Jeremy Smith's blog

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Top 3 Most Wanted Services From ITS: #2) Wiki Farm

I talked about wiki farms in an earlier piece In Need of Personal Wiki Space. I continually run into situations where a separate wiki would be incredibly useful.

The project I am involved with regarding a complete rewrite of the transfership of student identity data between the Registrar and the Identity Management system. It involves people from ITS and the Registrar. A wiki setup that only people on the Student Identity Managment Mailing List could read and write would be wonderful.

I'm on another project concerning the continual evolution of the Case Daily emails. Again, I am working with people in different departments (ITS and Marketing & Communications). I would love a wiki site that only we could access.

There's another beginning of a project regarding iTunes@Case. It would be great if we could setup a separate wiki that was world-readable but only writeable by people on the iTunes@Case mailing list.

Project and group specific wikis created on demand would be nice.

Now I know there are ways to tailor something like MediaWiki to do it. But I don't know, it just doesn't feel like the right wiki software to do it. For some reason (and this is probably because my exposure to the engine is WikiPedia and the Case Wiki), MediaWiki powered sites feel lofty, official, grandiose — places to store official stuff... like an encyclopedia... like the Case Wiki. It just doesn't feel like software I use to do one-off project documentation. Internally, we use DokuWiki, and that does feel like a place to store project documentation.

I like TiddlyWiki and its variants but navigating a TiddlyWiki is difficult for normal users. (Seriously, go find a normal user and watch them try to use TiddlyWiki... they get completely lost and confused.)

Regardless, some way to automate installs (and upgrades) of DokuWiki on a per-project or per-group basis would be wonderful. It wouldn't have to be DokuWiki, but thus far, it feels like the best to me (if only it could have database support for backups).

Automating the creation of a wiki site is one aspect. The other aspect is controlling you can read it and who can edit it. But that's the subject of my #1 most wanted ITS Service.


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    I forgot about XWiki, an open source Tomcat wiki farm engine that looks very promising.

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    I should also mention Confluence which purports to be able to handle this.

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    I like TiddlyWiki and its variants but navigating a TiddlyWiki is difficult for normal users. (Seriously, go find a normal user and watch them try to use TiddlyWiki... they get completely lost and confused.)


    I have a problem navigating Confluence. It just doesn't flow right to me. I love the idea of individual wiki spaces and attaching documents to specific pages, but it is impossible to use. It is slow too.

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    It sounds like we want something that is a blend of wiki, blog and project management software. Things like e-mail updates or rss subscriptions that let you know when things have been updated would be useful for a project wiki. I think a bit of "push" technology that pokes us in the ribs to say "hey, Jeremy just added something to our wiki, and you better submit your feedback..." Would be quite useful.

    I also like the idea of being able to dialogue the way we do with the list, but in a manner that both notifies and archives the discussion. And the wiki's ability to keep track of its history is helpful.

    Some form of scheduler for project implementation may be good as well.

    I'm rambling a bit here, but it would be cool if we could pick features from different types of products and throw them all together.

    I want Feature X from this calendar,
    Feature Z, from the scheduler, features abd from instant messenging, etc. Perhaps Confluence is attempting to do this and hasn't reached the mark, or perhaps we're envisioning something that doesn't quite exist and are wondering which tool can most easily be adapted to do this.

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    cool: sounds like Basecamp to me. Unfortunately that's a hosted service, not something Case could install.

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    cool: Sounds like Trac.

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    And you can get a Trac installation at (thanks Greg!).

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    DokuWiki is practically drag and drop. Come to think of it, that is exactly how I moved one of my test wikis from one web host to the other: drag and drop. It worked without a hitch! =)

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    I don't see the big deal about DokuWiki. Seriously, who writes software like a wiki without database support? Enough said.

    The one thing I like about DokuWiki is the pseudo-namespace creation. For example, ITS::Middleware::Jeremy Smith. When MediaWiki's code to do that moves from CVS to inclusion in releases, look out!

    For wiki farms, I think you need to go with software that is specifically designed to be a wiki farm. XWiki and Confluence come to mind. I had XWiki installed for a few hours. Cool stuff.

  10. gravatar is a free wikifarm that provides hosting for over 1,500 wikis. You only need to fill in one field to create the wiki.