MediaWiki as a presentation application

I gave a presentation this morning as part of Faculty Technology Days 2007. I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to talk about weblogs and wikis, and I couldn't come up a reason why not, so they slotted me in. In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of thinking about weblogs, wikis, academic publishing, and being Open, Connected and Social. So I decided to try to subvert my presentation slightly, into a more open-content-is-good kind of talk (but still based on blogs and wikis for much of it). What better way to do that, than to present directly from a wiki? It's worked very well for Brian Lamb – all of his presentations are wiki-driven.

Yesterday, I came across a link to some Firefox Greasemonkey scripts for use with Mediawiki. (aside: I'd thought I'd seen the link via Twitter, but can't seem to find who said it there – I remembered it being from Scott Leslie, but it could have been through del.icio.us, or via a comment he made on a blog somewhere…)

Anyway, on scanning through the list, one jumped out at me. Not literally, but that would have been cool. The "Wikipedia Presentation" script sounded very cool. I'm a big fan of the wiki-as-presentation style, and this mashed up a Mediawiki page with the awesome S5 html presentation engine. By installing this script, it automatically enables viewing any Mediawiki page as a full-screen slideware presentation.

So, I installed it.

And it failed. The current version of the script has been updated for the current version of Mediawiki. I'm using an older version (because my server doesn't have the latest PHP bits to run the latest MediaWiki). Older Mediawiki pages use div elements to mark sections of a page, while newer versions use spans. After some extremely complicated editing of the Greasemonkey script (changing the 3 instances of "span" to say "div" instead) I was off and running. My modified (i.e., reverted) version of the Greasemonkey script is available here.

The cool thing, if you're using a Mac (and, really, what ISN'T cooler if you're using a Mac) is that you can install an application called Mira to enable using the Apple Remote to control Firefox. I bound the back/forward buttons on the remote to the left/right arrow keys, and I was navigating through a Mediawiki page as a full-screen presentation, using a wireless remote.

With the script installed, the wiki/presentation page for this presentation should show a "Start Presentation" link right beneath the article title.

There was one minor tweak I needed to make. By default, the content of the slide starts too far down the screen. When using a projector, you may be stuck at 800×600, and a bunch of that was sucked up by empty space at the top. So, I overrode one of the styles to make it start higher up. There are a couple of ways you can do this. If you have the Web Developer extension installed, just add a new User Style Sheet containing the style below. Otherwise, edit your Mediawiki skin (in my case, the file at /skins/monobook/main.css ) to add this:

#wikipedia_presentation {
margin-top: 0 !important;
}

14 Comments

  1. I saw a wiki used for a presentation for the first time this week (actually it was during three different presentations) and love the idea. My only concern is that I have been to a few events where I’ve heard, “We’re suppose to have wireless, but it doesn’t seem to be working.” What do you do if you plan your presentation around a wiki (or any live Web-based component) and the facilities suck?

  2. yeah. that would work, and I’ve actually tried it. the beauty of mediawiki is that it’s an open (and Open) content format, making it easy for anyone to use/reuse as they wish. Pachyderm is cool, but is more of a kiosk or publication model.

  3. Pachyderm could publish out to an open content format if there were the will to create a build process. currently it produced XML, which is open — there’s no reason it couldn’t produce one of any other output formats. Again, the difference between what it *is* and what it *could* be. Sigh.

  4. Josh – I know Pachyderm _could_ do any number of various output formats. Believe me, I know 🙂 but, when looking at what I could do with available tools _right now_ then things get a bit more restricted. Pachyderm spits out a pretty opaque presentation (yes, it’s a website, but it’s completely proprietary in format. not even Google can index the content – and yes, I know that’s largely my fault as well. Irony.) I’ve learned the lesson the hard way. Sigh.

  5. Paul Barris

    Hi!

    Thanks for this great tool 🙂

    the ‘start presentation’ link works great at the link you gave.

    I’ve installed the greasemonkey script and I’m using my localhost installation
    of Mediawiki.

    How can I insert the same ‘start presentation’ link into pages on my Mediawiki?
    (visiting pages on my installation and on wikipedia I don’t see the presentation link. What am I missing? 😉

    Thanks for any help!

    all the best

    Paul

  6. Paul, I think you need the “official” version of the greasemonkey script installed to work with Wikipedia. My modification was to make it work (again) with the older version, which uses different markup to indicate sections. I’m not sure if the two versions of the script are compatible, but if not, you should be able to restrict which one gets activated by the URL patterns on the Manage User Scripts panel…

    The “Start Presentation” links aren’t actually inserted into the content of the page. They’re rendered on the fly by Greasemonkey when displaying a page with markup that it recognizes.

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