Question: Call for input on upcoming Rich Editor and Rich Wiki projects for

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by warren | April 13, 2016 20:58 | #12969

Hi, all - we're launching a new project for the website to completely revise the research note posting form based on input from various folks. This summer, we'll launch a similar effort to redesign our wiki pages.

As is always the case in coding, our to-do list could be infinitely long ;-) but I'm hoping to get some of the basic ideas and goals out there in this post, and solicit input and futher suggestions which we'll use to decide on a scope for this project. We're looking to achieve our top goals within a defined timeline, so not everything will be incorporated, but we'll do our best to knock the highest items off the list.

Rich Editor

The Rich Editor project is focused on the following goals, so far:

  • easier, more newcomer-friendly posting experience
  • clearer prompts/scaffolding for formatting and tagging your work
  • tools to encourage authors to invite others into their work
  • not overwhelming authors with too much interface
  • backwards compatibility with older notes

Some ways we're hoping to address these will most likely include:

  • a rich text, What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editor (possibly using the Woofmark library)
  • WYSIWYG image upload and management
  • more customized interface for different note types (events, questions, etc)
  • modularizing parts of the new editor for re-use by others as an independent library (PublicLab.Editor.js or npm install publiclab-editor)

Other ideas that could come into play:

  • prompting people to describe their work in steps
  • prompting for materials/methods -- to enable others to reproduce
  • suggested tags interface
  • drafts, revisions, better auto-save
  • more comprehensive co-authoring
  • "write a research note about this" bookmarklet
  • inline display of a collection of notes, by tag

Have ideas, want to explore/brainstorm/encourage/caution on any of the above? Please leave a comment!

Rich Wiki

Some of the work on the Rich Editor will likely be re-used in the Rich Wiki project, but wikis are more complex (multiple authors, for one), which is why we're doing this project second.

There's a lot here, and we have more time to plan, but the overall goals are to:

  • make the wiki a more collaborative space
  • invite more people in to edit/maintain wikis
  • make wikis a place to write together, instead of write over one another
  • make edits visible to other authors, so they can be discussed
  • make it easier to keep wikis up to date and relevant
  • make wikis more of a living document -- a place to work together, not to just dump information


  • rich/WYSIWYG editing (built on the Rich Editor work)
  • commenting and/or in-line commenting
  • commenting UI: speech-bubble icon in margin
  • "suggest a change" feature, "resolved"
  • comment history
  • editing of subsections: "edit this section"
  • more embedding options like maps, data
  • concurrent editing? (difficult but possible)
  • "staleness" reminders:
    • top of page notice if no edits in X weeks
    • email notification to all authors/watchers "this page hasn't been updated in a while. Mark it [out-of-date] [needs-help]"
    • listing at
  • more wiki page templates: guides, events, how-to, etc?
  • page "Pulse" as Github does for projects, to see a snapshot of collaboration:

A couple may be completed earlier as they've become a priority due to an increase in spam:

  • wiki edit notifications, subscriptions
  • wiki page locking

Anyhow, please jump in with ideas -- we'll likely have to break out some features into separate discussions, so I may break out (at least) the Rich Wikis part of this into its own research note, but either way, we're eager to hear from folks!


Hi Warren,

this is great news. As a newby with the PLab spectrometry I find it still a bit difficult to navigate on the spectrometry pages. (Where do I find the "Write a research note" button? Where are the spectra? Sometimes when I go to my dashboard I see the last spectra but the site seems unable to load the latest research notes...

Also the spectrum tools page is a bit confusing for a beginner. Its all there but its not always easy to find and to know how to use it without reading the manual. Perhaps a new outfit with a standard menue (notes, spectra, tools, capture interface...) that appears on ALL pages at the same place and a more intuitively usable tools page would be great. I am not sure if the webspace provider software is limiting the graphic design possibilities of the pages but if not I could try to help to design something that others could put into proper code...

And another proposal: on the capture page you see the spectrum in real time (camera picture) but it would be nice to have the waterfall and real time curve picture there as well to see how the changes in the cross section line affect the resulting curves without having to go back and forth between the pages. And it would be even cooler if the camera picture there would be bigger so that it will be easier to find the best cross section. (My mouse hand motorics aren't so precise, you know?)

I hope this helps on your quest to improve things. I still think this is an absolutely great community here!

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I'm interested in the interconnection between research notes and wikis. Currently only an author or admin can move markdown from a note to a wiki page. How can we facilitate this movement? can we continue to track authorship? i.e. This section of the wiki was @X's note?

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Thanks all for your input!

Good idea on movement from note => wiki -- and on authorship metadata. We should also do more generally to make wiki authorship apparent.

Side note: I was browsing the Ruby on Rails guides, and saw this at the bottom:

Feedback: You're encouraged to help improve the quality of this guide. If you see any typos or factual errors...

Made me think we could consider having a permanent prompt at the top or bottom of all wiki pages, inviting people to fix/add/refine. Of course this'd be easier with more in-line editing options, and a suggestion feature, etc. But good to keep in mind.

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@warren, this is great. Thanks! I'm also interested in: (1) both in-line and post-text commenting (like how we comment on research notes). (2) being able to have linked sections that would be the same on multiple wiki pages (e.g. "background information" in the frac sand wiki could also be material on the Wisconsin wiki) where you could edit one and have it automatically edited in the other place. This is lower priority than other things on the list, but just wanted to mention it. (3) Being able to call out people in in-line comments (e.g. "Hey @warren, can you edit this section?") (4) Can we power-tag research notes to help streamline a single research project with many notes?

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Super duper, thanks Gretchen! Great ideas.

I'll respond to the Rich Editor one for now, since design for that has begun:

Can we power-tag research notes to help streamline a single research project with many notes?

Yes, that's a good idea. I was thinking something like:

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@warren, I think that's great. Would there be a place to explain (maybe on the "How to write a research note" wiki) that you can make a unique series name for your experiment (yours alone or a collaborative one), and that would be different from / in addition to e.g. the "spectrometry" tag etc, so it doesn't become a "This is part 63 of 422 in a series on spectrometry"or something too dilute like that?

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Thoughts on tags: some sites (Stack Exchange, ArcGis, etc.,) require a minimum number of tags, and also encourage reuse of popular tags. This ensures that the poster takes the time to think of the most relevant tags, without overwhelming the tag system with new or duplicate tags. It could help new users find things! There are other sites with good tagging features -- tumblr for instance allows users to tag batches of posts all at once - useful for changing the tags on old posts and having users keep the site organized.

From a new user perspective, it took me a while to learn how to navigate the research notes via tags. How about a streamlined landing page for new users where they can see some popular tags to browse?

"tools to encourage authors to invite others into their work" - what would this look like?

Will there be a "WYSIWYG / Code" toggle similar to wordpress, so you can fine-tune the layout, and copy the code to other places?

Definitely keeping in mind that the less features there are, the easier it is to create and maintain!

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reuse of popular tags

for sure -- hoping to have a "recent" or "popular" tags, and maybe eventually a "suggested" tags, though that's technically more difficult, but potentially possible as part of one of the GSoC projects this summer (see below).

streamlined landing page for new users where they can see some popular tags to browse

Great idea; I believe this may be in the scope for @Ujitha's project this summer, here: -- Ujitha, perhaps we can develop a section of your work plan for a topics listing page based on tagging?

"tools to encourage authors to invite others into their work"

There are several ideas:

Re: WYSIWYG - definitely, that's one of the core portions of this project.

Re: create and maintain, absolutely, which is why I'm willing to be quick to prioritize some features at the expense of others. But I think we can get a lot done by the end of June! And where possible, we're looking for where we can re-use existing libraries, and even modularize our own work so that others can make use of it and share the burden of maintenance.

More on all of this coming soon -- I'll be posting some sketches and ideas this week (maybe even today, not sure) which'll help flesh out some of these ideas, and surely spark more discussion.

Thanks again!

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Thanks for all your responses! They are all exciting! Especially,

even publishing as a draft and soliciting input/review as discussed in the comments of this post

I love the idea of posting a work in progress! This way others can comment on what you're about to do, and hold you to doing it! It could potentially come with the ability to set a deadline for yourself -- that's either public or visible only to you.

There's a research note that I want to write, but haven't yet because I haven't done the work. Something like this would help me get started by planning my project in a research note, give me feedback on what I'm planning on doing, and help me get started by breaking up the effort into smaller pieces.

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