Wiki Portal

Here's a simple idea that might be someone's path to fame and fortune: a separate RecentChanges server that would accept notifications of RecentChanges on multiple wikis/MultiWiki namespaces. A WikiPortal, if you like. Heck, the more I think about it, the more I feel like Mr & Mrs Yahoo at the birth of their new baby. A simple idea with legs.

To make this work we'd benefit from the cooperation of the existing wiki providers, Ward especially, but a simple version could simply go grab the various wiki RecentChanges pages and munge them together every time it got hit. A better way would be for it to cache the RecentChanges for say ten minutes and then go get 'em again. The benefit for the wiki providers would be scalability. You know, this might be all that's needed to get an InterWiki working ... well, this, and having a client WikiLink notation something like wikisite.WikiName or maybe wikisite.wikinamespace.WikiName ... --PeterMerel

I'd like to be there at the birth too. Our preference on WikiLink's is namespace.WikiName where the token for namespace within the editing language can be defined for maximum convenience and intelligibility locally. Other than that, when do we start? --RichardDrake

Now. Let's begin with a WikiConsortium and WikiPortalStories. --PM

Or, you can just do http://usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?UnifiedRecentChanges...


There is an old joke in the ForthLanguage community that is unfortunately true: If you have seen one Forth, well, you've seen one Forth.

Wiki seems the same. After I understood what Wiki was about, I got excited and promptly set one up myself (I used AtisWiki). Now after having it running for only a week, I've already made changes to the regular expression that defines a WikiName, and I'm working on syntax for color changes and some other effects I find necessary for my work. But others are doing even more-- we've got people playing around with multiple namespaces and other cool features.

My point is this-- I can't see how a WikiPortal would work. The syntax for a WikiName is only the tip of the iceberg. The WikiPortal would need to understand the WikiName syntax for each system that provided it RecentChanges.

The WikiConsortium defines a standard API. The WikiClone authors will work to it in order to get visibility for their portals. The trouble with running a WikiClone in general is that the moment you link to WikiWiki, most of the content ends up going onto WikiWiki. If WikiWiki replaces the RecentChanges page with a link to the WikiPortal, the WikiNature should do the work. --PM

Further, what the RecentChanges means may have context only to the particular Wiki. For example, on this Wiki, DealingWithCumbersomeEnvironments means one thing, but on a Wiki that was set up for handicapped accessibility issues might have a completely different meaning. How would the end user of a WikiPortal know from just the name? -- JohnPassaniti

Just as DavidMcNicol has done it on MultiWiki - we use the format Wikisite.WikiName. I imagine MultiWiki(s) would want to be able to have Wikisite.Wikinamespace.WikiName. Hmm. The dots look kind of slender. I wonder whether Wikisite::Wikinamespace::WikiName mightn't work better? I also wonder whether making Wikinamespace itself a WikiName in the portal might not be a neat way to obtain Categories ... --PeterMerel


[Perhaps all the naming discussion should be moved to something like InterWikiLink? or WikiPortalName?. There is already some discussion in InterWiki and InterWikiNameScheme, but the old InterWiki idea was a much bigger vision of content sharing (rather than just link sharing).]

A single . seems too little, while the :: names trigger bad C++ flashbacks... Personally, I like the scheme that the ZwikiWeb has implemented already. Inter-wiki links are created like:

WikiWikiWeb:InterWiki

...with some configuration file or Wiki page which maps WikiWikiWeb to http://c2.com/cgi/wiki? The part after the : is appended to the partial URL yeilding http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?InterWiki

The InterWiki link before the : is the site name, and the rest of the text (up to the next whitespace) is the name of the item on the remote wiki. This scheme allows other wikis to experiment with various structures while still allowing outside links. See http://209.67.167.82/zwiki/UseModWiki and http://209.67.167.82/zwiki/InterWiki for samples and explanations. (ZwikiWeb also takes the radical step of making the sitename/InterWiki link be controlled by an ordinary wiki page. This may go too far for some people.)--CliffordAdams

UseModWiki 0.5 now implements this InterWiki format.


Does anyone think a standard WikiInterchangeFormat would facilitate this effort? --TimVoght

Sounds good. Let's add it to the WikiPortalStories and see where it ends up.


Perhaps we need a central MyWiki site which is told about all of the other wikis on the web. In spider-mode, it would gather recent changes using a WikiInterchangeFormat (transferring metadata, rather than content). Users would register interest in categories on MyWiki, and get web pages / email digests with links to the relevant pages and wiki sites.

The metadata would specify things like title, author, keywords and category. It would be up to the individual wiki sites to provide some or all of this information for each of its pages.

Alternatively, individual wikis could be taught to post changes to a central site using a standard recent changes format, which might include category/author information as well as time and date.

-- DavidMcNicol


How is this thing coming along anyway? Has it moved off Wiki? -- SunirShah

It's still forming itself, as far as I know. I had a very pleasant chat with Ward, promised to get right back to him, and was immediately swept off my feet preparing the continuation of a non-wiki-related patent that issues early next week. But of course wiki is Ward's baby, and many many things may have been going on while I dilly-dallied. WatchTheSkies. --PM

Auxiliary question: I was itching to see a kind of XP process online so I could see a working example. The best learning technique I have is subjecting my hapless organization to yet another experiment. LearnByExperimenting?/LearnByIntrospection? is slower than LearnByExample?. Is this online XP project still going on :), or has this all moved offline :(? net.projects are so hard... don't I know. -- ss (who maybe hopes he can get a good learning job at OTI/Ottawa this summer. But they were just bought by Rational... ugh.)


Might it make sense to go non-wiki for handling RecentChanges? There's a big parallel between the idea of tracking changes on multiple wikis and all the activity behind "channels" and "weblogs". RSS[1] is the XML language being used by MyNetscape? and UserLand for defining channels. Might this not make sense? --BillSeitz
It does make sense! If every wiki would generate a RecentChanges-RSS, you could simply use a news aggregator to display all of them together! --RalfMueller
How about XML-RPC or SOAP or WDDV, combined with a Wiki interoperability protocol, and propagate the RecentChanges pages around automagically? Or would that be reinventing UseNet? Oh, see InterWiki and WikiPortal. --SteveWainstead
How about using WebDav ? I am also very curious about the relationship between WebDav and Wiki, would WebDav obviate the need for Wiki ? --ChanningWalton

WebDav might replace Wiki if it was implemented (at least more commonly than HTTP PUT). The WebDav specification looks like an interesting attempt at the RightThing.--CliffordAdams
Wiki portals seem to be oriented toward some desired future with many active wiki sites. (As of December 1999, there are about 5 public wikis with at least 5 updates/day.) Most active wikis (all but this wiki?) are tightly focused on a narrow topic range. How would a portal benefit those sites?

A simple WorseIsBetter portal could be written in a couple hundred lines of Perl (mostly processing of different RC formats). I've started writing my own tiny RC-portal--it just concatenates the RecentChanges pages after correcting the URLs.

It might be useful to create a an ordinary wiki page for "interesting topics on other wikis". I'm not convinced a public portal is worthwhile for the few hundred people (mostly lurkers) who make up the wiki community. Then again, I wasn't very impressed when Yahoo was just a public bookmark list...--CliffordAdams

I confess I was thinking BuildItAndTheyWillCome?. I don't think wiki will scale well without a WikiPortal ... whether it scales well with one would be something in the nature of an experiment. Is your RC-portal online some place Clifford? --PM

I've given up on the tiny portal idea--I don't think it is worth the effort to parse the RC formats. The proto-portal I built was less than 20 lines of Perl (it worked with 4 sites). I'd rather not experiment with the wiki sites without clear approval from the site owners. I don't believe that the current generation of wiki servers will scale well.

People who are interested in large-scale portal or InterWiki ideas may wish to look at the InterWiki topic on MuWebWeb ( http://www.dunstable.com/scripts/MuWebWeb?InterWiki ). (One may also want to consider that these ideas have been discussed for years without results.)--CliffordAdams
There should be a WikiName for the experience of trying to start a wiki page, finding that one already exists with that name, then discovering that it has a very different intent than what you had in mind. See PersonalWikiPortal. -- BillBarnett

Hello, can anyone email me details of how to make my website at http://www.haveabucket.com into a Wiki site? Thanks.

That type of question belongs on RunningYourOwnWikiFaq (if not already answered there).


If all Wikis output legal XHTML, and maybe threw in a handful of semantic tags, the pages would work both in the browser and be machine readable. That way, copying pages between Wikis would be simple. No extra APIs would have to be developed, no markup issues beyond an xml namespace for Wiki, and so on. -- SteveWainstead
I am looking for information on Wiki Portal and its capabilities. AS

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