Re: MediaWiki Demo

Subject: Re: MediaWiki Demo
From: "Jerry Muelver" <jerry -at- hytext -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005 11:24:20 -0500

----- Original Message ----- From: Kevin

I'm interested in both the "physical" aspects of setting up
the Wiki -- would it be sufficient to just grab a 5-year-old
PC, stick it in my cube on a network drop, fire up the Wiki
engine and send out an e-mail? We don't have mySQL running
for any reason, in-house, so I don't think there's an
experienced mySQL dba. There are only really a dozen people
at this location and perhaps five or ten at remote locations who
would need to participate in the first Wiki-mediated documentation
attempt. (Other people and projects would be roped in later if
the first one went well.)

Or do I need to get IS/IT co-operation, perhaps real server space,
and other resources.

I would at least let IS/IT know about your desires. They may offer some help, even if it's just a promise to let you run on your own with no support... or interference. They would at the very least be interested in plugging any potential security holes and providing controlled access to your "server".

You don't need mySQL if you run an engine like the one from -- single Perl script, pages kept in text files, good history, diffs, and search capabilities. As a contractor faced with providing a nuclear option to a mish-mashed documentation process (Word to FrameMaker to PDF for online operator support docs, then to Interleaf for legacy-based archiving) I orginally set up a skunk works server -- Xitami and Perl -- from my cube, to provide proof of concept. Later, I got management on-board, with authorization to get a standalone Linux server plugged into the global intranet, by seducing key management types with a wiki sandbox of their own to play in.

I think the best option is to get a grass-roots movement going. Teach the other writers -- and any other "content providers" (office administration, schedulers, marketing announcement types) -- about wiki-based collaboration, and get them to sign-on for a pilot project. It also helps to have someone with at least minimal programming capability -- Perl or awk or even BASIC -- for text-processing and filtering (conversion) to accommodate the various output requirements once the pages are finalized, if the final delivery system is not HTML-based.

Is there any easy way to make existing html-based content
available in a Wiki (like a conversion/import versus taking
each of a couple of thousand pages one at a time and stuffing
it into a Wiki hierarchy roughly equivalent to the way it was
in the Help system)?

Put the HTML pages up in a directory of their own, link to them from the wiki. Or, some engines (usemod, and the client-side WikiWriter) accept HTML directly, so you could simply import the page with a filter that read the HTML pages and strips headers (or flags them as comments) and rewrites links if needed. See my mention of useful programming talent, above.

Once it had been massaged, beat-up, revised, renewed, edited,
expanded, etc., in the Wiki, would you publish with the Wiki
say putting the engine on your external website with your docs...
or would it need some export/conversion back to a format like
WebHelp (and how would it then acquire the organization, ToC,
index, and other integrated features of useful help? Oh,
and the company branding, too. They're getting picky about that.

Some engines (usemod, and WikiWRiter) have HTML export built in, which makes packaging easy.

From back here, in the shadows, it sounds like a great idea,
and what I need is a bit more comforting detail on implementation
before I have the courage to leap in and drag my company
with me. (Ok, a LOT of implementation detail, since I'm a "lone"
writer at a Canadian branch of a big-ish American company, meaning
that I'd need plenty of tricks in my bag when I start pushing
string and herding cats, most of whom outrank me). Still, I've
enjoyed just about every encounter I've had with Wikis, and I
really like this notion as long as I can see a way to attempt
crossing the chasm in fewer than two bounds... :-)

Well, experiment with Lou's MediaWiki, sign on to the Techwriting Patterns Wiki, and dive right in.

---- Jerry Muelver
Techwriting Patterns Wiki -


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RE: MediaWiki Demo: From: mlist

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