Hi everyone and thanks for your interest in Scripto! We’re excited to bring you this tool, so until it’s released we’ll be posting periodic updates here on this blog. My updates will be technical in nature, but I think it’s important to keep you, the user, informed about our technical decisions. So excuse my jargon and feel free to ask questions in the comments below.
Early development of the Scripto code is in full swing, and, as expected in such a project, we’re facing some interesting questions and complications. Imagine the uncertainty involved in building a bridge between an anonymous content management system and a wiki with peculiar conventions. Even so, we’re committed to MediaWiki to work as Scripto’s database and administration tool. In fact, it was a no-brainer:
- It is the most popular wiki application and had a sizable and active developer community;
- Wiki markup is relatively easy to learn and there are useful editors available;
- It offers helpful features, such as discussion pages and user administration;
- It comes with a powerful, fully-featured API.
One of our first questions was deciding whether to offer document-based or page-based transcriptions. In the former the user transcribes the entire document on one page, whereas in the latter the user transcribes one page at a time. Thankfully, Scripto’s web designer and usability expert, Ken Albers, convinced me that page-based transcription is much more user friendly. Just think how unwieldy a one page transcription of a 400-page document would quickly become! So expect to transcribe only one page at a time.
Another question concerned how we would reconcile document and page naming conventions between an anonymous CMS and MediaWiki. You’ll be happy to know that compatibility with virtually any system is our primary goal, but this means that we can make no assumptions about a “correct” naming convention. Most systems will associate their documents and pages with unique keys, which meshes well with MediaWiki’s own naming scheme. But the edge cases will not have, or will choose not to use, unique keys, and instead use the document and page titles. Unfortunately, MediaWiki has strict naming requirements for its pages, so we had to devise some way to mint potentially incompatible names into an allowed format. After testing several options, I think we have a workable solution.
Another interesting issue we’re facing is how to anticipate future Scripto development models. At Scripto’s core is a software library that interfaces a CMS and MediaWiki. We can’t assume that developers will want to implement this library as a separate application; some may want to integrate it into their own CMS, utilizing a plugin or module interface familiar to them. Accommodating these two development models will require the Scripto library to work within larger application frameworks, so we must consider things like namespaces and sharing HTTP sessions carefully.
Well, if I lost you, I hope this still serves as an illustration of the questions we’re asking and complications we’re working through during early development, and proof that we’re trying hard to create a transcription tool that’ll be useful for users and developers alike.