Grants:PEG/Offline MediaWiki search for NASA and Medicine

statusNot Funded
Offline MediaWiki extension (xml with mobile starter kit)
Currently, an emergency medicine wiki provides offline sync in a very limited fashion to its mobile users with a custom mobile application. Working with the NASA EVA mediawiki and we will open source the offline sync code for use as an extension
targetAll Wikimedia projects will be able to use the offline sync extension
strategic priorityImprove quality
start dateFebruary 1
start year2015
end dateJuly 1
end year2015
budget (local currency)$30,000
budget (USD)$30,000
grant typeOrganization
non-profit statusYes
organization• OpenEM Foundation
created on19:34, 10 December 2014 (UTC)


This grant will expand the current offline mobile sync provided by for use by NASA EVA's mediawiki, for use on the International Space Station, and for field work. The second phase of the grant, after testing on the NASA EVA wiki, will consist of packaging the offline sync into an extension for use on all mediawiki installations. Depending on funding we can create an open source app framework to read the offline wiki for iOS and Android.

Currently Kiwix offers an alternative to the software we are developing. However Kiwix is not compatible in iOS and the native application for Android is cumbersome with poor indexing. Our software will export the main namespace and any other chosen namespace to xml which can be formatted using CSS. Offline editing will not be implemented due to the challenge with sync. This extension will simply allow for easy offline reading. Parsing of xml on Android and iOS can easily be implemented and due to the flexibility of xml formatting, any customized app can be crafted with the core data store in xml. This customization is in sharp contrast to Kiwix where the data is not easily parsed and flexibility in app design around zim file is limited.


  • Stage 1 - implementation of the offline sync on the NASA EVA wiki as a test case to ensure compatibility with semantic mediawiki data
  • Stage 2 - development of mobile app framework based on current wikem app
  • Stage 3 - field testing of mobile app framework with NASA EVA
  • Stage 4 - Open source app framework for use with the extension
  • Stage 5 - Publicity of the ability to use mediawiki for use on mobile devices at NASA and opportunities for use in space such as onboard the International Space Station.


  • Offline sync capabilities for mediawiki
  • Proof of concept with and NASA EVA
  • Creation of mobile offline mediawiki sync extension
  • Creation of a universal application (iOS and Android) for use with offline sync extension
  • Project updates will be shared at the Houston Enterprise Mediawiki Meetup. This meetup was where the initial idea was developed. Powerpoint slides and examples of updates will be shared online at the mediawiki's github page


Target readershipEdit

  • The offline sync extension will be designed for use with any mediawiki installation
  • The offline reader app starter kit will be designed for developers to demo their xml as a mobile app.

Fit with strategyEdit

  • This extension and the mobile app framework will provide expansion of all mediawiki installations to countries and locations with intermittent and poor internet connectivity. In addition the implementation of the software on the International Space Station in collaboration with NASA will provide significant publicity to the WikiMedia Foundation.

Measures of successEdit


  • The number of installations of the extension after implementation
  • Speed of offline mobile sync
  • Reliability of offline mobile sync


  • The extent of publicity garnered for both NASA ISS, MediaWiki, and WikEM
  • Ease of implementation of the extension
  • Ease of implementation of the mobile framework
  • Adapability for inclusion of all relative meta data generated by other installed extensions on a wiki

Resources and risksEdit


Team Members

  • Daniel Ostermayer
    • Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine UT Houston
    • Current head of software for (which uses a crude version of mobile offline sync)
  • Daren Welsh
    • NASA ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) Flight Controller and Instructor
    • Organizer of Houston Enterprise MediaWiki Group
    • Active contributor and founder of NASA EVA MediaWiki Installation
  • Ross Donaldson
    • Founder of and Editor-in-Chief
    • Director, Global Health Program, Harbor-UCLA Dept. of Emergency Medicine
    • Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Public Health, UCLA
  • Mark A. Hershberger
    • MediaWiki consultant and developer
  • Other staff will be members of WikEM software development team and NASA EVA users and astronauts
  • Houston Enterprise Mediawiki meetup members will also provide input and guidance


  • The major risk is failure to port the offline sync currently in use on WikEM to NASA and finally to an offline extension.
    • Overcoming this risk will be minimal due to the talented software team already working with WikEM who have experience with offline sync and currently work on the project
    • Since the target of the extension will be for individual mediawiki installations modification may be required for deployment on a large wiki such as wikipedia.
    • The largest hurdle will be the semantic mediawik wiki extension and metadata and ensuring that that data is translated to the final xml.
  • Second major risk is development of the mobile framework to be robust but user friendly for administrators of mediawiki installations.
    • Overcoming this risk will require open sourcing many of the current software designs of the WIkEM application


Project budget tableEdit

  • Offline Sync extension development: $15,000
    • The entire budget is for software development. Time costs for extension development are estimated at 250 hours with developer hourly wage at $60/hr. Since the grant will be building a free extension, the testing and development costs occurring on will not have any cost. Testing of the extension with NASA will also not have any billable costs to the mediawiki foundation.
    • All of the prior code that currently runs the offline xml sync will be used as a starting point for the extension development providing a significant discount to total development cost.
  • App framework "starter kit" (iOS/Android) for use with offline sync: $15,000
    • Similar to the extension buildout the app which will include a simple mobile layout for offline viewing and is estimated at 250 hours of work. Testing at both NASA and WikEM will also not have any added cost.
    • The current code base for the mobile wikem apps will also be used as starting points for the mobile view. This provides a significant discount for total development as well.
  • Open sourcing the code and hosting the code will not incur any extra cost.

There will not be any travel since the NASA EVA group and WikEM software devs are both in Houston Texas and will be meeting frequently at the MediaWiki Enterprise Houston meetups for work on the project.

All software development will take place on a free github repository and use already existing computers.

Total cost of projectEdit


Total amount requestedEdit


Additional sources of revenueEdit

Completion of this project will also receive non financial support from the NASA EVA group who will be involved in testing the code. Coordination of the development will be supported without charge by Dan Ostermayer at WikEM. No administrative fees will be charged. No personnel time will be charged by either NASA EVA or WikEM. Only cost will go to developer time. No equipment charges will be billed.

Non-financial requirementsEdit



Community notificationEdit

  • Kiwix Community also notified:
    • So per here [1] does this mean that this extension will not handle En Wikipedia? Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 03:20, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
  • Question: Why not use Kiwix?
    • The zim format does a great job of compressing large files with up to 30% savings in space. While this is good for Wikipedia it only gives marginal benefit to small mediawiki installations. The tradeoffs from using the file format don't often outway the space savings. While this extensions xml will be larger than zim files for very large databases, the xml can easily be parsed, allowing for integration with a mobile application or any application that wants to utilize the xml. No special zim reader will be required.
So when you say no "zim reader" is required. Does this mean it will run automatically through ones browser? Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 18:23, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
Doc, since the extension will output xml, it can easily be formatted in a mobile application to fit the application's specific style. Although part of the grant is for a starter kit app to help smaller groups have a means of easily displaying their xml, xml could be displayed in any way a designer wants. XML still needs to be formatted in a user readable way and can be made to look "nice" through any web standard design such as CSS. I mean that "no zim reader" will be required since if you build an app that needs to read zim format there must be a module for reading that zim file and displaying it to the user. This won't be a replacement for people using zim with wikipedia. This will be a way for developers to have a highly customizable "dump" of their wiki in a different file format. Most developers are also familiar with parsing xml so building a new novel application around a wiki's xml is easier than building it around a zim file.
  • Question:What about the Offline extension?
    • We have reached out to the developers of the offline extension and would happy to share our codebase with them. However we are focused primarily on reading rather than editing the wiki and creating a way to formalized a robust offline xml extension that is both stable, easy to use, and works on private mediawiki installations. This way owners of private mediawiki installs have a means of exporting their wiki to xml and doing whatever they want with the output.

  • Question: Will the extension output metadata from other extensions?
    • Our primary goal will be to replicate the page completely in xml. Our biggest challenge will be in complex extensions such as with semantic mediawiki.
  • Wikitravel has a lot of interest from their community and there are various complicated offline options. We have reached out to them for support for this extension which would work with their wiki as well.
    • Ah you realize that Wikitravel does not have much of a community anymore. They have most to Wikivoyage. Additionally the company behind Wikitravel has sued a number of Wikipedians including me Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 22:48, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
      • The updated version is here [2] Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 22:49, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
        • Wow, I did not know that at all. That is beyond terrible. Dan Ostermayer (talk) 15:24, 23 December 2014 (UTC)
          • Yes we managed to get the community a new Wiki run by the WMF. Things are going well. We are having an issue with getting search Engines to link to the newer / better content. Hopefully this will change with time. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 22:50, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

Knowledge Sharing CriticismEdit

  • Great points are raised by user MADe.
    • Knowledge sharing will occur via the open code repositories and specifically in regard to meetings with mediaiki volunteers, the Enterprise Mediawiki group in Houston will be directly involving in feedback and will receive presentations joint from the NASA EVA mediawiki group and WikEM. These presentation will appear on the mediawiki site

Why Support Software Development for MediawikiEdit

  • This grant proposal is somewhat unconventional since it is targeted soley at software development. We believe that the value of Wikipedia and Mediawiki Foundation derived not only from the community and content contributors but also from the mediawiki software that is open sourced by the Mediawiki Foundation. Supporting software supports (albeit indirectly) interst in wikis, increased adoption of the wiki culture, and promotes increased knowledge sharing, and increased adoption of the mediawiki software in non conventional means (enterprise, industry, niche markets such as specialty specific medicine and engineering)


Do you think this project should be selected for a Project and Event Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. Other feedback, questions or concerns from community members are also highly valued, but please post them on the talk page of this proposal.