group as a sort of "expert" consultant and programmer. We're hopefully going to be either (a) finding and enhancing a set of existing usability extensions for MediaWiki, or (b) Developing some of our own usability extensions as needed. To that end, I am looking for interested coders to help out with the MediaWiki and PHP work that's bound to pop up. I am looking for people who are able not only to write decent code, but capable of mitigating the scalability, performance, and security concerns that come with public-facing collaborative websites. If you, or somebody you know fits the bill, I would love to get in touch. Please send me a comment here on this blog or an email if you are interested.

I will post more information, not only on the project itself but also on my hunt for a coder to help with it.


  1. This is great news. Do you know if the WITTE people are in touch with the WMF/Stanton usability people? It'd be interesting to see if they can coordinate any of their testing or coding. To be fair though, the Stanton grant is for Wikipedia, and the WITTE grant is not even really for Wikibooks. Still, it'd good to get some sort of communication if not outright collaboration going on.

  2. No, they haven't been in touch with anybody directly. I've been playing liason for now to get things moving. I think we are going to try to coordinate in some way with the WMF, but I don't know how yet.

    Of course, I'll definitely post updates as I have them.