Courses/Wikis-Publishing Platforms

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Course Description


Wikis as Publishing Platforms


André Castro


Publication Station


Wikis form a family of web applications, dedicated to collaborative content creation. In a Wiki, anyone can easily become an editor and start creating content. Compared to other content management systems, Wikis impose little rules on its users, allowing them to develop workflows and structures based on the necessities and specificities of each project. This course will be based on the experience of devising a hybrid publishing workflow for the Beyond Social magazine, centered around a Wiki. The tools, methods, and protocols employed in Beyond Social will be revealed and explored, with the intention of finding ways in which they can be applied and extended to other hybrid publishing projects, within WdKA.


  • getting to know Wikis: Wikis origins, goals, and relevance in todays web; But also its syntax, structure,
  • converting Wiki pages into other formates, using Pandoc: website(HTML pages), EPUB, ICML(inDesign project)
  • Mediawiki API - access content through Mediawiki API, and in conjunction with Pandoc develop scripts which automate publishing tasks; Experiment with retrieving and applying normally hidden information, such as a page's history.


Publishing and Art Projects Based on Wikis

For whom

For anyone who's interested in finding simple and experimental ways to publish content on the web and in other supports.

Course Goals

By the end of this course participants should have:

  • developd an understanding of wiki as flexible, customizable and open (read-write) publishing environments on the web.
  • familiarized themselves cultural context in which Wikis developed, as well as the motivations that led to their development and popularity.
  • familiarized themselves with the conventions of wikis, such as syntax, pages' structure, revisions, categories, namespaces.
  • understood and explored the wiki as an inherently hybrid publishing environment, by:
    • comprehending syntax as a structured language - a markup language - compatible to HTML and other markups, which results in the easy and lossless translation to many publishing formats and forms: websites, EPUBs, paper (through Scribus/inDesign), visual maps (SVG).
  • exploring the possibilities of the wiki's API, as a way to programmatically access information from the wiki, opening up the possibilities for creating generative wikis, which are constantly informed by updates on the wiki.


Day 1

Getting to know wikis: what are wiki. wiki syntax, pages, categories, Extensions.

Wiki Intro - What are wikis?

Context: wikis as (hybrid) publishing platforms

  • Publishing
    • what is written on wikis is public;
    • Low threshold for publishing - click the edit button
  • (Hybrid)
    • wiki content can easily be published under different formats or context.
    • Examples: Wikipedia Export book function; Toneelstof, Beyond Social, or this presentation (both wiki content and slide show)

Wiki Origins

Ward Cunningham Wiki Wiki Web

In 1995 Ward Cunningham creates the first wiki, naming it Wiki Wiki Web (Wiki in Hawaii means quick!).

  • Interview with Ward Cunningham
    • links between pages, as ways to connect information
    • links to non-existing, encourage the creation of the new pages
    • read-write system - writing is as natural and expected as writing
    • the wiki territory expands as a result of contributions
    • anonymous editing - collaborative writing.

Wikipedia, Wiki Media Foundation, MediaWiki

  • 2000 - Jimmy Wales attempts to create a free online encyclopedia - Nupedia.
  • Nupedia fails.
  • 2001 - After hearing about wikis Wales and Larry Sanger decide to build Nupedia on it, calling it Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia was first build using a software called UseModWiki (a sibling of Wiki Wiki Web). UseModWiki was slow and didn't support the scale Wikipedia was growing into.
  • A new wiki software for Wikipedia, starts is developed, based more efficient and scalable web technology: PHP programming language, MySQL database. The software got the name of MediaWiki.
  • 2002 - Wikipedia switches to using MediaWiki.
  • 2003 - Wiki Media Foundation is created.
  • MediaWiki currently power many wikis, including Wikipedia and subsidiary project, as well as other wiki such as this one.

Wiki software

  • MediaWiki - PHP, MySQL, Webserver
  • Docuwiki - similar to MediaWiki
  • MoinMoin - Python, relies on plain text files & folders
  • Zim - Desktop wiki, relies on plain text files & folders.
  • TiddlyWiki - another Desktop wiki, based on HTML files and Javascript

Comparison of wiki software

Running a wiki: 2 options

Install and set up a wiki in your PC or server.


Use a wikifarm (wiki host), such as Wikia. List of several wiki farms.

wiki conventions


To edit a wiki you need most wikis to register as user.

Different user's groups have different privileges:

  • user: can edit and create pages
  • administrators: can delete pages, put other users into a different group
  • bot

Wiki Markup language

Wiki Markup: structured text, simplified version of HTML, easily converted to HTML.


Pages Creation

Pages can be created by:

  • creating an empty page link, clicking it, and start editing. The following [[my empty page]] will translate to my empty page
  • adding the page name to URL bar, you'll be directly to the empty page, and start editing empty page
  • Red link = previously non-existing page.
  • Blue link = existing page.

Talk Pages

Every Page has its respective Discussion or Talk page.

Talk pages are the site of discussion and conflicts that go on to the making of an article.

An example: Talk page on Invisible Pink Unicorn Wikipedia article

User Pages

Experiment:Edit User Pages

Create and edit your user page.

Include internal (to pages on this wiki) and external (to web pages outside this wiki) links.

Include an internal and external image.

Files and Images

To include non-text media (images,pdfs,audio-video) on the wiki, a File page needs to be created as a place-holder for the file

  • [[File:myimage.png]]
  • the page must be saved
  • click on the red link, of the file you want to upload
  • Follow the instruction to upload your file

Pages' Revision History

The history of versions or revisions of a page is stored.

They can be accessible via "View History"

Each revision shows its author, time, action, and at times summary.

Revisions can be compared, edited and undone.

Artworks exploring Wikipedia's Revision History

The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs by James Bridle, collects the history of changes from the Wikipedia's article on The Iraq War between 2004 and 2009.

Epicpedia by Annemieke van der Hoek transforms Wikipedia's revision history into a theater script.

Cramer, Florian. 2011. “A Brechtian Media Design: Annemieke van Der Hoek’s Epicpedia.” In Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader, 221–26. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Works that:

  • present other interfaces to Wikipedia,
  • placing in the foreground the revision history:
  • question the neutral point-of-view and unified nature of Wikipedia articles.


Rewind the history of edits from your user page to a previous stage, and back to the current.

Structuring a wiki

What situations require an overall structure, more elaborate than its "flat" systems of pages?

Subpages: simple hierarchy

Subpages are useful for organizing information hierarchically, as parent/child/grandchild

A subpage of a given main page, is create by adding a slash, followed by the sub-page's name, to the main page name.

[[main page/subpage/sub-subpage]]

Example: this very page Courses/Wikis-Publishing Platforms is a sub page from the Courses page

{{Special:PrefixIndex/{{FULLPAGENAME}}/}} can be placed on a parent page to display all its children.

Namespaces: separate spaces

Namespaces are container for specific content.

  • Example: the Namespace Wrecks in this wiki was created for material dedicate to Wrecks project and not a part of the Publication Station Wrecks:Main_Page and FIN:Main_Page
  • Note: Namespaces need to be created in the configurations of the wiki.

Categories: Tags, Hierarchies, Spaces, States

Categories are (the only) ways to tag content.

[[Category:courses]] a page to the courses category

Problems: No limit to the categories that can be added to a page.

For next week

Install Pandoc on your machines. We'll use it to convert wiki content on other formats.

Day 2

The Importance of Being Markup

Converting wiki content into other formats.


Wiki syntax is a markup language. Markup languages are exclusive to plain text formats (as opposed to rich text or binary formats). In plain-text file text-formating is applied to the text through a series of "marks" or tags. The marks or tags are like instructions, on how each marked segment of text should be interpreted or rendered.

Markups: write/interpret

You have be doing been using the wiki Markup during this workshop. You've probably noticed how, when in writing mode, symbols as =heading= bold Page are interpreted and given a specific meaning or style when the wiki page is rendered, or in other words, is in read mode.

Like the markup of the following segment, originates a styled and structured page.

= Revenge of the Text =

There is a room in the '''Musée d’Orsay''' that I call the ''room of possibilities''.

That room contains:
* a snow flake
* the end of a cloud
* a bit of nothing

Markup: explicit structure

One of the advantages of markup languages is that they imply an explicit text structure.

In order words, markups force you to declare:

  • "this sentence is a section heading": =section heading=
  • "this word is bold": bold word.
  • "this hyperlink has x as URL and" [x-URL title]

You are not allowed to give meaning or structure to the text by visually styling (like you'd do in inDesign or Word).

Meaning or structure can only be given to the text semantically. That means adding marks to the segments of text we want to format.

Markups: interchangeable

One advantage of this explicit semantic formating is that conversions between different markups (Wiki, HTML, Markdown, LaTeX, etc) are made easy.

In most cases markups have HTML as a reference, allowing only formating options that are available in HTML.

Consequently converting between markups is easy.

A markups converter software has to only to know the meaning of all the meta-characters in a markup and what are the corresponding meta-characters in another markup.

If the software knows that it can convert





# title



Examples: the same text in different Markup


<h1>Revenge of the Text</h1>
 <p>There is a room in the <strong>Musée d’Orsay</strong> that I call the <em>room of possibilities</em>.</p>
 <p>That room contains:</p>
  <li>a snow flake</li>
  <li>the end of a cloud</li>
  <li>a bit of nothing</li>

Wiki markup:

= Revenge of the Text =
There is a room in the '''Musée d’Orsay''' that I call the ''room of possibilities''.

That room contains:
* a snow flake
* the end of a cloud
* a bit of nothing


# Revenge of the Text
There is a room in the **Musée d’Orsay** that I call the *room of possibilities*.

That room contains:
* a snow flake
* the end of a cloud
* a bit of nothing


\section{Revenge of the Text}\label{revenge-of-the-text}

There is a room in the \textbf{Musée d'Orsay} that I call the \emph{room
of possibilities}.

That room contains:

  a snow flake
  the end of a cloud
  a bit of nothing


One popular software for converting between markups is Pandoc

Pandoc diagram.png

Working with Pandoc

Pandoc is a command-line tool. This means that instead of a GUI it uses a command line interpreter or shell, where the interaction with it is based on text commands.

There a few web interfaces to Pandoc, such as, but they are not as flexible as the command-line interface to Pandoc.

Pandoc conversions: wiki to HTML

Convert a file containing mediawiki syntax, into a an HTML file.

pandoc --from mediawiki --to html5 --standalone --output=output.html

pandoc - program dedicate to the conversion between different markups.

--from - option standing for “from”, is followed by the input format;

--to - option standing for “to”, is followed by the output format;

--standalone - option standing for “standalone”, produces output with an appropriate header and footer;

--output - option for file output; - plain-text file with wiki syntax - you need to replace it by its actual name

Pandoc conversions: HTML to wiki

pandoc --from mediawiki --to html5 --standalone --output=output.html

Pandoc conversions: wiki to ICML

ICML files can be imported into inDesign. See Hybrid publishing/publishing resources#working_with_ICML_files for more information.

Pandoc conversions: wiki to EPUB

It is also possible to use Pandoc to produce an EPUB from a single


file, or any other markup accepted by Pandoc.

A few extra resources, such the cover image, metadata, and stylesheet should be included, as they strongly influence the EPUB's outcome.

pandoc --from wiki --to epub3 --self-contained --epub-chapter-level=1 --epub-stylesheet=styles.epub.css  --epub-cover-image=cover.jpg --epub-metadata=metadata.xml --toc-depth=1 --output=book.epub 

New options:

  • --epub-chapter-level=1 - at what titles' level chapters occur: heading 1
  • --epub-stylesheet=styles.epub.css - css style sheet for epub
  • --epub-cover-image=cover.jpg - epub cover image
  • --epub-metadata=metadata.xml -
  • --toc-depth=1

Example of metadata.xml

<dc:title id="epub-title-1">MAIN TITLE</dc:title>
<meta refines="#epub-title-1" property="title-type">main</meta>
<dc:publisher>Your Publisher</dc:publisher>    
<dc:date id="epub-date">2015</dc:date>
<dc:creator id="epub-creator-0">AUTHOR'S NAME</dc:creator>
<meta refines="#epub-creator-0" property="role" scheme="marc:relators">aut</meta>
<dc:contributor id="epub-contributor-1">EDITOR'S NAME</dc:contributor>
<meta refines="#epub-contributor-1" property="role" scheme="marc:relators">edt</meta>
<dc:contributor id="epub-contributor-5">DESIGNER'S NAME</dc:contributor>
<meta refines="#epub-contributor-5" property="role" scheme="marc:relators">dsr</meta>
<dc:subject>TAGS, SEPARATED BY, COMAS</dc:subject>
<dc:description>PUBLICATION SYNOPSIS</dc:description>

Conclusion: wiki as hybrid publishing tools

Hopefully these examples make more clear what I stated in day#1 wikis are inherently hybrid publishing tools, as

  • wikis are about publishing quickly and easily
  • wiki content can be easily converted to other formats, since it uses a Markup languange.

As a result many derived works, or re-mediations of wiki content exist. From the more pragmatic examples, such as Wikipedia Export book function, Toneelstof, Beyond Social, or this presentation (both wiki content and slide show); To more artistic interventions such as The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs by James Bridle or Epicpedia by Annemieke van der Hoek.

We'll continue looking re-mediations of wiki content. In the next day we'll focus on the MediaWiki API, an interface to Mediawiki wikis, which allows retrieving and editing content programatically.

Day 3: Remediation - Mediawiki API

Appropriating and reporposing wikis' content.

How to get content?

Although there is nothing wrong in copying the content of wiki pages in order to turn them into other publishing objects, it is a slightly tedious process, specially when you want to work with large quantities of data. Those tedious tasks can be more easily handled by software.

Mediawiki wiki present a solution for this problem by providing a Web API, which functions as a programmatic interface (computer-to-computer instead of human-to-computer) to Mediawiki installations.


An API or application programming interface is an interface that allows interaction via other software. It allows things such as apps to be build on top of existing services, where the apps use the API to interact with the service.

Web APIs

Mediawiki API is a Web API.

Essentially it means that the API is accessed thought HTTP requests and responds using JSON or XML object.

Mediawiki API

Mediawiki API allows many and very intricate request for information (and editing) from Mediawiki installations.

A few examples will follow, you can request using your web browser. Including a Pretty-prints JSON extension on your browser, as it will help you read the API's responses.

Example: Page basic info English Wikipedia's Main Page Beyond Social's Colophon page

Example: Page content English Wikipedia's Main Page Beyond Social's Colophon page

Decomposing an API request format=json & action=query & titles=Colophon & prop=revisions & rvprop=content 
  • - endpoint - the home page of the MediaWiki web service. It can be found by going to the Version:Special page of a wiki a searching for the API entry point
  • format=json - the format of the output. Can either be JSON of XML, although XML is being phased out
  • action=query - what action to you want to performed. query is the most used, but there many more available options, such as editing and deleting pages.

Then comes the action specific parameters

  • titles=Colophon - the page queried
  • prop=revisions - what properties you want from of a page: revision. As no particular revision is specified the latest will be returned
  • rvprop=content - what specific properties you want from the page revision in question: content. You could also ask for the user who created the last revision, or the comment left by the user. These properties can be combined in a single request. rvprop=content|user|comment

Example: Page revisions


Example: Images in a page

Example: categories a page belongs to

Examples: Contributors to a page

Example: Users of a wiki

limit of 100 users

Create something with API results

Getting wiki's information (content, users, revisions, images, etc) is easy like this. Yet, turning it into something else, can be challenging and involve writing scripts to sort the information received from the API calls.

To make life slightly easier for you I'll add a few python scripts that will create:

  • a map of all the users of a wiki
  • a history of the recent edits to an article
  •  ????

All these scripts have parameters that affect their behavior, such as the queried wiki page and wiki, dates, etc.

All the results are HTML pages, which are driven from template html page, a sort of shell container to the content collected by the API.

You can change the template's CSS style-sheet as well as structure.

Just be aware of not changing elements that have <!-- container --> written inside them.

, an interface to Mediawiki wikis, which allows  retrieving and editing content programatically

Notes on scripts

students should have to understand python to generate "derivates" from wiki content.

Instead they can be given a script that allows them to play with different arguments and allow different "derivates" to emerge from the same content.

Some guidelines:

  • each script deals with only one type of content: users, text, revisions, images, subpages

the principal should be similar to epubtrailer where the user can choose: background-color, color, source (wiki, page),