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Wiki inspired RISC OS links site opens

By Chris Williams. Published: 21st May 2004, 05:44:56 | Permalink | Printable

Anyone can contribute and that means you

Nutshells logoA solution to the increasing problem of stagnated 'RISC OS links websites' has been suggested and implemented by drobe.co.uk reader Andy Jackson, in the form of his Nutshells project. No longer will users struggle to find that obscure piece of freeware, and when they do uncover something lost or new, they can now let everyone know about it.

Right now, there are a number of websites online that hold vast lists of links to useful webpages of RISC OS related software and hardware. While they are a valuable resource, they require a lot of effort to keep up to date and sadly some are falling behind, as Andy explained:

"Although one can argue that the need for such [link] sites has disappeared now we have access to powerful search engines, I personally like the idea of having this kind of information available in a small number of collections.

"However, all of these collections suffer from the same problem - they are each maintained by a small number of individuals, and so are always in danger of going out of date fairly rapidly. I don't want to insult any of the individuals behind these sites, indeed I'm very grateful to those same people for putting in so much effort, but I think I can suggest a better way."

Enter stage left the WikiWikiWeb concept, which is an online system that allows anyone to contribute to a website, in order to provide a constantly updating and improving stream of content. Wikipedia is an example of a very successful Wiki website and it's from this that Andy found his inspiration. If anyone can contribute to and edit a links website, then the work is shared between willing volunteers, plus errors can be corrected quickly and link descriptions clarified and updated as required.

"I wrote the original links database in the year 2000, and I'm afraid most of the information in it dates from then. However, I've now opened up the editing interface to all visitors, and so any of you can go in there and change things. There are no user account, no session, no cookies, and therefore no barriers to anybody who wants to get editing."

Now, not that we're too cynical, but the idea of allowing anyone to edit your website does sound like someone placing too much trust in the Human race. So what about the possibility of the site being abused?

"Of course, the system is potentially open to abuse, but having seen the success of other community-edited websites I doubt there is much to fear," Andy explained. "I suspect the larger issue is whether or not this thing gets used at all, which simply depends on whether the RISC OS community thinks it's worth having. If not, there's no real loss - if no-one uses it I'll just leave it up as a curiosity, and if it gets abused I'll just shut it down. But hopefully it will turn out to be useful."


Nutshells links website and its Wiki
Information for editors - want to add your own software, or product? Dying to correct that typo, or out-dated URL?

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I would have thought the excellent dmoz.org RISC OS section is the best place to start! It would be GREAT if people volunteered to edit a few more categories - so it doesn't stagnete. :)

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 21/5/04 11:38AM
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I hope that you can all incourage my new website, www.sebpayne.com.

I think it would be great if you could all help my new website start up by starting to use the forum. I am trying to update it most days.

I am also looking for moderators for the forum.



 is a RISC OS Usersebgate20 on 21/5/04 12:26PM
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Would you believe that I was thinking of something like this just a few hours ago? :)

"Hmm, why doesn't someone set up a RISC OS Wiki so everyone is free to keep it up to date..."

Looks like this site is just what I was thinking of - I'll be sure to give it a go :)

 is a RISC OS UserPhlamethrower on 21/5/04 12:32PM
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I too was going to add a Wiki based RISC OS FAQ site to the Cybervillage earlier this year. But ill health put a stop to that. Shame. Still, glad to see others have had the same idea. :)

Nutshells is a great name too.

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 21/5/04 12:48PM
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seb: Nice idea - I think if there were ever a new user of RISC OS, a forum like yours would be a good idea :) However, I think you're being a bit optimistic with no less than 9 RISC OS categories! Perhaps just one to start with?


 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 21/5/04 2:03PM
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An excellent idea - the Wikipedia is great. It should hopefully build into a nice resource!

 is a RISC OS Userrod on 21/5/04 4:42PM
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(I'm the person who put these sites up by the way!)

harmsy: I agree that dmoz.org is probably the best place for the directory information, and perhaps we should put more effort in that direction instead of into this old thing of mine. It's just that I find the Category Editor model unappealing, and I find the dmoz approach to updating submissions rather awkward.

In short, this whole thing is based on the assumption that most folks would probably have the time to keep their own entries up to date, but that too few people have the time to keep a whole dmoz category up to date. I'd actually prefer to be proven wrong on this point.

Perhaps it is possible to automagically synchronize the dmoz and Nutshells directories? e.g. The Nutshells site becomes an interface for making the submission of updates to dmoz really easy? Ideas welcome!

Of the suggestions I have already received about the site (thanks folks!), one that stands out is that the 'nutshells' idea should perhaps be used for storing FAQ-style information. Indeed, this was the idea behind the 'Solutions' section, perhaps with links to longer articles in the actual Wiki? This kind of thing may be a more use than yet another link directory.

I'll be adding the suggestions to the Wiki as they come in - feel free to add your own!

Cheers, Andy Jackson

 is a RISC OS Userbeardedstoat on 21/5/04 5:22PM
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Andy, for the life of me I couldn't find a way of contacting you from the site! How have people been making suggestions?


 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 21/5/04 6:51PM
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Unless I've misunderstood your question, I think the answer is that there is no way to make suggestions: you simply add the links to the Nutshells website yourself.

If you click on the link to the "editor's page" on the site, you can add new links directly from there.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 21/5/04 6:57PM
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I think he's asking how to send Andy his suggestions, not how to add software/links to the Wiki. In which case, there's Andy's email address on the add/edit page of Nutshells, as well as a link to the NutshellsWiki where you're also able to post suggestions.... but I haven't worked out how to use that yet ;)

 is a RISC OS UserPhlamethrower on 21/5/04 8:04PM
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flyingpig and phlamethrower,

Yes, I wanted Andy's email address - thanks Phlame, I'm off to email him now ;)


 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 21/5/04 8:41PM
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Sorry for my misunderstanding. I was just being a bit dumb :unhappy: .

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 21/5/04 9:05PM
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If you want to leave a comment on NutshellsWiki, just click on the 'Edit this page' link at the bottom of any page. You'll be presented with a form containing the plain-text version of the page, and you can edit this and add whatever you like to it. There is no proper comments system like Drobe's - you just edit the web pages directly.

 is a RISC OS Userbeardedstoat on 22/5/04 1:09AM
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Speaking of Wikipedia: [link] [link] [link]

 is a RISC OS UserClades on 22/5/04 9:04AM
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I moved my website and submitted the change to dmoz, but even after a second submission it was a few months before it actually changed. Something that can be changed quicker would be nice.

I was looking at applying to be an editor but it didn't look simple enough (I can't remember the details but I remember giving up)

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 22/5/04 12:35PM
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I applied to dmoz.org too, but was refused for some reason. dmoz just seems to be a never updated waste now :|

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 22/5/04 1:14PM
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Nutshells sounds like a good move. Some of the aging older sites for users certainly don't always keep up to date. Like the date of the last updates may show 1998!! Or a particular sofware I look for has the company listed that ceased a long time ago. If we can overcome these sorts of probems it would be quite helpful... what else does a poorly updated site offer?? Cheers, Steve.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 23/5/04 6:42AM
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Using O2 I couldn't see how to add software to the list, but a quick e-mail to Andy Jackson and next time I logged on it had been fixed.

Great stuff - thanks Andy.

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 23/5/04 3:44PM
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I'm afraid the HTML produced by the Nutshells Directory script is pretty hacky - it was my first significant Perl script and boy does it show! I'll try to improve things whenever I have time. Speaking of which, as a consequence of all the feedback I've been getting, the Directory has a few new features. Perhaps most importantly, there is now a Compabilility field for the Software, which allows you to specify which versions of RISC OS a piece of software has been tested on, and whether it is 26/32-bit neutral code or not. This kind of information is of course increasingly important due to the variation in the RISC OS platform.

 is a RISC OS Userbeardedstoat on 24/5/04 2:24AM
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In addition to a links site, how about an archive? I've lost count of the number of times I've been looking for a bit of software but the author has left the platform and their website has disappeared. HENSA, Stuttgart et al used to be very good for this - just because every author has a website isn't helpful because websites move. Arcade [link] has a good filebase which is updated, if infrequently now. If more people used a system like this, there would be much more resilience against website rot. Ideally such a site should have means so that the author can notify of new versions and it would be added automatically ('make release' in a Makefile, for example) Perhaps the RISC OS package project would fulfill some of these objectives, if people embraced it?

 is a RISC OS Usercaliston2 on 25/5/04 11:52AM
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One idea I think would be good would be if each author placed an XML file on their website, detailing all the software they have available. Then sites offering search engines, mirror/file archives, RSS new software/updated software feeds, etc. could be written based around the XML files, much like how traditional search engines/mirror sites work today.

No more passwords to remember for the authors, only one site to update (i.e. their own), automatic removal of links to software on dead sites (since the XML file listing the software will have vanished too), etc. Plus desktop utilities like package managers can be written to download, install and update the software automatically. Add a few central servers listing all the sites with XML files and the system would pracitcally look after itself - a website/utility can connect to the central server, retrieve a list of XML files, perform queries if supported, etc.

XML files can be added/removed from the lists either by hand or by each XML file containing a list of links to other XML files - so a spider bot can run start at one file and build a list of every XML file available.

The only problems to face are those which have already been solved by standard search engines, and the system isn't reliant on one central site which may go down at any time.

 is a RISC OS UserPhlamethrower on 25/5/04 4:23PM
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Very good idea Phlamethrower!

Let's get organised.

How does one write a xml easily?

Anyone got an app or common format to start things off?

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 28/5/04 1:57PM
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A good idea, but it is not all that easy to get started. Much to my surpise, I could not find any agreed XML/Web standard for describing software packages! This means we'd have to agree our own XML format for software packages. To start things off, I've created a NutshellsWiki page which outlines my approach to the problem: [link]

If we can do this, then we can create custom applications and online services that would make both creating and searching these description files very easy indeed.

 is a RISC OS Userbeardedstoat on 29/5/04 4:13AM
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