[Moin-user] WikiBooks and Quiz Software: General Discussion

Neal Holtz nholtz at cee.carleton.ca
Sun Jul 24 09:38:20 EDT 2011

Hi Ivan

On July 24, 2011 04:33:34 AM you wrote:
> Hello Neal,
> > [wiki for books with math and quiz]
> Your project is very interesting to me. Where can I get updates of it? A Twitter account maybe?

Well, I've just got the smallest possible start, right now.  Perhaps it'll
firm up a little this week, then I'll post a URL or something ...

> For MoinMoin there are latex-plugins, and RST as default syntax works good.
> Why don't you like RST-syntax?

Haven't tried the LaTeX plugins yet, but as for RST - I've no really compelling reasons
for preferring wiki markup, and perhaps as the project gets larger, rst will show
more of its advantages.  But ...
  - I was pretty used to wiki markup, knew my way around it a bit and am learning
    rst now for this.  rst is different, so its a bit frustrating at first ...
  - the first thing I ran into, after about the first 10 minutes, was what I
    consider a *really* dumb decision in rst regarding headings.  If you
    have only 1 top level page heading in a document it gets promoted up
    to a document title.  If you have 2 or more, it doesn't.  So if you add
    a new section to a page, the heading structure changes.  I eventually
    found the options that turn that off, and tweaked the moin rst parser
    to work 'properly', but it was a bad start to learning rst, making me
    less tolerant of other differences ...
  - minor aesthetics, such as:  I would rather type a link as [[http://www....|follow me]]
    rather than  
         `follow me`__
          __  http://www....

I've got my 3-page site in both formats and haven't yet made a final decision ...

> You could however probably spare time if you hack your own system. I, for my personal on-line notes,
> hacked a script in Python that generates webpages and pdfs (not finished) out of RST files, see for
> instance this page (specially the formulas within it): http://ogai.name/uned/programacion_II/
> Note that the math is not ugly graphics like MediaWiki does, but scalable formulas. Increase the
> font size to see how the formula also increase (you might need to just install some fonts). I
> describe everything here: http://ogai.name/software/gridcms/

I'll look at gridcms more seriously -- thanks for the pointer.

In my initial trials, I tried MathJax rather than jsMath - again no really compelling
reason (though I like that fact that you don't have to install fonts).  It
seems to work pretty smoothly so far, but I would be interested if anyone
has comments regarding MathJax vs jsMath.


> Ivan
> On Sat, Jul 23, 2011 at 05:40:38PM -0400, Neal Holtz wrote:
> > Hello - I'm just looking for general comments, if anyone cares
> > to give them. (I apologize in advance for the length of this msg).
> > 
> > I'm planning to start developing a wiki text book for a university
> > level engineering course I'm teaching.  I've so far only got a page
> > or two and a rough structure as a proof of concept.  In addition
> > to the easily added extra value such as images, photos, problem
> > solving videos (ala Khan Academy), I'ld like other media there
> > as well, such as interactive self test questions, application
> > software, perhaps links to things like sagemath worksheets, etc.
> > 
> > Oh yes: a lot of mathematics is involved.
> > 
> > = One =
> > 
> > I suppose I should really start with WikiBooks, particularly as
> > there is the start of a text on the subject there already.  It does
> > provide some nice stuff out of the box, such as pdf creation
> > for an entire text (or subset, I assume).  However, the things 
> > I don't like are:
> >   - I don't think I can get the software, and I really don't want
> >     to host this on their server.
> >   - MediaWiki on which it based can be installed, but I really
> >     don't want to program in php if I don't have to ...  And I
> >     do expect some new code will be necessary
> > 
> > So I guess if I want to extend a wiki system using Python, that 
> > MoinMoin is the best choice.  That was my first discussion point.
> > 
> > = Two =
> > 
> > Markup language: I was pulled toward reStructured text,
> > again because of all the extra stuff that is there already
> > built around it.  However, after doing a couple of pages,
> > I really dislike it (esthetically).  I really do prefer using
> > wiki markup.  I looked at creole in hopes of getting something
> > that might be more portable but that doesn't seem to
> > be the silver bullet either, yet.
> > 
> > I'll want things like the ability to generate text-book-like
> > pdfs of a set of pages, so students can print easier.  
> > 
> > Should I stick with wiki markup and develop the required
> > tools based on that?  (they are not high priority).
> > 
> > = Three =
> > 
> > Now - self test questions:  I'm intrigued about leveraging
> > moodle for this purpose; I can easily see having questions
> > for grading students within moodle - I will probably eventually 
> > do so.
> > 
> > Moodle stores questions in a relational database, and can
> > export them in several formats.  I think it might be possible
> > to develop some python code to either access the moodle
> > database directly, or read the exported xml (I'ld probably
> > do both). Then render the questions for anonymous self
> > testing for wiki book readers.  This is a significant amount
> > of work, but I don't think its huge (I have done this before,
> > in 1994, believe it or not ... :-[
> > http://http-server.carleton.ca/~nholtz/tut/doc/doc.html
> > )
> > 
> > Most of the hard work is in the user interface to develop
> > questions, and thats already been done in moodle.
> > 
> > The way I see this is developing a parser for moin that
> > would read either the moodle xml or moodle database
> > info, and present the question.
> > 
> > Any other quiz engines in python?
> > 
> > If you got this far, you patience is remarkable.
> > 
> > Thanks - any kind of comments are welcome.
> > 
> > 
> > 

Neal Holtz                             http://cee.carleton.ca/~nholtz
Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering,   Carleton University,   
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 5B6.               nholtz at cee.carleton.ca
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