We hear repeatedly that fedwiki is confusing to beginners. One solution might be a simple entry-level editor (or editor theme). Can we take that response seriously while not destroying the larger vision? This is personal take on what a minimum functional theme would have to have.
## Why People Want Other Tools
People have asked me in the past if we could replicate the pedagogy with a simpler, more commercially available tool, such as WordPress, Ghost, or Dokuwiki. There are many people who would consider running a federated wiki style class if it were a WordPress extension.
Can't be installed on shared server space. Most initiatives now give a student user a simple cPanel interface on a shared server (see Reclaim Hosting). Students can then install WordPress, DokuWiki, etc on their personal server. As a Node application federated wiki can't play in this space. It needs to be an application running on top of Apache to work in this space.
Inaccessible to vision-impaired students who want to edit. Federated wiki does a wonderful job producing accessible pages, but the tools for producing pages are not accessible. A truly accessible page would have to allow the production and editing of a page without any cursor manipulation. Ideally it would allow for tabbed selection of elements. The lack of accessible editing means that while individual instructors can adopt this in their clasrooms (while introducing accomodations) no institution could risk building an institutional initiative around it.
Visually overwhelming. There are two types of people in this world: those that get concerned that they don't understand everything on the screen and those that live with the ambibguity. Programmers and techies are particularly good at working in environments where they understand only a fraction of the interface, but for the majority of students not understanding what elements means triggers stress and stress triggers bad faculty evaluations at the end of the semester.
An ideal starter environment for students might look very familiar to tools they are used to, with only a few differences that could be quickly explained by the teacher. While we understand that "Like blogging with wiki functions" is a low-pass filter on a more symphonic idea, it may be that given the wide range of student talent the low-pass filter is inevitable.
## Why Other Tools Don't Work
So people ask -- could we do something like this with a WordPress plugin, or a modded Dokuwiki? Could we get the pedgogical benefits using an off the shelf, mature consumer technology?
I don't think so. I've thought through how to do this in a Wordpress classroom and I'm not sure I can see how it would be done (weirdly, the dokuwiki case is even harder).
The biggest problem is the data format. To get the benefits of federation you need to share a common format, and you need to serve JSON, and most approaches hacked together in WordPress won't do that.
That's a showstopper. But other problems exist.
Importantly, journal histories record edit histories by item, which makes the process legible. Existing tools like WordPress and Dokuwiki only send updates when an entire pages is edited, so it's unclear how a journal could be maintained.
Blogs also use URLs for links