Thursday, January 20, 2011

Boring Wiki Bleg

I'm working on a project which will require a wiki, so maybe somebody can help me out. and I figure some folks here have some experience with what a useful one might do. I run one at work, but it's super-old and super simple because I don't really have the technical skill to run better stuff, and just unleashing that would neither be acceptable nor secure. Anyway, what I'm looking for is one with more options and flexibility regarding access control. Maybe the "CMS" acronym fits better here, I dunno, as I'd like something with a public face - maybe some static pages - and then a whole lotta backstage space for a small community of experts to arrange more stuff to show a wider audience (and to give each other access to their knowledge)

Somebody else is going to make it go, so I guess I'm not personally worried about the difficulty of installation, but it would be nice to try before buying, so to speak.

Here's a wishlist, most of which is blindingly obvious, but:

Styled text
Image display

Comments or discussion (as with Mediawiki) - maybe someone has a question about the information on the page but doesn't want to edit it
Recent Change Information - Pages on the wiki, RSS or email
Attaching pages to other pages
Sectional editing (in the Wikipedia you can have sections of pages that are individually editable which is good for long documents...kinda like the above in a way)
Alternate character display (ie Russian, Arabic, Chinese)
Access control such that individual pages or whole areas (or wikis I guess) can be invisible depending on user privileges

Any and all advice happily accepted, from users to administrators.

Currently I'm fucking around with Tiki which might be the solution (if I can make a WYSIWYG plugin work) although I probably wouldn't have been able to make it go without the ease of use packed into XAMPP and kind folks who make handy roadmaps for XAMPP users.

Since I guess this kind of post should give out a little more if I'm begging for free stuff, here's WikiMatrix where you can run through a choice wizard and at least knock out a few of your choices.


mikey said...

Take a look at Drupal. It's a full blown CMS, and may be overkill for what you want to do, but hey, MS Word is overkill for writing a letter - you just use the pieces you need.

It's stable, capable, and has a big, active community around it. You should be able to do everything you want to do without writing any PHP, but it's nice to know you can add or tweak. It sits happily on a LAMP stack, so you could even host it at Rackspace or Amazon or the like....

Substance McGravitas said...

Thanks mikey. That was on the list to poke around in. So far Tiki's pretty easy to make go without the dreaded WikiWords and the WYSIWYG seems to be operable.

Substance McGravitas said...

Hmm, Drupal needs more wiki and less administration.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I will be interested in seeing how this shakes out. I have often thought a wiki would be just the thing for collaborative architectural projects, if I ever do any architectural projects again.

Substance McGravitas said...

The problem in these is ordinarily buy-in: nobody wants to look at a bunch of Wikipedia-style markup except geeks, and you find the people it would help most feeling intimidated by it.

The one I have at work is now used enough to be useful to everybody, but the number of people who actually edit it is low. What's been hard to find is a wiki that a dope like me can install and administrate, has WYSIWYG editing, and doesn't insist on using CamelCase

If it helps I've added a link above to WikiMatrix, a wiki-comparison site.

In playing with Tiki I've stumbled across "structures" which is a way to generate a zillion wiki pages at once in a table-of-contents style. This, for instance, is a structure. So if you're an organized individual, which I am not, you can have a topic, populate it with the chunks you think it should contain, and then fill up the chunks, or delegate them.

fish said...

I'll take the blow to the head.

bjkeefe said...

This is an interesting bleg, and I hope you'll keep us posted on your thinking and what you decide.

My two cents on the buy-in problem you mention: well, yes. OMG, computer code RUN AWAY!!!1! And so forth. But really, it is not that hard, say, to make a link or a <ref> or whatever on Wikipedia, or for that matter, using any sort of mark-up.

My experience has been that reasonably intelligent albeit non-computer-literate people can look at a few examples and figure it out from there (and are happy to do so, and will feel warm fuzzies of accomplishment) if they're at all motivated. A few how-to pages, right on the wiki, or elsewhere on your intranet, should suffice to please these people.

And as for the ones who aren't? Who blanch at any non-alphanumeric character? I'd say: so what, it's a wiki. Just encourage these people to put the raw info onto a page (pasted URLs, descriptions of what they want to do, etc.), and then you can be sure some anal-obsessive like me will come along and clean it up.

I think the key to success for any platform intended for ongoing use is less "how can I make it easy on day one for the bottom echelon people who don't want to think?" than it is "how can I make it reasonably easy to get started, while not frustrating the people who are going to end up doing most of the work?"

Okay, so that was a lot of words for two cents. I is sorry.

Smut Clyde said...

you can have a topic, populate it with the chunks you think it should contain, and then fill up the chunks, or delegate them.

I am not a top-down thinker. Also "structured programming" = ABOMINATION.