Here’s a little public service for anyone who’s ever wondered what a wiki was all about. I imagine you’ve visited the awesome Wikipedia once or twice, but if you’re like me you probably had no idea how easy it is to install and maintain a wiki of your own.
Oh, and just in case you’re not entirely clear on what a wiki is, let’s ask Wikipedia — they probably know:
A wiki (WIK-ee) is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used to create collaborative wiki websites, to power community websites, for personal note-taking, in corporate intranets, and in knowledge management systems.
TL;DR… A wiki is a white board for collaboration on the web.
1. Choosing Your Wiki
The software that powers Wikipedia is called MediaWiki — this is what I ended up choosing for Dyscultured’s wiki. There are lots of other options, though. I recommend visiting the WikiMatrix to compare the many and varied features of what’s out there. And if you didn’t know I should also point out that most of them are free to use and have been released under the GPL.
2. Installing MediaWiki
As it turns out the installation was a fairly trivial matter; I just followed the instructions posted by another web hosting company. The only things you really need to look out for are:
- Creating a new MySQL database and user (again, easier than it sounds);
- Moving a fairly critical file after your wiki is configured.
If I recall correctly the whole installation took less than fifteen minutes — and that includes downloading MediaWiki and uploading to my server to install.
3. Creating Your First Page
Whereas creating a user account on your new wiki is very straightforward, creating your first page is anything but. Click right here for an expert tip — yup, it’s that easy.
4. Getting Down and Dirty
For folks used to writing content in html the specific syntax of MediaWiki requires a bit of study. Here’s your homework.
Though there are formatting buttons not unlike any other text editor across the top of a MediaWikia text entry field, the many available shortcuts have been designed to keep your fingers on the keyboard. And once you get used to it, your fingers will fly.
There’s a lot more to managing a wiki that I’ve honestly yet to figure out — like theming (which we outsourced), embedding media and other customizations. But hopefully what I’ve presented here will get you far enough down the rabbit hole to realize the wonders that wikis have to offer.