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Lobbypedia platform in Germany - mission "lobbying criticism"
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Create a wiki – tips for starting your own wiki

Creating your own Wikipedia is not at all difficult. It does not matter if you want it to concentrate on a specific theme, or if you want to create a wiki for your town or company; the basic considerations are very similar at the start. Here are some tips on what to take into account when you create a wiki. As it needs “green fingers” and a suitable environment. Although one only has a limited impact on group processes as an individual fan of wikis, there are a few elementary basic rules which will help.

Wikis need “missions”

Consider in advance what you want to achieve with your wiki. Is there a large enough target audience who are sufficiently interested? This is important, as you will need to find engaged authors who will fill the wiki with content and keep it alive. The “wiki effect” can only occur when the system is integrated into a larger overall context. This means that the wiki needs to help to solve pressing problems in a group or be a medium for constructive processes of change.

Lobbypedia platform in Germany - mission "lobbying criticism"
Lobbypedia platform in Germany – mission “lobbying criticism”

 

Wikis demand a great deal from those involved: They need to formulate their thoughts, independently develop organisational systems, create rules and keep to them. For this reason, wikis are only used when they cover a need and one can detect a practical use for the user. This can be a reduction in the daily routine work, particularly in businesses and other organisations. Alternatively it can be the simplification and acceleration of working procedures. It may also, however, be recognition from your colleagues or the creation of a collaborative working atmosphere. Wikis help, for example, to reduce the volume of circular mails. This leaves more time to concentrate on the more involved questions. The prime example, Wikipedia, owes its success not least to the circumstances surrounding it: Before Wikipedia, search engines did not really give a truly central starting point for internet research.
In public wikis, the relevance is often due to the importance of a theme of a (large) number of interested parties. Thus, for example, the Frankenwiki is a wiki which primarily appeals to residents of the Franconia. If there are enough authors within this group to create good content, then the wiki can aim for a wide impact and, for example, be valuable for tourists.

Do not aim straight away to be Wikipedia

Make realistic estimates of the probable scale of the wiki project. There is a difference if the wiki is a medium for a team or a small group, or whether it is for a larger group with somewhere over about 30 members. For the latter, it is no longer possible for everyone to communicate with everyone else directly. Small groups form, just like in other public spaces – like a Vienna coffee house, where you sit privately but can also be seen. This means, for the wiki, that an individual can no longer take care of the whole project. This also means, however, that for small groups, for example, because of the small number of participants, spelling mistakes may not be corrected and perhaps moderators will be needed.

An empty wiki stays an empty wiki

Even where a system ensures full freedom, a wiki should display a structure in advance for the contents. This can be done by creating templates, for example. You make things much easier for the future wiki authors, if you organise the site roughly in advance. Also, create some example articles. Seeding a wiki means creating a picture of how the texts can be written and setting up an initial organisational structure which can then be developed. Introductory workshops can accelerate the important explanatory processes, at least for a core group in the wiki.
In public wikis, which tend to be set up more anonymously, it is a good idea to provide, for example, introductory videos or webinars (e.g. GoogleHangouts), in order to answer questions and explain procedures.

…keep it simple

This point concerns both instructions on procedures and also the necessity to agree on certain basic rules. This is very sensible.
Too many technical features, regulations and categorisations can choke off the creativity which should unfold in a wiki. Also user friendliness is important here, and simple usability of the wiki software is essential. User friendliness functions are the prerequisite for animating the users, giving them the enthusiasm to write. This involves, amongst other things, a visual editor (WYSIWYG) so that the users can write without using wiki code, NS good search function so that contents can be found again easily.

Wiki engine "BlueSpice" includes an optimized design, search and a visual editor
Wiki engine “BlueSpice” includes an optimized design, search and a visual editor

 

Enable engaging and lively contents

It does not matter if it is a company wiki or a public one, the more the wiki engages the users, the more motivation will be generated. This applies for the design, which should be clear and uncongested and support the usability. However, it also applied to the contents. You need to make sure that pictures can be uploaded and inserted into articles as easily as possible. The wiki should also be able to be readily integrated with online services such as Google Maps, GPSies, (Youtube) videos and audio files.

GPSies
Integrate GPS tracking data into your wiki

Such functions make the contents more useful, particularly for town and region wikis. In general, you can also consider integrating your wiki into Facebook, the blog software WordPress, or many other options.

Let it grow

Trust is important in the “social web”. Nothing will work in a wiki without confidence and trust. If someone wants to keep complete control over the process, they are more likely to suffocate it. The responsibility for the process lies with the participants. Wikis open up a certain level of freedom to organise work processes in a sensible way yourself, away from rigid regulations. If a group process requires a majority of workers because they are to take on the conceptual work, then they will only do this if they have a clear prospect of implementation. And: If they are really involved and have control over the process.
This is similar for public wikis: the committed users sacrifice a large part of their free time. This should be appreciated, among other ways by allowing them to have a say. Other possible ways of showing the value you place on their contributions should be considered, in order to keep the levels of motivation high.

Technology – choosing the right system

Once you are clear about your basic structures, then you should scrutinise your technology. The various wiki systems differ significantly in their capabilities and extendibility. Do you have the right environment, a site host or will you place your wiki in the cloud? Furthermore, features and connections play an important role. The wiki should be pleasant to work with and clearly designed, and users should ideally find their feet in the system by themselves quickly and easily. When you chose your wiki software, take note of whether there is a comprehensive, publicly available help desk. Find out about how suitable it is for your users, but also for your administrators.

Conclusion

It is best to get a group together to think out your objectives and how they are to be realised. Involving more people will give you more points of view and so you will be able to avoid the pitfalls more easily. Look around for wikis which fit your requirements.
We recommend the Wikipedia software “MediaWiki” due to its worldwide acceptance and to it having the largest community of developers. If you want to “spruce up” the system, should certainly take a look at the free wiki “BlueSpice free“.

How to create a wiki easily and cast-effective? Try BlueSpice in the Amazon Cloud (Amazon Web Services), and you can start it up in just a few steps.
When it comes to the conception and introduction of wikis, it is often not as trivial as is might first seem. So talk to experts like us at (Hallo Welt! – Medienwerkstatt GmbH), who have years of experience with wiki projects, for example about our conception workshops and training courses.

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Advent calendar 24: Create a category cloud

24-Advent-Calendar-Category-Cloud

The CategoryTree is a nice feature to list all categories and to give your users an overview of the topics in your wiki.  But if you are using BlueSpice, it also provides a tag cloud for categories, which looks more fancy and can be configured and designed like the minimum font size, the increase factor, background or you can exclude categories from the tag cloud. To include the standard tag cloud in an article, just insert

<tagcloud></tagcloud>

at the position where it should be displayed.

The style definition is placed in the opening tag, e.g. <tagcloud style=”background:black;”> and the definition of the output can be written between the two tags, for example:
<tagcloud>
exclude=products, templates
min_size=55

</tagcloud>

Read about the capabilities how to configure the tag cloud in our helpdesk article.

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Advent calendar 23: Provide a dynamic view of the wiki’s category structure as a category tree

23-Advent-Calendar-Category-Tree

 

In BlueSpice and MediaWiki you can display the category system as a category tree. With the category tree, the user gets an insight into the structure and the yet available categories and articles. To insert a category tree into any wiki page please use the categorytree-tag and one of the existing categories from which the category tree shall start. In this example it is top level

<categorytree>Top_Level</categorytree>

There is also a special page for displaying the category tree – just call up “Special:CategoryTree”.  This page provides a form where you can type in the category you want to be shown. You also have the choice whether all pages of the category, only the category (with subcategories if available) or all pages except the files should be shown.

For more detailed information and attributs for the categorytree-tag please have a look at mediawiki.org.

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Advent calender 22: Upload a new version of a file

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If you click on an image, which is uploaded and linked in your wiki – you will be redirected to the meta page of this file. Here you can discover a lot e.g.

  • size of the image
  • meta information of the image
  • you can see on which pages the image is used
  • and it is also possible to upload a new version of this file

Especially this last point is very important not only for images but also for files. Because if you have a new version of this file, which might be linked or used in several other pages, just click on „upload a new version“. Afterwards upload an „updated“ modification. Now, in every page this file is used, the new version will be shown – you don’t have to edit and update every page.

So you avoid spamming your wiki with too many files that might be named like „photo-account-manager“ „photo-account-manager-new“…. Just replace the original file with this functionality and you have replaced the file. Like you know it from the version history of articles, also the files have their own version history with the time a version has been uploaded and the user who did that. In the same way as you do it for articles, you can also rollback to a former version.

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Advent calendar 21: Mass deletion of articles

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Not only Wiki gardeners of public wikis need to clean-up their content. Also wiki gardeners of company-internal wikis should do a regularly maintenance work. For example when users create a lot of test pages, because they don’t know that there is a sandbox. To delete one page after another is very laborious – therefore you can use the MediaWiki extension „nuke“ (that is also included in all BlueSpice versions) to delete several pages at once. You can also make settings for this extension e.g. limit the deletion for a special namespace, user or articles that include a certain word.

This functionality is provided on the special page “Special:Nuke”.

For more information about this feature visit our helpdesk: https://help.bluespice.com/index.php/Nuke

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Advent calendar 20: Use the ISBN in your articles

20-Advent-Calendar-ISBN

Some companies also use the wiki for the educational training of their employees. In addition to the advices in the article, it is helpful to list further literature there. The ISBN search of the wiki supports the interested user with the functionality to automatically link to the book in a bookstore you choose. You only need to specify the ISBN number (ISBN-10 and ISBN 13) in the list of literature for every book and a click on the number will lead the user to a special page, where he can choose a bookstore, e.g. Amazon or Barnes & Noble. After choosing one, it leads you right to the product in the bookstore where you can order the book.

There is also a special page – “Special:BookSources” – where you can type in an ISBN number, choose the bookstore and get the product page of the book there.  But if you want to insert this functionality somewhere in your article, you only need to mention the ISBN in the correct form there like:

ISBN 3540351507 or ISBN 978-3540351504

You don´t need any special tag or wiki syntax. As simple as it is – it will work!

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Advent calendar 19: Multi-upload for images

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The standard feature for uploading images in the wiki is only for single uploads. But this is very laborious, if you need lots of pictures, which should be available in the wiki.  A small and free program solves this problem and helps for this task with an multiple upload feature – the “Commonist”.
The tool was developed  as an upload client primarily for Wikimedia commons. But you can configure it with the path to your wiki(s). The images will be uploaded in the wiki you defined automatically.

Download the Commonist and read our helpdesk article to find out how to configure and use the upload client.

By the way, you can use Commonist for both – BlueSpice and MediaWiki!

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Advent calendar 18: Statistical information on the wiki

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For BlueSpice administrators, there is a special page that provides several statistics and diagrams. Call up the page “Special:ExtendedStatistics”. Here you can start different statistical queries like number of users, pages, content pages, edits as well as edits per user and search queries.
Once you have choosen a query you will get the possibility to define e.g. the range of date, resolution, namespaces, categories, users and other settings that are related to the query. Click on “Create a diagram” to see a visualization of the statistical information. Afterwards you can export the diagram as a svg or png file.
By the way – in the admin dashboard you will also find some of those statistics.
Furthermore, you can configure the “Extended Statistics” in the admin preferences. Exclude single users from the statistics (e.g WikiSysop) or raise the number of steps.

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Advent calendar 17: Moving the table of contents

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In MediaWiki and BlueSpice the table of contents will be shown at the very beginning of an article, when there are more than three headings. If you want to place it somewhere else, choose a position in the text and insert __TOC__ to display it right there. The same command will also force to display the table of content, even if there are less then four headings in the article. If you use __TOC__ several times in the text, it will ony appear at the first word’s position.
In the other case, if you don´t want a table of contents, meantion __NOTOC__ somewhere in your wiki code and it won´t be displayed, no matter how much headings you used. __TOC__ overrides the __NOTOC__ command, if you are using both in one article.

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Advent calendar 16: Wiki-related information and statistics – the User Dashboard

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BlueSpice provides a user dashboard for every user, which supplies so-called “portlets” with several information and statistics. This portlets can be activated and placed in the dashboard individually. You can choose from 10 different portlets (for some of the  following portlets, further settings can be made) :

  • RSS feed: Import any RSS feed you want e.g. the BlueSpice blog.
  • Calendar: Display a calendar with a marker on the current day.
  • My edits: See a list of pages you recently edited and call up a page by clicking on it.
  • Most edited pages: Have a look at the list of most edited pages, sorted by their edits, to see which pages are regularly updated or which topics activate users to contribute.
  • Most viewed pages: The list of the most viewed pages, sorted by their views, may indicate which topics are very popular for users. Maybe this is a hint which pages are that important that they should be linked in the left navigation.
  • Most active users: Get to know who is very engaged in the wiki by using the list of the most active users, sorted by their edits.
  • Your responsibilities: Get a list of pages you are responsible for to keep an overview of your tasks.
  • Number of users: Statistic of the number of users.
  • Number of edits: Statistic of the number of edits.
  • Number of pages: Statistic of the number of pages.