WikiMatrix

#1 2011-04-12 18:22:14

CNBarnes
Member
From: Texas, USA
Registered: 2011-04-12
Posts: 3

Is a wiki even the right answer?

I am in somewhat of a quandary.   I am the IT manager for a university department.  We have a webpage designer who is redoing the department's website, so this would be a good time to re-do the "computer services group" (CSG) portion of the website as well.

The current CSG website is composed of a "welcome page" followed by ~50+ pages of FAQs.


My initial reaction was "this might be good to simply redo the CSG site as a wiki".  So I looked at several wiki's with mediawiki and dokuwiki looking to be the 2 best choices.  I decided against mediawiki because I REALLY didn't like the idea of all the pages being burried in a database (probably MySql).

So I installed a development machine, with apache2 and dokuwiki going.


I ran into my first problem - even though the CSG website is standalone, it MUST have the same layout and design features as the main dept website.  But I can't just call the main site's style.css file, nor use server side includes for the header & footer .shtml pages.  After some painstaking work, I was able to kludge/copy the style to be the same (but God help me if the main site ever changes....).

Then I ran into my second problem - trying to import the existing FAQ pages (which are in straight up .html) into dokuwiki.  UG... it appears that dokuwiki (all wikis?) have their own markup language.

Really?  To use a wiki (dokuwiki), I have to both convert all of my existing pages to some new markup language, then to use it we have to learn a new markup language?

Really?  hmm


My questions:
(1) Am I understanding this correctly or am I completely off base (I would be happy to be wrong here)?

(2) Is there another wiki engine that would be better for me?



To be honest, I am close to deciding that a wiki (any wiki) is the wrong tool for what I want and I'll be better off keeping everything in html.  After all, not every problem is a nail that needs a hammer....

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#2 2011-04-12 20:55:31

Strathview
Moderator
From: Strathpeffer, Scotland
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 44
Website

Re: Is a wiki even the right answer?

Yes, all wikis have their own markup language, that's part of what makes them wikis. I'd be interested to know why you think a wiki is the solution here. It probably is, but it is a slightly different animal to a pure html website (thank goodness) and you have to bear that in mind. Certainly an IT knowledgebase is a common use for a wiki and is not difficult to implement.

You won't be able to import your existing content directly into a wiki platform without a wee bit of work.  But a site of approximately 50 Q&A pages should not take long to convert to a wiki: you will have the link syntax to deal with, perhaps the image syntax and a few other things. But a day is probably all it would take to convert your site to one based on a wiki platform. At least the basics, there is then a lot you can do beyond that to improve your content, layout, templates etc.

Don't forget, you don't need to use docuwiki or mediawiki. And I would take issue with you that they are the best choices; there are a lot of other professional wiki platforms that will do what you want and do it better. I work 7 days a week with Wikidot, a hosted rather than downloaded wiki platform, and am currently creating an intranet/ knowledgebase for a Scottish Government organisation along lines similar to yours. Other platforms like Mindtouch will also do a good job.

As to the design, a platform like Wikidot can cope very easily with external CSS but again it does need some work from you, it won't always work out-of-the-box.

I'm sure a wiki platform is right for you, but you need to think about the benefits that a wiki will bring to your organization over and above that of a pure corporate website or intranet and how you and your staff will use it.

I'm happy to continue the discussion so do come back with any further comments or questions.

Last edited by Strathview (2011-04-12 20:57:00)

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#3 2011-04-12 21:14:13

CNBarnes
Member
From: Texas, USA
Registered: 2011-04-12
Posts: 3

Re: Is a wiki even the right answer?

Strathview wrote:

I'm happy to continue the discussion so do come back with any further comments or questions.

I don't think you really addressed my main question. 

WHY is a wiki a better choice for a IT FAQ site than straight up HTML?


Benefits of straight up HTML:
(1) the existing pages will not need to be re-written (ok, even if it takes 1 day, this is still 1 day I have to devote to the task).

(2) the site can be integrated into the main dept site SEAMLESSLY.  It's what it's designed to do from the outset.

(3) I already know HTML * CSS.  I don't have to learn yet-another-markup language.


Points 2 & 3 are pretty big deals.  If I'm going to convert to a wiki, I'll need to do so because there is an overriding reason for it.

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#4 2011-04-12 22:39:07

Strathview
Moderator
From: Strathpeffer, Scotland
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 44
Website

Re: Is a wiki even the right answer?

It comes down to collaboration: how do you want your users to interact with your site? If you just want to put up a Q&A section which you write but your users cannot add to the questions, contribute to the answers or interact with each other then a pure html site would probably be sufficient. It might be a bit dull but it would be sufficient.

But if you do want you and your users to be able to add their own questions, to add to and expand on answers, to improve on the content on your site and to create a community then a wiki platform is definitely the way to go.

"I already know HTML & CSS". Yes so do I, but I choose to work with a wiki platform (involving a huge amount of CSS) for my business on a daily basis because it gives my users much more opportunity to contribute to a site and add to a site than they could ever do with a "normal" website.

"the site can be integrated into the main dept site SEAMLESSLY". Then use the site that you already have. I and others here will not tell you that a wiki is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything - even though it probably is smile You won't find a wiki platform that will work seamlessly with other platforms without putting in some work, but you don't seem to want to put in any work given that one day's effort to convert your content is causing you a bit of concern.

Unless you are clear that the collaboration benefits that a wiki brings will enhance what you already have, then it is probably best to stay with a platform you know. But do come back to the idea of a wiki when you are clear about how you want your users to participate in your site.

Last edited by Strathview (2011-04-12 22:44:19)

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#5 2011-04-13 11:23:27

domi
Administrator
Registered: 2008-08-12
Posts: 2

Re: Is a wiki even the right answer?

(1) the existing pages will not need to be re-written (ok, even if it takes 1 day, this is still 1 day I have to devote to the task).

If you want to switch to dokuwiki, have a look at http://www.dokuwiki.org/tips:htmltowiki. its a tool to convert html to dokuwiki markup.

(2) the site can be integrated into the main dept site SEAMLESSLY.  It's what it's designed to do from the outset.

this is possible with dokuwiki but requires some html, php and css knowledge. a good hint to start is http://www.dokuwiki.org/devel:templates

(3) I already know HTML * CSS.  I don't have to learn yet-another-markup language.

Dokuwiki markup is quite simple (like most other markups) and easy to learn smile

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