Building a Mathematica Web Community with Wiki-web Mathematica

Challenge

Strengthen the Mathematica community with a website where users can freely exchange ideas about Mathematica.

Solution

Use webMathematica to implement a wiki so users of any level can work together on Mathematica in real time.

Luc Barthelet

Benefits

  • Properly displays notebooks online
  • Lets anyone learn Mathematica just by reading and manipulating available code
  • Supplements other online forums such as MathGroup

The Mathematica Edge

  • Build high-quality interactive wiki sites without having to learn other languages like PHP
  • Expand wiki functionality with webMathematica's unique programming, visualization, and computational capabilities
"It was actually easier and more interesting to rewrite the wiki in Mathematica. It is a language I use every day."

Luc Barthelet, CEO of Tirnua, Inc. and former senior vice president at Electronic Arts and general manager for Maxis during the development of The Sims video games, is a longtime Mathematica user who launched Mathematica-Users, a website that combines the power of wiki websites and webMathematica. Built almost entirely in Mathematica, it takes advantage of Barthelet's new Wiki-webMathematica technology, which lets users freely edit and add to the site.

Q: What are your goals for this site?

A: My main goal is to have as many users as possible join me in developing it. I want them to interact and work together on Mathematica, using this site as a supplement to other resources like MathGroup. The site's for everyone, from people who have just heard about Mathematica to power users to the Wolfram developers themselves, some of whom have already contributed. You can properly display notebooks, see all the code—even the wiki itself is implemented in Mathematica—and learn from it or use it as a starting point for your own projects.

Q: You said you implemented the entire wiki in Mathematica. How is this possible?

A: Well, all but three lines of code. The rest is in Mathematica, purely based on the fundamental webMathematica package. I started by running MediaWiki on the website under Apache and brought up a webMathematica site in parallel under Tomcat. I connected to the MySQL database using DatabaseLink and ODBC. Processing text from the database into HTML was then very easy using just a few RegularExpression commands.

When faced with trying to display the notebook (.nb) format in a regular wiki, I realized it was actually easier and more interesting to rewrite the wiki in Mathematica. It is a language I use every day, and I would rather invest further in understanding it better than try to learn a new language like PHP.

Q: What is the potential for this new Wiki-webMathematica technology?

A: Really, I just want to show new users that there is an active community that will help them learn Mathematica faster. Books take a while to come out, while a website can be updated in hours or days. That immediacy gives us the chance to learn and develop faster than ever before.


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