Foundations for Interactive Articles
An area be set aside for testing, evaluating, and implementing mechanisms to allow authoring of articles which involve scripts and programs.
Interesting, effective explanations for difficult concepts often include some interactivity, and more than a few popular Wikipedia topics could benefit from simulations, demonstrations, and other exercises which convey information in experiential terms. Further, as a user, one might be searching for parametrized information --- e.g., the derivative of a specific function. There is little reason, in terms of the user experience, why a mechanism for this purpose should not be incorporated neatly into well-written articles on calculus, specific functions, and/or symbolic algorithms.
Currently, one can easily offer links to interactive experiences which are, in every important sense, external to wikipedia, and this does meet many of the desired goals. Yet, review and validation are limited. Where the internal mechanisms are not transparent, safety is not assured. When mechanisms are disputed and not shared, it is difficult for collaborative writing to include these external elements well. Finally, for writers of articles without simple access to external hosting mechanisms, producing this kind of content is impossible.
The ultimate goal is support writing interactive exercises which are safe in the usual sense of Wikipedia, open in detail to review and criticism.
Carefully, there may be NO universally acceptable solution. There are many learning and teaching activities which don't fit into simple categories, and this is a very broad area. Putting arbitrary algorithms into articles may involve intractable issues. However, there are many simple algorithms which could be supported by some process or another. The proposal here is not to produce a magic panacea, but rather to approach, discuss, and test mechanisms toward this end. (These steps require time and thought, and, eventually, consensus.)
What kinds of interactive exercises are appropriate for Wikipedia? What kinds of scripts/programs can be supported/hosted through Wikipedia?
What is the simplest effective editorial process for algorithms to ensure the safety of the Wikipedia systems?
Initially, this is a purely theoretical exercise. The immediate need is to gather use cases and examples --- to gauge the interest of authors. There is also a need to explore risks.
This will require time.
- The UVA ICPC system has safely allowed the execution of arbitrary student programs for many years. As a feasibility demonstration, it serves --- at least in part.
- For technical proposals that would provide a base for interactive articles, see
- See also Proposal:Visualization methods.
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