Exploring Semantic Media Wiki

Semantic Media Wiki is an extension to the Media Wiki, a wiki engine used by Wikipedia and lots of other public wikis. I have been watching Semantic Media Wiki for a while but never really spent time thinking of how we can use it. Today I spent a couple of hours reading the introduction to SMW and its extensions. Here is a brief summary:

  1. SMW is built on top of Mediawiki engine and is free
  2. SMW uses an innovative feature of Mediawiki called extensions
  3. Mediawiki extensions allow you at add new functionality to mediawiki without touching the core
  4. SMW adds the ability to annotate wiki content so that you can view the content in many different ways but also have a bot extract, export data from inside the wiki
  5. There are several cool and extremely useful extensions to SMW like Semantic Forms, Halo etc.
  6. Ontoprise even produces a package called SMW+ which includes the basic mediawiki engine + semantic media wiki extension + many other useful extension and calls it enterprise wiki
  7. There are several SMW hosting sites (in case you do not want to go through the process of installing it in your host)

I know this is a very short summary, but I hope to come back and gush about how cool SMW is someday after I use it for a while. Right now, I am thinking of using it for the following.

1. For a new public website we are creating.

The advantage of using a wiki for a website are many. You can make portions of website protected so that no one can change it. But open up other portions of your website for community participation.  You get a lot of benefits. Easy content management, templates, category pages, built in search, automatic revision control, easy editing. With SMW you get a few more features like semantic annotations, easy publishing of machine readable data. To me the most exciting part is the ability to dip my toes in the semantic web technology which will change the web experience dramatically over the next few years.

2. Create a few  learning spaces

I have a tried a couple of learning portals with pbwiki (now called pbworks) and am very happy with the experiment. Pbworks folks are great in terms of support, make it easy to create wikis and maintain it and even provide some nice wysywig tools for editing. Now I want to go to the next step and figure out how we can use some of the capabilities of a semantic wiki to build collaborative learning spaces (lekis).

3.  Build an internal Knowledge Base

We already use a wiki as an internal knowledge base for projects, resources and managing project logs and learn logs. There is a lot of content that can benefit from more structure and easy reuse across our website and internal wiki. We also want to build a few bots that do some of the more mundane work for us. For example extract information from project log and add it to internal timesheets. Another would be to crawl requests for changes both internally and externally and create list views. For example, I can write in my project log that it would be nice to support this feature and annotate it so that it automatically becomes part of a feature list.

4. Manage a bunch of evolving microdocuments

Ever since we started using a wiki internally, our need for using products like Word or Google Documents has come down dramatically. Since micro documents by nature are small pieces of text (often a page),  lists and links, we start off incrementally building them. Often we just start with an intent expressed in title and some todo items in a page and come back to fill it later. Creating a document like this is way more satisfying and lot easier.

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6 thoughts on “Exploring Semantic Media Wiki

  1. Caitlin,
    That is really cool. I use a wiki for personal notebook but use Wikipad. Following your example, I may switch to SMW as well.

    Dorai

  2. Well, I’m just at the very very beginning, and I’ve already switched around everything! LOL.. I guess it’s better to rethink things at the start instead of half way through. Have you begun to use it?

  3. Not yet. But soon, very soon. The wikipad I currently use is reasonably good and fast. So I need to figure out to move a lot of stuff from there to the semantic media wiki.

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