Wiki Wonderland

I was sitting at work, muttering to myself as I am want to do, nibbling on a pistachio nut and avoiding the interminable data entry part of my job (the problem with only having a part time minion is that part of the time she’s not in the office to do the boring bits of my job for me) and I came to the realisation that I need a wiki.

Yes, yes. Gasp, shock horror and all that mlarky. Actually, I’m not sure what is stranger: the idea that I’m thinking of setting one up; or the idea that I don’t have a wiki already!

You see, the odd idea frequently strikes me when I’m sitting at work at the computer and don’t have easy access to somewhere I can jot things down. A nice online wiki… Well, I invariably have an IE window open so it’s no hassle to jump into the edit window of a wiki.

The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that a wiki, probably living as a subdomain of Bright Meadow, is the way to go. I quite enjoyed the experience of planning the Demon Thesis on a wiki. I’m more often than not at a computer and a centralised place to store ideas seems perfect to me (I have a moleskine for the offline moments). Yes, I could write up draft posts here on the blog but I’m more likely to hit “publish” than “save as draft”, and I end up with fifty different posts sitting in draft which just look messy and as there’s no ability to link between ideas, things get lost.

The only draw back I can think of is what happens when I’m not online but at the computer and want to work on an idea? I have vivid memories of the other week when we were without internet for five days at Meadow Towers. Not something I want to repeat, but unfortunately a circumstance that is bound to happen again. Therefore the ‘dream wiki’ would have to have an offline counterpart and, more importantly, some easy way of synching between my local (offline) server and the online server.

An easy “one click” install would be nice too. I have horendous memories of trying to install MoinMoin. Whilst that was partly down to firewall restrictions and my local server being randomly turned off by the Mysogynistic Belgian, any installation that requires me to refamiliarise myself with the the command line is NOT easy.

The wish list:

  • Not MediaWiki – I can’t fully rationalise my decision, but MediaWiki just leaves me cold. Like you knew Hitler was evil by just looking at his creepy mustache.
  • Easy install – see my definition above for an explanation of ‘easy’
  • Able to run on a Linux server
  • An offline counterpart that will run on a Mac local server
  • Straightforward synching between the offline and the online versions – I am aware I might be living in cloud cuckoo land here, but it is called a ‘wish list’ for a reason!
  • In built spell checker – this post was composed entirely in IE (no handy spell checking like Safari gives me). It’s quite obvious, isn’t it?
  • Work (look presentable) in IE
  • Security – I don’t want every Thomas, Richard or Harold to be able to view my thoughts by just going to

It’s been a while since I paid close attention to wikis and the various engines out on the market now. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

As am aside, the idea I had today was involving around wikis, logins and spam. Or a combination thereof. I just can’t remember the points of my argument because I didn’t have somewhere to write them down – I nearly started on my ‘discussion’ page on Antiquist, but then I got all shy because I’m not sure my ideas are ready for anyone/everyone to read right now.

20 thoughts on “Wiki Wonderland

  1. You could just install MAMP on your Mac and install the Wiki locally. Acessible online, accessible offline. And it makes security a breeze since you can just set access permissions to you and no one else quite easily. And no fuss with synchronization then, either!

    As far as I’m aware, there isn’t actually a Wiki that can be synched between two locations. It seems sort of counter-productive. You could always try something like ZuluPad, which is a desktop editor with Wiki features, or there’s a nice Wiki bundle for TextMate somewhere on the internets — both can be made to output plain text files, or html files (presumably, in the case of ZuluPad at least, with all interlinking intact, but I’m not sure) which would give you plenty of options as far as synchronization goes. Easiest thing would be to set up a cron job that would upload the files at a regular interval to a location somewhere.

    Just a few ideas!

  2. Command lines ARE evil- you were asking me how it is going with GRASS…… /mutter grumble/

    If you don’t feel up scribbling your ideas about passwords/security and wiki’s on the wiki, then email it to me instead- I still have not got round to the ‘proposal’ for the antiquist wiki we talked about all those months ago, and it sounds like we are having convergent thoughts again…..

  3. Rich – the installing it on the Mac is a good idea in theory, but I’m not a fan of having to leave the PowerBook on all the time. ZuluPad sounds interesting. I can’t say more than that at the moment because the site is blocked at work.

    Neko – thank you, but I think I might be able to get a blog post out of this one. Hopefully in the next few days. Once I *have* thoughts, I’ll probably put them on the wiki as well.

  4. surly – I could say why not just send emails to myself. In my head I want something more than just a few flat files. I want something I can edit and re-edit as I write, and that I can connect to other things. Past experience (and a year of research!) have taught me that a wiki is the best way for it.

    Neko – everything on Bright Meadow is licensed under a Creative Commons license, so feel free to share and remix, so long as I get some credit.

  5. peroty – I wondered why instiki sounded familiar, then when I went to the site I realised that I already used it! In fact, it had the honour of being the very first wiki engine I tried when I was writing the proposal for my thesis (sadly it didn’t make the grade for assorted reasons I can’t remember now).

    I should add something to the Wish List: has both XP and OSX versions. With an added wrinkle that the XP version needs to be webserved because downloading software at work is a HUGE no-no.

    zulupad looks like it would have been a winner (and a 😛 to Rich, but it even has an synching option). However, it isn’t webserved *sob*

  6. I was in an instructional technology program that did not use wikis. WTF? They are awesomeness. I cannot wait until our office intranet has one. Dentist recs galore, woot!

    And on that note, good luck with yours.

  7. Cas, it sounds like you need Scrybe to come out of beta, just like I do! From the previews they’re showing, it should work for what you need.

    Or someone could build a wiki using the new Google apps they just released, to be used both online and offline.

  8. Oooh, Lisa! Scrybe looks pretty nigh-on perfect!

    Now, who do I know who might have an invite going free…

  9. I hear a lot of love for TiddlyWiki, being that you can stick it on a USB memory stick and keep it there happily forever more. Keeps it private and means you can use it without an internet connection, and ‘on the go’ (as they say). Never really used it myself, so I can’t say more than that.

  10. Thank you for that link Mallory – TiddlyWiki, regardless of whether I use it or not (and I might take it for a spin) looks really interesting. I’m not sure if I love or hate how it’s all on one flat page. It will take some getting used to!

    And welcome to Bright Meadow and the comments 🙂

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