Current state of XWiki Research

Oct 24 2013

XWiki SAS does a lot of R&D for making its flagship product evolve. The Tech Team concentrates their efforts on making XWiki better by focusing on its roadmap, while the Research team helps them by participating in collaborative projects that explores technological aspects that could be interesting for the long-term evolution.

Being the Research Manager of the second team I'll present some of the activities we have been involved in during the past months, and what we are preparing for the time to come.

The main XWiki Research team activity, as said earlier, is to participate together with other companies to collaborative research projects that are usually funded by public institutions (e.g., Ministry of Economy or the European Union).

These projects revolves around some cutting-edge technological topics, such as cloud computing, distributed and resilient systems, or are focused on exploratory and risky developments.

Thanks to the participation to these projects we can look at interesting technologies that could be useful for the long-term evolution of XWiki, or try to enter some new kind of market by attenuating the consequences of an unsuccessful outcome.

Currently XWiki is involved in several projects.

RESILIENCE

The first one is RESILIENCE, a project about resilient infrastructures for data replication and safety in Javascript intensive web applications. In this context we are experimenting on integrating rich content editors based on Javascript in our products which will allow user to edit and manipulate non-textual objects. We are also working again on real-time interactions that will allow to improve how XWiki users collaborate.

This project is interesting because of two initiatives that we are trying to build around it: WebViewers and OTLY.

WebViewers is a standard for producing reusable Javascript components that conform to an API and that can be deployed in different environments. These components provide rich content read/write capabilities. This will allow web applications such as XWiki to be extended with  editors that provide users with a way for manipulating non textual content, such as reading PDF files, editing spreadsheets or drawing diagrams. The same, of course, is true for all the other environments that will support the API.

OTLY, on the other hand, is an initiative that aims at providing a framework for adding real-time functionalities on top different kind of editors. This framework will give developers a way for defining real-time collaboration algorithms that work on different data models,
and for binding them to different editors. Users of the framework will then be able to add real-time functionalities to the editors of their applications seamlessly.

Of course WebViewers and OTLY a great value for XWiki, in particular by improving the user experience and the collaboration experience. However the more ambitious goal is to have other people contributing to the evolution of these initiatives. The more editors will be available, the better XWiki will become, and this is valid also for all the projects that will decide to adopt these technologies.

EESC

The second project is EESC. It's a project that is focused about deploying a digital environment for handling school-oriented activities: from the management of the classrooms, to the note taking; from the organization of the information about teaching, to the student collaboration around projects.

The goal of this project is to try to provide a comprehensive solution that addresses many use cases that are present in the daily management of a high-school.

XWiki has already done several projects that were somewhat related, but focused mainly on the organization of learning resources. EESC will allow us to improve our knowledge about school management systems and will also give us the opportunity of building an actual system that will be deployed in school and that will be used by thousand of students, teachers and parents for improving their daily activities revolving around the school.

Part of the EESC project will also be the improvement of the XCLAMS project, a system for sharing and organising learning resource, that
has already been used as the basis for the Curriki and Sankoré projects.

LearnPAD

The third project is LearnPAD. This is an European project that is going to start next year and that is quite related to EESC: in this case we will be focusing on improving the working environment of civil servants in the public administration.

The goal of the LearnPAD project, in fact, is to provide civil servant an environment for documenting the public administration practices, easily find this information, and experiment with the procedures.

This is a need because of two reasons: fast evolution of the legislative framework, and the autonomy that public administrations have in their functioning which give them a certain degree of freedom.

This is an exciting opportunity for XWiki because it's really something that resonates with our mission and also will allow us to experiment with the world of public administrations that is notoriously difficult to approach.

Other projects

There are, finally, two other projects where XWiki has somewhat a minor role. The first is RISCOSS, an European project about assessing the risks and costs of the adoption of the Open Source in the Enterprise and STREAMS which is a very academic research oriented project about peer-to-peer communication and synchronization.

This is a brief summary of what the Research team is currently working on at XWiki. There are a lot of activities and exciting topics to explore that will surely make XWiki better and better.

Fabio Mancinelli
Research Manager