Feature Proposal: Install NatSkin and WidgetsSkin on foswiki.org


foswiki.org to provide all commonly-installed skins

NatSkin and WidgetsSkin, along with the default PatternSkin, essentially make up the standard, "viable" skins making up 99% of the installed base of skins on foswiki sites*. as such, we should make them available to all users and ensure their always correct functioning with the released version of Foswiki.

* note: statistics are totally made up, but that's my gut feeling

Description and Documentation

  1. PatternSkin (bare) will be available.
  2. FoswikiSiteSkin (remains the default, discuss otherwise elsewhere)
  3. NatSkin has a sizable userbase, to be sure, and contains many UI enhancements over the default skin. It is natural (heh) for existing NatSkin users to want to continue to use it on foswiki.org. increased visibility of certain NatSkin UI enhancements should aid in the creation of the "new skin".
  4. WidgetsSkin, besides being an important skin for site developers to highly customize their layout (and facilitated by using a "standard" css markup---movable type 4), allows for a lot of development and personalization of the skin from within the wiki itself. by installing this skin on foswiki.org, it would enable a lot more user-level experimentation and sharing, and provide increased visibility for this flexible skin.



the default skin used on this site would not be changed. instead, all of the required plugins would be installed (10-15) and users would be able to specify their skin in their home topic (naturally).

a news item page would be created, linked from the home page in the normal flow of news, which would inform users of the additional skins available, with screenshots, and instructions on how to change their skin. addendum: it will contain information on how to select from all of the "skins" that would be available on foswiki.org, that is, PatternSkin, FoswikiSiteSkin, NatSkin, and WidgetsSkin.


will perform benchmarking before and after installing the skins to make sure performance remains acceptable using the current (default) skin.


-- Contributors: WillNorris - 22 Mar 2010


First some household detail.

This is not a feature proposal that involves what we ship but more a community decision.

We cannot put this under the 14-day rule. I will put my name in the concern field to stop any idea that this gets auto accepted after 2 weeks.

I believe this decision belongs partly to the task team responsible for the website and the community.

Let me sign this statement so it is separated from my opinion about the proposal itself.

-- KennethLavrsen - 22 Mar 2010

Three things:

I had an interesting discussion this morning with SueBlake that said that she felt the foswiki.org site should show that we stand by the product that we ship and that the foswiki.org site should look the same as how Foswiki looks like out of the box.

This is not the case today where the foswiki.org site has its own unique skin.

And I have agreed with this from the beginning. I always wanted foswiki.org to show itself with the standard Pattern Skin.

If we should ever install also NatSkin and WidgetsSkin on this site, then at least the default PatternSkin should be reverted back to the out of box design.

That was one thing. The second...

At the moment we are heading for a new skin for Foswiki 2.0. The way I see the future, PatternSkin will only get usability updates but its basic design will remain frozen. Instead a new skin will be introduced that has the full freedom to break with the past and create new user experiences without being dragged by the past.

I fear having 3 skins and later 4 to maintain on foswiki.org is a waste of resources and will take away the focus from the new skin.

I think the community is better off leaving foswiki.org as it is for the moment and put all our effort on getting a new great skin built.

And when Foswiki 2.0 gets released, both the distribution and the foswiki.org website will have this great new skin.

The third and last...

I think it will be bad for both NatSkin and WidgetsSkin to be locked up as something the community has control of. Today these two skins are "one persons creations" with the advantages and freedom this gives Michael and Sven. They can both develop these skins as they like and they do not need to listen to Kenneth talking about compatibility and newbie admins.
  • although WidgetsSkin was spearheaded by a single individual, it has received further contributions from many people. also, i don't agree that just because they would be installed on foswiki.org, that the skin author*s* of either skin would have to listen to Kenneth talking about compatibility and newbie admins. -- WillNorris - 23 Mar 2010
I think it is good that there is diversity in both plugin land and Skin land and I would hope more would contribute with new skins.

So in summary

  • If we do this, I want PatternSkin back to its out of box state and let NatSkin hold the current design. It cannot be right that the only skin that people cannot see is the out of box skin.
    • PatternSkin is, of course, currently available to users of foswiki.org. i will gladly add instructions for how to choose plain PatternSkin, while adding the appropriate instructions for NatSkin and ExtensionsSkin (and i have amended the proposal accordingly). however, i do not want this proposal hijacked with the completely separate (though valid) discussion of "what is the default skin for foswiki.org". -- WillNorris - 23 Mar 2010
  • I recommend to not do this and instead focus the community effort on the new 2.0 skin and have both 2.0 and foswiki.org change to this new community skin
    • 1) i'm not sure how much effort you expect this to be, i don't except it to be very much. these commonly-used alternative skins should already be working just fine with foswiki 1.0.9. and, if they don't, i think it is certainly worth the effort, community or otherwise. if you don't think that is worthwhile and time well-spent, fine, don't do it, but 2) please don't tell me how to spend my time, eh? -- WillNorris - 23 Mar 2010
  • I think NatSkin and WidgetsSkin are better off being free of community limitations which will happen if the foswiki.org site suddenly depends on how they work
    • you read too much into my proposal, i don't mention this anywhere, nor have the plugins that we have already installed on foswiki.org that are not part of the standard distribution become "community property" -- WillNorris - 22 Mar 2010
-- KennethLavrsen - 22 Mar 2010

If I read the proposal as I think it is intended, namely: let users (contributors) choose their favorite skin because they feel more productive, I fully support this.

Let's not confuse this with other discussions and arguments that are better held someplace else.

-- ArthurClemens - 22 Mar 2010

I think its a good idea. It would mean that the SkinBrowser would work on Foswiki.org, and can be used to demonstrate how flexible Foswiki can be.

-- AndrewJones - 22 Mar 2010

i added my replies inline, but i would also like to express surprise that "allows for a lot of development and personalization of the skin from within the wiki _itself_" didn't endear the fine WidgetsSkin to the person i often view as the biggest proponent of letting actual users develop things instead of locking them up in configure, for example. maybe i need to expand on that aspect of WidgetSkin more...?

i don't see any of the objections as valid, but i'm also not going to fight this on "parliamentary procedure".

-- WillNorris - 23 Mar 2010

If we are going to have a possibility to choose skin, then I insist on having out-of-box PatternSkin as one of them. Otherwise it becomes totally grotesque.

So how do I get plain Pattern on this site?

  • well, it turns out that it's slightly more complicated than just a simple SKIN setting. By following the directions on PatternSkin, i have determined that the following =Set='s would need to be added to a user's home topic (or see Sandbox.LookDefaultPatternSkin): -- WillNorris - 23 Mar 2010

  * Set SKIN = pattern
  * Set FOSWIKI_LAYOUT_URL = %PUBURLPATH%/%SYSTEMWEB%/PatternSkin/layout.css
  * Set FOSWIKI_STYLE_URL = %PUBURLPATH%/%SYSTEMWEB%/PatternSkin/style.css
  * Set FOSWIKI_COLORS_URL = %PUBURLPATH%/%SYSTEMWEB%/PatternSkin/colors.css
  * Set PATTERNSKIN_THEME = /pub/System/PatternSkin/theme_foswiki_noframe.css
  * Set PATTERNSKIN_COLUMNS = /pub/System/PatternSkin/column_left.css

-- KennethLavrsen - 23 Mar 2010

I think that having several skins available is a good thing.

-- AntonioTerceiro - 23 Mar 2010

updated proposal with bare PatternSkin

-- WillNorris - 23 Mar 2010

I think my arguments were not very clear. I was not trying to things with other discussions.

Let me try again

  • If we start changing skins on foswiki.org and we want to demonstrate the different skins then I must insist that the out-of-box skin must be one of them. Sue Blake stated it well in http://irclogs.foswiki.org/bin/irclogger_log/foswiki?date=2010-03-22,Mon&sel=268#l264. I see the proposal has been updated to also include bare PatternSkin.
  • If we suddenly have to take into account that people run 4 or 5 different skins then we all have to care for it. Otherwise changing anything in my favorite skin will break something for the other skins. That is a fact. So it is not just a matter of what John Doe and Hans Hansen are spending time on. Having multiple skins will add extra work for all of us. And I do fear it takes away focus on the new skin. I do not see many community member helping Carlo implementing his ideas at the moment.
    • The following are examples of incompatibilities I know of between skins
    • Login is in left bar in std Pattern and in top bar in foswiki site skin
    • Web list (much needed to be able to navigate the site) is in left bar in pattern and in top bar in site skin and NatSkin.
    • The topic WebLeftBar is called something else in NatSkin
    • NatSkin has a topic title feature which is not available in Pattern. If people start using Nat, topic titles will be missing or doubled. We have seen this already where topics were created in Nat back in November 2008 and then viewed in the current skin
    • This list probably grows to 50+ things.
  • The last argument about the skins being under pressure was mainly a matter of making it more difficult for the skin authors to change the skin in future because they also have to consider f.o. I did not suggest they (or any plugins) would become community controlled. It is a weak argument. Forget I brought it up.
  • A new argument FOR the proposal is that it would be a good thing if we could display the different working Skins on Foswiki.org. But I'd rather see that as a set of topics with the skin setting than seeing it as people being able to set the skin.
  • An additional argument for the proposal is that I can set the skin back to naked Pattern for myself. I would then never again look at the (to me) ugly f.o. skin. But would you allow me to add the navigation components I would need like the weblist in the left bar?

So - my concerns repeated in two short lines

  • If we display more then one skin, out-of-box Pattern has to be one of them to credibility that we believe in the product we ship
  • I still believe it adds work for all community members and takes away focus on making a new skin

I am not going to try and block this proposal if there is a community wish and people that want to implement it. But I am saying that it is not as easy as you think.

-- KennethLavrsen - 23 Mar 2010

When creating a decent site you should strive for one optimal outcome. Foswiki.org looks and feels like it does today as a result of a first iteration to reach that goal. It deliberately looks different than what we had before to make a clear distinction from the old project. This was a healthy and fruitful experience. However, Foswiki.org as it is now is by no means the end of the story.

Both, Foswiki as we ship it and Foswiki.org as we build this site,have very different requirements. I'd strongly advice not to mix up designing Foswiki as a product with Foswiki as a site. While there obviously is a connection that people should get - a shared identity, a lot of the Foswiki.org's setup - navigation, frontpages, structure of content, wiki applications, taxonomies etc - make only sense on this specific site. Answering the same question how to seed Foswiki as we ship it, has got different answers, i.e. the requirement to be easily customizable. We don't need Foswiki.org to be easily customizable. Top priority for Foswiki.org is to work out as a site.

On the other side there's diversity and a community that likes to have a choice. Totally understandable and we need to listen to it no matter what. There is a lot of development going on which unfortunately is not on the radar even for some of the key players of this community. I've seen people being shocked in a very positive way saying something: "wow this is 10 times better than anything I've seen on foswiki.org so far, why are you hiding these gems?"

True, we better showcase them. But that does not necessarily mean we have to showcase them all on one site.

It would be quite a hassle to take care of Foswiki.org as a site installing multiple skins. If one of those skins looks naff or behaves badly, it will fall back to Foswiki.org as a site. That's a risk we can't take as a reputation is ruined easily - gained back very hardly. We should better keep that risk as low as possible and instead make Foswiki.org one excellent site.

There are a few projects out there that let the user customize its look and feel. Not many take that risk.

The best answer to still fulfill the need to get to see which other skins for Foswiki are out there is to create an independent site, e.g. a http://best-of-foswiki.org, or having a set of demo sites that each showcase a particular skin running on the same content: a http://widgetskin.foswiki.org, a http://natskin.foswiki.org. This would considerably lower the risk for the main site, while allowing each demo site to be configured accordingly.

So in parts, I share Kenneth's concerns, while some of the arguments are not quite appropriately reflecting activities in other parts of the Foswiki community.

That's why I raise concerns on this proposal too. Instead, I'd modify the proposed idea to create independent domains with independent Foswiki engines sitting on the same server, running on the same content and sharing user base and login sessions and cookies.

-- MichaelDaum - 23 Mar 2010

To clarify. I do not want foswiki.org to look the same as the out-of-box Foswiki. I would like to use the same skin but naturally tailored to meet the needs of foswiki.org as a site. The out-of-box Pattern would need tailoring. But I think we took it too far changing the style sheets so much that you cannot see it is Pattern. But that is all history. We have what we have. And my point is that it is better to focus on the future skin than keep hacking the old.

But I like the horizontal nav we added. In fact we should put a how-to in the skin we ship to show people how to implement that.

-- KennethLavrsen - 23 Mar 2010

I like how we can enable different individuals to feel at home to potentially increase productivity and adoption in such a global collaborative environment. After all, FW isn't exactly in an isolated and controlled environment as in organisations/companies. And if this works in test.foswiki.org (or wherever it is that runs on trunk), it'll give developers and users to quickly spot issues and/or improvements to be made.

The idea of having different setups for different skins, I'm largely against that. It creates more work than necessary.

Just my 2 rupees. smile

-- rupees provided by KwangErnLiew

Nice idea, but hard to maintain. Maybe PatternSkin and the Site skin have much in common, but ie. NatSkin is totally different. Nobody will ever implement view templates (like the one proposed in Item293), if he or she has to implement them 4 or 5 times (different for each skin).

I like the idea of having as many skins installed as possible to give users something to play with. But please not on f.o. I prefer Michael's suggestion for a demo.foswiki.org.

-- OliverKrueger - 23 Mar 2010

One of the reasons we removed natskin was that the extra plugins needed to make it work its magic, completely changed the load profile of the wiki. If we were to install each of the skins, and all the extras required to make each of them shine, we will not only need to have alot more people in the infrastructure team, they will all need to know very intimate details of each of them to ensure reasonable performance.

I do not think this is worth it to install each skin's plugins, and then try to mashup their tweaks to show each of them off (there will be conflicts).

Making a set of demo sites could be interesting, but please remember, these would likely become somewhat 'consultant' advertising oriented - just think about who might be able to devote time to keeping their demo site up and running.

Not to say no, but the infrastructure teams approach thus far has been to try to reduce the workload so as to focus on things that are required for the community to function - additions like this basically need to be resourced from somewhere, with a realization that they will require effort at the least convenient times.

On the other hand, its just as plausible that by installing all the skins on the one site, that we can come to a common set of modifications - like sharing the leftbar topics...

-- SvenDowideit - 24 Mar 2010

The view templates at Item293 are fine for both PatternSkin and Natskin. Btw, does foswiki.org run on fast-cgi?
  • Cause it's still a simple view template. -- OliverKrueger - 24 Mar 2010

-- MichaelDaum - 24 Mar 2010
Topic revision: r22 - 12 Dec 2017, GeorgeClark
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