Thursday, July 26, 2012

WYSIWHAT: Sprinting in Berlin on Creating/Editing Meaning Full Docs

Authoring with meaning and style. 

A group of 18 met on Monday in Berlin to discuss the ideal authoring tool for creating rich content that travels well. By travels well, we all meant slightly different things. In the world of Open Education Resources (OER) we care about content that is easy to share, mix, adapt, translate, and improve. Projects helping groups create books or helping authors self publish, traveling well means content that can be made effective online, in print, and in mobile formats of various sizes and capabilities.

The day was organized as a brainstorming session in 5 groups, twice over, with pens and paper for drawing concepts as well as paper prototypes. Then we had lunch. And then the groups presented ideas and people wrote ideas, questions, issues on sticky notes, which we then sorted into major categories.

Join our discussion!
Principles: We all agreed on a surprising number of principles that appeared from the groupings and commonalities:
  • An editor/authoring tool must show authors, editors, and designers what the finished project will look like in various formats. WYSIWYG is necessary, even though some of it will necessarily be in selectable previews
  • The model that works best for creation of content is a clean canvas (blank page like) with a simple set of tools that are there when you need them, but not ever overwhelming. 
  • Content is created in workflow phases that may alternate in time, but are distinct in the operations that are needed. Content goes through creation, enhancement, review, basic styling, and finishing for distribution. If those phases can share an editor, but customize the interface and supported operations, the natural workflow will be supported in a fluid, dynamic way.
  • Tools should be contextual. 
  • Training should be integrated and contextual (angry-birds style!)
  • A very clear separation between structure and style is needed to support documents that travel well.
Finally three more groups formed. 1. Developers to go and evaluate existing web-based HTML editors and bring brack recommendations. 2. Writers/Editors representatives to take the brainstorming and prioritize must-haves, really-like-to-haves, and someday-wants. 3. And Designers' representatives to look closely at the needs for layout, image managment, and style. 

Day 2

In Day 2, we spent the morning reviewing the knowledge gathered from the day before with the goal to choose a code base for everyone to work on for the rest of the week and hopefully for the near future also. There was a lot of interest in Aloha and Hallo.js, with practical reasons to consider choosing just one for now, but keeping our work flexible so that other editors can be incorporated. In the afternoon, developers started work enhancing image upload and image drag and drop from desktop to document. You can follow along on github. 

The design group looked in depth at some mockups from the oerpub team and started working on designs for adding images, equations, and more

The sprint continues for the rest of the week, although I have resumed holiday en Toscano!


Follow along on Github


  1. Hi Kathi,

    You should check out our tool called iPad ELN: It incorporates a Semantic Editor. It's used in the context of Experimental Research Notes but the issue you are confronting is exactly the same.

    It's not free/open-source, but I'm the founder of the company and am flexible on the business model.

    I'm also very interested in the education domain. Check out my blog article on the subject:


  2. Hi Alexander, Thanks for sharing your semantic app for research notes and your ideas for organizing learning materials on your blog post. Very interesting. While we are committed to providing a semantic editor that is open source, I am very interested in how for profits might package services and hosted versions with business models around them. We should definitely talk. Send me an email.