[Mediawiki-l] Namespace recommendations for using MW in university courses

Joshua Yeidel yeidel at wsu.edu
Mon Jan 29 22:04:46 UTC 2007


It depends a lot on what you are trying to accomplish.  If you want a space
which only you can edit, a wiki is probably not the right tool.  If you want
a space which only your students can edit, MediaWiki is probably not the
right tool (unless you run your own instance).

At Washington state University, we use MediaWiki to support what we call


This is a general encyclopedia-style wiki for use by the whole university
community.  We see a benefit in cross-course discussion of topics, so
specifically did NOT want to create course spaces.  Obviously, this concept
is not well understood by everyone, so there's some "wiki gardening" and
general education to accomplish, but we think the principle is sound and the
work is progressing.

You could create course-specific topic pages by using subpages, e.g.:


Each page and subpage has its own "Talk" page.

If the "subpage" feature is enabled, then each subpage will have an
automatically-generated link to the "superpage" -- in the example,
LOG120/Cohesion would have an auto link to LOG120.  If you have subsubpages,
the links form a breadcrumb all the way back to the root (LOG120) page.  If
the "subpage" feature is disabled, the auto links don't appear.  Other than
that, you can use a "/" to denote a subpage whether or not the feature is

However, be aware that the superpage does not have a list of its subpages;
you can maintain a list of links manually, or use one or another MW
extension to provide it.  Of course, a search for "LOG120" will turn up the
page and all its subpages.


-- Joshua

On 1/24/07 4:53 PM, "Christopher Fuhrman" <christopher.fuhrman at etsmtl.ca>

> Hello,
> I'm very pleased to learn that my university department has put in place a
> MediaWiki server for use in our courses, IT support, etc. However, I'm
> writing to ask for advice about a good "pattern" for name spaces in such an
> environment, as our technicians prefer to just let us "have at it." I have
> seen a few live wikis at universities, and there doesn't seem to be a set
> pattern, per se, on how to do this.
> As an instructor, I've already set up a few wiki pages for use in the
> context of one of my courses, using MediaWiki on a free web site. During
> this trial, I realized a few problems. First, certain terms have definitions
> that are relative to my course. For example, I teach an intro to software
> design (LOG120 is its course code), and I expect my students to learn the
> very basic concepts of "coupling" and "cohesion". If one looks up the global
> (wikipedia) definitions for these terms, they may or may not be useful in
> the context of my course (not to mention that software engineering is a
> "young" field and we don't all agree on terms). So, this means I have to
> prefix my pages with a context of my course (project). Second, I had to be
> very careful while rapidly creating my pages on this site not to "steal" the
> global definitions (which happens if I forget to prefix a link with my
> namespace and I accidentally create it.)
> So, the pages for Coupling and Cohesion I'd like to have for my course have
> a particular context, which implies I need to have a name space that's
> unique to my course, e.g., LOG120, so I'd have LOG120:Coupling and
> LOG120:Cohesion.
> Here are the problems I see with this approach, and I'd like to get some
> feedback from this list before we spend too much energy in the wrong
> direction:
> 1) From what I understand about MW software, there are only 16 name spaces
> allowed, and my department has more than 30 courses. Assuming every
> professor jumped on board with the wiki approach (which is unlikely), it
> seems we'll run out of name spaces with this strategy of one per course. If
> we don't use course-specific contexts, I can foresee disagreements about
> content on pages for different contexts. It could be interesting perhaps to
> have one context, but with course-specific information separated on that
> page. Professors aren't going to be agreeing on definitions, because of the
> principle of academic freedom.
> 2) On a given page, most of the links will have to be prefixed with the
> course's name space. This seems to be a lot of redundant prefixing, and runs
> the risk of an errant global page being created when done hastily. Is there
> a way in MediaWiki pages to define a "default" name space prefix?
> 3) What about the basic concepts of "Talk:", etc. for MW layout? It seems
> like if I use a name space convention as stated above, Talk:Cohesion would
> not be about my course's version of Cohesion, but rather the general
> meaning. This is ambiguous.
> An obvious alternative configuration would be a wiki server for each course,
> but that seems like overkill for the technicians to maintain. The opposite
> is to not have any course-specific namespaces, and use prefixes with a "."
> like LOG120.Coupling - again, this seems like less user-friendly from the
> standpoint of editing of the links.
> Looking forward to any feedback, advice or examples of well designed MW
> sites used in a teaching context. Regards,
> Cris Fuhrman

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