After I heard about the scheduled SAP Inside Track India event from Abesh, Dipankar and Somnath (SAP Mentors), I looked for the details to learn which sessions would be presented, by whom, and other facts. The event was in the early planning stages, so there were only several attendees listed, and fewer sessions proposed.
The attendee list was visible as an SCN wiki, which can work for quick collaborative content creation, but can be tricky if it is not advertised, if possible participants don’t have edit rights, or if the editing tools and process are cumbersome or broken. As you can see in Image 1 below, we ended up with nearly 200 edits to the attendee list. Obviously, the total edits may not be a measure of success, as this could indicate fixes, minor changes, or reformatting intended to make the thing readable by people. But you can see on the first and second images that there were many editors (and no visible back and forth “oh no you don’t”, “oh yes I do” that forced wikipedia and others out of wide open public edit capabilities).
Image 3 shows one of the early editions, about when I looked at it. Because it had been created with two columns, to manage the two intended sites, and even more so, because it had forced manual spacing to achieve the layout, I decided to help simplify the page. It’s hard to see now, but the internal markup looked something like this:
|  ; 1|
Those who remember using typewriters, and hitting the space bar innumerable times, ignoring the possible mechanical tab settings, or more recently, use the same approach to lining up content on a document, no matter what the editing tool, will know this is a weak approach to publishing text. It makes future edits more difficult, as the “hard” spaces are not generally visible. Image 4 shows what started to happen, with columns being skewed, the column titles embedded in the text, and the asymmetrical nature of two signups causing extra work.
With experience gained on the SCN wiki the hard way, I jumped in to set up a format that would function better for the two events and allow for easier editing, I hoped, by novices. I would need to keep an eye on the page to enforce my proposed style, with the goal being to stay fairly invisible, not issuing strict rules on the page to get other people to “do it my way.” If my way wasn’t easy to use, someone might find a better way and I’d go in that direction.
Image 5 shows the refactored page, with each site having their own table, column headings being specific, and more important though invisible to a casual viewer, all of those non-blocking spaces “ ” were banished. Near the end of the blog (Image 12) there’s a comparison between the way it looked before I refactored the markup and after.
Jumping ahead to Image 6, a few more changes are visible. We sometimes put links on peoples names to their SCN business cards, Twitter handles, or maybe their SCN wiki profile. I decided the business card would make sense, and to make the page a bit more colorful, started adding SCN “stars” showing current contribution level, along with Mentor and/or Moderator “M” logos. To do this, I needed to move the images into the wiki page as attachments, since as of the last upgrade, external image links don’t work. You may notice the pop-up showing star definition doesn’t happen here. I’m not sure how to do that on the wiki.
The next images – 7 and 8, show the wiki markup language for different parts of the page. It’s not that complex of a coding form, but has shortcuts or macros that can be cryptic and unforgiving. You will see some tags like “[~raib2qt]” – these indicate a shortcut to the SCN business card. I had entered some as the full URL, after looking up the attendee from the edit record, forgetting there is a short form. There is also a macro for the wiki profile page, if a user has one.
Image 9 shows what one of the above markup shots looks like as rendered. The shortcut turns into the person’s name, though there are some that have other labels besides that default.
Image 10 shows a few comments that were added to the edit steps – recommended so you can easily tell what people were doing. Image 11 shows a delta comparison between two specific pages. Towards the end of the registration time, people were canceling, so you’ll see “strike-through” markup on those names. I didn’t make these changes, but I like this approach much more than deleting the names and collapsing the rows, especially as manually entered line numbers would need to be adjusted many times.
The last images shows the conference day in action. I’m visible on screen on one, and doing my live remote introduction on another. Apparently Kolkata had me on tape, where in Bangalore I was on web cam.
Image by @jpfriends79