Child pages
  • Proposal: ScreenSteps help content authoring proposal
Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata
Due date2013/12/10
OwnerSam Ottenhoff

Votes Cast

Affirm (+1)

Berg, Botimer, Buckett, Jones, Kirschner, May, Ottenhoff, Severance, Swinsburg, Theriault, Whyte 

Abstain or did not vote (0)

Bush*, Horwitz, Zeckoski*, Lévêque

Note: both Bush and Zeckoski voted +1 in favor of the proposal but did so after the close of voting.

Opposed (-1)



From: Anthony Whyte <>

Date: December 5, 2013 4:01:04 PM EST


Subject: VOTE: Sakai 10 help file screensteps proposal


PMC vote called

On 5 November 2013 Sam Ottenhoff proposed that we create/edit Sakai 10 help content using the collaborative authoring environment. [1]  ScreenSteps is a commercial service offering a Plus plan at $99.00/month. [2]   No material objections were raised to Sam's proposal, a copy of which is appended below.  However, since the ScreenSteps proposal requires a cash outlay, a formal request for funding will need to be made to the Apereo Foundation Executive Director.  Given this requirement, PMC members will be polled publicly in order to ensure that clear support exists for the proposal.


Polls open

Voting is now open and will conclude no later than Tuesday, 10 December 2013, 16:00 UTC.


As a reminder, a "+1" vote signifies approval.  A -1 vote constitutes a material objection that must be accompanied by a detailed explanation.  A single -1 vote will block action.  Blocking votes can be overridden by a 2/3 majority roll call vote of active PMC members.





 Proposal for Sakai 10 help files

Author: Sam Ottenhoff

Date: 5 November 2013

Proposal: For Sakai 10, we should replace much of our help content with role-focused, image-heavy content.  Our existing help content displays the same content for instructors and students and includes few images.  I propose that we delete the existing help files that are contained within the individual Sakai tools, author new content in a documentation-friendly system, and export that image-heavy new content into Sakai's existing help tool.


Proposal for Authoring: I propose that Apereo pay for a community account in the commercial system called ScreenSteps Live (  ScreenSteps would allow ten of our trusted community members to collaborate and edit documents in the shared system for $99/month.  ScreenSteps would be used as a collaborative editing system; the content would be exported and held within Sakai's existing SVN repository.


Why ScreenSteps and not a basic HTML editing system?  These are the primary reasons I can find:


a) ScreenSteps makes adding and annotating images incredibly easy.

 b) ScreenSteps allows exports into PDF guides and HTML (that we would use to import into Sakai's existing help system).

 c) ScreenSteps could allow institutions to easily export into an existing campus system like Wordpress or ZenDesk.

 d) Institutions that want to heavily customize their own help could pay for their own ScreenSteps account.


Proposal for Sakai changes: I believe the changes in Sakai would be relatively minor.  Here are the changes I would look to make:


a) Delete all existing help files in individual tools.

 b) Develop a script that could easily import a ScreenSteps HTML ZIP export into appropriate help directories.

 c) Add functionality to help tool that will differentiate content based on role (Student vs Instructor/teacher vs learner)


If there are other developers interested in re-doing help, we could consider replacing the existing help with a simplified version that depended on simple HTML files, ElasticSearch (already in for Sakai 10), and a more streamlined appearance.


Who is going to edit this new content? Longsight has staff dedicated to rewriting help files between now and Sakai 10's release.  We also believe there are existing community members who are eager to work on restructured help files.


What about multi-lingual content? Sakai's existing help tool supports multi-lingual content.  ScreenSteps allows multiple sets of content to be created, or the static HTML could be translated manually or using a tool like Crowdin.


How is the content licensed?  The content would be exported and licensed as ECL 2.0 content held within our SVN repository.  Contributors to the collaborative editing should sign CLAs similarly to developers.


What if ScreenSteps goes away? Then we are in the same boat we are in now.  We would need a new system for collaboratively editing HTML-based help documents besides manually editing HTML inside an SVN repository.  If we consolidate help files and remove them from within each individual tool, this should become much easier.


Other possibilities that have been discussed: The Edia Knowledgebase tool would be a nice replacement for the existing help tool, but it does not currently support multilingual content like our existing help tool.  I also built a Drupal-based proof of concept for editing existing help files (  I view ScreenSteps as a refined version of that POC that has much better image editing capabilities and much better export possibilities.  Also, a ScreenSteps account should be controlled by the Sakai community where the Drupal-based proof of concept is tied to Longsight.


Sample of a ScreenSteps guide used by Canvas:


Canvas has a document about how to contribute to their ScreenSteps documentation:


Thoughts, comments, or realistic alternatives for Sakai 10 help files?  If I hear no objections, I'd like to get started on some of the technical work in early December.



1 Comment

  1. Formal request send to the Foundation.


    From: Anthony Whyte <>

    Date: December 12, 2013 8:56:53 AM EST

    To: Dolphin Ian <>

    Cc: Theriault Seth <>, Caidin Neal <>, Sam Ottenhoff <>

    Subject: PMC request for funds to support the Screensteps help content authoring initiative


    On behalf of the Sakai PMC I wish to make a formal request for Apereo funding in order to purchase a ScreenSteps Plus plan ($99.00/month) that will be used by certain members of the Sakai Community to author in a collaborative fashion help content for Sakai 10. [1]


    If this request meets with your approval, I recommend that Neal Caidin, Sakai Community Coordinator, create and administer the account on behalf of the Sakai Community.  I also suggest that Neal coordinate the distribution of individual accounts under general PMC oversight to Sakai Community members who are both willing and able to contribute to the authoring of help content for Sakai 10.  The plus plan allows for 5 authors; additional authors can be added at $20.00/month.


    It was noted by one PMC member that the ScreenSteps basic plan ($49.00/month) may meet our needs.  I leave it to Sam Ottenhoff and Neal to determine if a lower price point is feasible. 


    Likely candidates for authoring include members of the Sakai Documentation Group, Longsight personnel and other members of the Sakai Community.  This morning, I received an email from Roger Brown, UCT Learning Technologies Operations Manager, who volunteered to participate.  It is quite possible that the 5 author limit will prove insufficient to satisfy expected participation.  It may also constrain productivity.   Please bear that in mind as you calculate costs.


    If this approach proves successful it is anticipated that ongoing funding will be required to sustain the subscription over the coming years.


    The ScreenSteps proposal together with PMC vote tallies are documented in Confluence. [2]  




    Anthony Whyte

    Sakai PMC chair





    anthony whyte | its and mlibrary | university of michigan | | 517-980-0228