I’m totally frustrated with the current wiki situation. The DokuWiki I’ve installed first looked ok and it worked ok for me. The main problem was that the wiki had security issues that seemed to come from using both Apache and Nginx at the same time (which is what my VestaCP control panel does by default) (oh, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s ok, it’s just hosting jargon that’s supposed to make things sound complicated, which they actually are). I couldn’t resolve this issue. Also, Maximo had trouble registering on the DokuWiki.
So, I tried giving MediaWiki a shot, even though I was far less impressed by MediaWiki than by DokuWiki. Basically, MediaWiki is an old huge mess. It’s archaic when measured with 2010s software and usability standards. DokuWiki is not much better in that respect, but at least it is significantly better. Anyway, I’ve installed a MediaWiki here, but administrating it is a nightmare, because configuration files have to be edited manually – there’s no web based interface for that. Also, soon after I installed it and set it up as open wiki it got infested by spam bots. So, I’ll probably kill it off for good, because it’s not a rotting pile of junk and nothing good will come out of it.
Edit: After having made a backup of the database, I have deleted the MediaWiki. I’ve reverted the wiki link to the old DokuWiki. It’s not supposed to be actually used, but it’s there just in case.
If I wanted to give MediaWiki a second chance, I would have to use lots of extensions which could turn it into a wiki that is not too bad to use. But it would still be horrible on the maintenance side.
And if I wanted to give DokuWiki a second chance, I would need to use a different control panel, or no control panel at all and a pure LAMP or LEMP stack, not some clever mixture. Which is bad, because I have come to like the Vesta control panel. A LAMP stack would be easy to use, but it would probably have performance issues. A LEMP stack would have great performance, but it would be hard to set up correctly. Especially with DokuWiki. But perhaps it would be possible.
All of these options fell gruesome to me. I’ve looked for alternative Wiki software, but the only serious competitors are TikiWiki, which is some seriously huge bloatware, Confluence which seems to be a decent Wiki software, but it’s not free, and FosWiki which may be ok, but it doesn’t have a huge user base at the moment, and it may be dead or dying slowly.
Also, there’s the Federated Wiki project, which, while it’s a great idea in its own right, seems to be stuck in a perpetual early development phase, so it’s practically unusable and perhaps never will be.
There doesn’t seem to be an analog to Discourse for the wiki ecosystem. Discourse, the software on which this forum runs, revolutionized the classical forum software world. It’s a real 2010s compliant software solution. There’s unfortunately nothing like that for the wiki world.
I’ve also researched other types of software that have wikis as components or extensions. But I’ve found nothing which comes even close to the features that DokuWiki provides.
Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a clear replacement paradigm for wikis. Is there something that could be a Wikipedia killer? If yes, on what software would it run? And don’t we have that right now? There’s not even something like a Facebook wiki or something. Or a reasonable SaaS wiki.
But, there is at least one solution that may not be totally awkward and which might have some advantages: Using this Discouse forum as wiki! There’s the option to turn threads into wiki-threads in which the first post can be edited by trusted users (level 2 users). Unfortunately, only admins (or moderators) can turn threads into wiki-threads, but that problem can be solved by turning members trusted by the community into admins (or moderators). Everyone can start a normal thread starting with the title “Wiki: Topic title” which is then supposed to be turned into a wiki-thread by the admins (or moderators) ASAP.
If we want to make a clear distinction between wiki pages and forum pages (threads), then the two threads “Wiki: Topic title” and “Topic title” or “Discussion: Topic title” would be two separate threads.
Anyway, there are some advantages to using Discourse as a wiki:
- The wiki would be integrated into the forum. Users won’t have to check two platforms separately. All activity in the forum and the wiki part of the forum would be visible immediately.
- The user base is naturally the same. Users don’t have to register twice.
- Learning to use the Discourse as wiki is probably slightly easier than to use proper wikis as wiki (because they aren’t totally user friendly by contemporary standards).
- It wouldn’t cost anything extra, it would be a highly performant solution, and there wouldn’t be significant administration effort (especially no serious problem with spam or trolls).
Of course, there are also disadvantages to using Discourse as wiki:
- Discouse is not supposed to be used as wiki primarily. It doesn’t have the nice structuring features that proper wikis have.
- It wouldn’t be easy to display the wiki contents separately from the discussion threads.
- Navigation might be an issue, but honestly navigation within wikis is a mess in any case, so we might just as well make wiki navigation pages manually!
- Proper wikis probably have slightly better version control.
In any case, there doesn’t seem to be any good or merely ok solution. All solutions are unsatisfactory at the moment, so we need to choose the least worst solution. In reality, I am responsible for the hosting and administration (unless someone else is willing to take over that job), so what happens is that I will simply choose an option that doesn’t make me want to smash my head into a wall.
The option that does qualify in that respect is to use this Discourse forum as partial wiki until some better alternative emerges. There are some possibilities for a better solution that might arise in the future:
- There could be a good wiki extension for Discourse (or even a Discourse wiki fork).
- DokuWiki might somehow work together with VestaCP in the future (or someone figures out how to make them work together – I fear I’m not skilled enough for that problem, at least at the moment).
- Some really nice new wiki idea like the Federated Wiki takes off and becomes usable.
- Someone finds out a set of MediaWiki extensions that make MediaWiki not suck!
- Drupal 8 (or some other good CMS) might be released in a few years and it could come with a good wiki extension.
- Possibly, someone could write a good wiki plugin for WordPress (though the probability of that happening is very low).
Anyway, I’m sorry for this mess, but being a community admin comes with its own challenges and frustrations. MediaWiki might have been a good choice in 2005, but it’s 10 years later now and the world has changed. The wiki world however hasn’t really seen significant progress, I fear. And that’s quite a disappointment. Anyway, I hope the interim solution of using this forum as wiki base is acceptable and will work. If we finally arrive at a better solution, we can migrate the content into the proper wiki.
Edit: I’ve created a separate poll about which wiki software to use.