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This week (#1): why a wiki? why MediaWiki?

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Let's start with our first activity: imagine that once we have finished the course (and we have our great wiki up and running!) someone in our organization or a potential contributor comes to us and asks "why not a blog?, or a Facebook group page?, or another free hosted wiki?". Another usual question is "mmmm, so do you want to create a Wikipedia of [put any field name here]" :)
There is a good bunch of answers to those questions we should consider, and now's the moment. So let's identify during the following 6 days the core points and reasons why wikis matter, also what's out there apart from Wikipedia and (more specifically) why MediaWiki is a nice option among other good wiki softwares.
:: Questions:
Choose the ones you want to go for, but consider first what others have said in the forum in order not to repeat answers...
1) What do you think makes a wiki special, compared to other CMS or collaboration tools?
2) Where can we find cool wiki sites on the Web using MediaWiki (apart from Wikipedia)?
3) Which are interesting features of MediaWiki, compared to other wiki softwares?
:: Resources:
Good point of start in order to get more info for the questions...
- For those of you completely new to wikis (you can get the basics here, very visual):
- MediaWiki entry in Wikipedia (sooo long, we just need sections 1 to 5 for this exercise):
- Wikimatrix (a comparison tool for wikis, great "Choose" or "Wiki Choice Wizard" sections):
We will use the forum again for answering this topic, ok? Who wants to break the ice?
David Palomar's picture
David Palomar
Fri, 2011-01-28 13:56

Hello again.

I think that a wiki is special from the point of view of sharing knowledge. It is flexible and collaborative, in opposite of blog that is sequencial and time structured.
some Wiki sites that I know are: Eclipsepedia,
I know more wikis online (in spanish language), but now I can't remember.

The principal features compared to others are that is opensource (GPL license), it is oriented to education, run with php systems, and it is available in a lot of languages.

Enric Senabre Hidalgo's picture
Enric Senabre Hid...
Sat, 2011-01-29 19:37

Hi David,

Thanks for you answer! When you mention flexibility and collaboration in wikis (in comparison to sequentiality and time structure in blogs), I thing we should consider two important features of wikis in general:

1- Flexibility: its contents and appearance can be changed in a very dynamic way (creating new pages or categories easily, on one hand, and adding extensions so it can have extra features, being this last thing characteristic of MediaWiki but not all the wikis).

2- Collaboration: different users can edit a page (although nowadays that can be done also in other softwares, like some of this P2PU pages).

But there are some more things that make wikis special... Any other thoughts there?

Eclipsepedia looks like a very active MediaWiki! In relation to MediaWiki examples, I would like you to consider the look and feel of popular sites like for example (with design and info architecture like Wikipedia) compared to other sites that use the same tool but look radically different: or It's MediaWiki but they don't look like that at all :)

More examples out there?

Jared Brandt's picture
Jared Brandt
Sat, 2011-01-29 19:53

Hello all! :)

I think wikis are obviously special in the web application market not only because they can be edited by anyone but also because the edits are logged and contributions are monitored and listed, so everyone gets credit!

The only wikis I am familiar with at the moment are Wikipedia, the obvious one, and I have built and/or collaborated on a few wikis at We can find some sites using MediaWiki by heading over to

According to WikiMatrix, when I compared the top 25 wikis, I learned that MediaWiki is compatible with many of the modern database options, unlike an extremely large percentage of their competition. Also, MediaWiki is available in 140 languages! Unrivaled by any other option (except for TracWiki, sadly).

Enric Senabre Hidalgo's picture
Enric Senabre Hid...
Mon, 2011-01-31 12:59

Hi Jared,

You're pointing to another very important feature of wikis: contributions are monitored and listed.

We'll see it more deeply in week #2 in relation to MediaWiki but the possibility of "watching" pages mkes it a great feature of many wikis. We will also see that the need of being logged in is optional (Wikipedia for example has it open, anonymous users can edit, then the IP address works as username).

When you mention MediaWiki in so many languages, that's connected to it's Open Source nature: many volunteers in a big community ensure a great update and localization of its content...

nada A.S's picture
nada A.S
Sun, 2011-01-30 22:15

Wiki is a collaboration software ,it has been designed to encourage people to share information through the web easily and openly .Bellow are some characteristics of Wiki:

- is open for any one to edit
- It doesn’t require a technological knowledge to work with it.
- Wiki is usable and fast loading .
- Capable to be enhanced and integrated .
- Many wikis are modular, providing APIs which allow programmers to develop new features without requiring them to be familiar with the codebase.

MediaWiki is a free Wiki software package licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It is used to run Wikipedia and other projects of the non-profit WikiMedia Foundation, as well as many other wikis.

There are many features in Media wiki make it a good competitive to other CMS. For instance you can customize layout ,user style ,and other abilities to organize articles . Bellow there are two sites use Media wiki:

Enric Senabre Hidalgo's picture
Enric Senabre Hid...
Mon, 2011-01-31 13:05

Hi Nada!

I agree also another important features for many wikis is that they're easy to use. However, related to softwares like MediaWiki, which don't have by default detailed WYSIWYG editors, it has been a long discussion if they require higher levels of ICT literacy in order to be familiar and able to work with them.

As we would see, MediaWiki requires sometimes some knowledge of wiki markup:

The customizing feature as we would see is very important also, and it has to do with extensions very much...

Jim Roma's picture
Jim Roma
Mon, 2011-01-31 05:37

The best reason for using a wiki is it's collaborative nature. Media Wiki is a great free solution for putting together an Information Technology knowledge base where several people will be contributing.(which is the reason I'm taking this course) It's nice that I can track changes and view a documents history in a low cost/maintenance solution.

Enric Senabre Hidalgo's picture
Enric Senabre Hid...
Mon, 2011-01-31 22:09

Hi Jim!

You're pointing to two basic features connected to what Jared said about controlling contributions: a wiki allows us to easily track (identify, compare, detail) all type of changes, related to pages or users. To know its history and even reverting it to previous versions if needed. That's one of the features which MediaWiki is very good at.

Enric Senabre Hidalgo's picture
Enric Senabre Hid...
Tue, 2011-02-01 17:47

Well, last change for finding here good reasons for wikis (and MediaWiki specially) compared to other online tools. Tomorrow we change the subject! Until the moment we have...

:: Why wikis: because of collaboration (multiple users can edit), flexibility (content grows organically), monitoring (you can track who did what, where and when)...

:: Why MediaWiki: because it's open source (with a healthy community behind growing and fixing things), compatibility (with many of the modern database options), customization (we have a beautiful garden of options where to choose from )...

K'mon, more reasons before the course gets more technical?Imagine your boss is asking this at you with a funny face! :p

RJ Johnson's picture
RJ Johnson
Tue, 2011-02-01 18:02

To me, wikis created more equally shared ownership than other formats such as blogs because wikis can be set up to be "owned" by almost anyone. Also, you can't edit someone else's blog comment like you can edit someone's wiki contribution.
As others have mentioned, the history feature helps in many ways. One other way it helps is to lower the fear factor behind editing. As long as a user can return to a previous version, they can basically do no harm.
I do hope that we get to work with a WYSIWIG editor and a white board for MediaWiki since I would like to use it with audiences without technical backgrounds.
I chose MW due to its multi-user editing and conflict resolution (using

Toni Hermoso Pulido's picture
Toni Hermoso Pulido
Tue, 2011-02-01 18:12

Related to the thread, this seems an interesting event and resource site where to get some ideas:

Jeff Weber's picture
Jeff Weber
Tue, 2011-02-01 18:15

Hi everyone-
I hadn't had a chance to address this week's questions, so I'll do so here.

My objective with wikis is to use as a personal productivity tool. Like most of you, I have several areas of interest, I'm teaching myself three different programming languages, I have a few P2PU courses going, and I have a large project I'm working on for income purposes. Keeping it all organized is a challenge.

Some full-blown task management programs (some open source, like Tracks,, require huge amounts of time/effort to maintain, and the objective shifts from productivity to maintenance of your productivity tools. Other 'systems', like bookmarking, Google Docs, various note taking packages, email organizers, and the like, offer tasking via one tool - there is no cohesiveness.

So, I'm thinking that a personal wiki may provide the following benefits:
1) Cohesive locationing of ALL necessary bits of information
2) Readily editable, updatable
3) Internal hypertext linking for referencing, hypertext links for external info
4) Random input format, no need to 'fit' information into predefined forms, and no restrictions on the type of data input and stored
5) Internal text searching
6) Extensible

I've found a couple sites which offer wiki for personal use,, and VIa Amazon Web Services, I'll be investigating using a server, in the cloud, dedicated to my personal use, running one of the open source wikis. This starts to highlight a couple more advantages;

7) cloud accessibility, i.e., anytime, anywhere
8) data security/backup - let someone else worry about these problems

I look forward to learning with you all,
Jeff Weber

nada A.S's picture
nada A.S
Tue, 2011-02-01 18:27

Hi Jeff.It has been great to read your post .And interesting to know that you are conducting projects online!

Though i think that wiki wont work for personal purpose,lets hope you will find it useful .


Jeff Weber's picture
Jeff Weber
Tue, 2011-02-01 19:03

Just a brief update on some of the software I've used and considered in my quest for a good productivity tool.

I've also tried OneNote, EverNote and Zotero. Of those, Evernote comes the closest to a cloud based productivity tool, but still lacks a few areas (such as scope, length of stored info, cross referencing, etc.) For a long time, OneNote was my choice, but its platform specific and until recently, computer-based (i.e., it couldn't be accessed any way other than via the computer it was installed on). Microsoft has moved OneNote to a cloud capable application, but it compares weakly against Evernote.

There are two other wiki resources I know of which fit the 'Getting Things Done', or productivity model. I've not had chance to play with these however.
2) (whew, this thing looks way overkill)


Toni Sant's picture
Toni Sant
Tue, 2011-02-01 19:26

I'm still trying to get into the groove for this couse, but at least I managed to make it in time before we move on. :-)


1) What do you think makes a wiki special, compared to other CMS or collaboration tools?

It's simply the level of openness and relative ease for creating hyperlinked pages and resources. You can easily collaborate on a CMS but the level of opennes is rarely paralleled with that of a wiki.

2) Where can we find cool wiki sites on the Web using MediaWiki (apart from Wikipedia)?

There are all the other Wikimedia Foundation sites, of course. See

But I also like the following MediaWiki sites that are not from the Wikimedia Foundation:

- International Music Score Library Project
- Tous aux Balkans
- Wiki Music Guide

3) Which are interesting features of MediaWiki, compared to other wiki softwares?

Not sure how to answer this one because I have only tried PBwiki briefly. What I'd say is that MediaWiki has a substantial developer community behind it and it's the engine that enables all the Wikimedia Foundation projects, which include the world's most popular wiki. For me, these elements in themselves make it attractive aside from (or as much as) any other feature.

Perhaps if I knew about the Wikimatrix before I would have considered another wiki instead of MediaWiki. Looking at Wikimatrix I see that MediaWiki is the only software also available in Maltese, which is where the community I'm currently working with is based from a language perspective, other than English.

Anyway, this is a good way to start getting in the right frame of mind for what's about to follow in this course.

Thank you.

Toni Hermoso Pulido's picture
Toni Hermoso Pulido
Thu, 2011-02-03 12:38

For your information, MediaWiki is translated collaboratively in website. I guess many languages still need a lot of help.
For Maltese, this can be interest for you:

ozzie sutcliffe's picture
ozzie sutcliffe
Tue, 2011-02-01 20:56

Why :
It works,its scalable,limited training, proof of concept , bake off etc all has been done by Wikipedia for me.
All has been said already.
Wiki's don't matter, the content matters.


Brenno Costa's picture
Brenno Costa
Tue, 2011-02-01 21:54

Here is! Simple and Direct.


Wiki is the best in create and edit content in colaboration, others CMS's and other solutions may do specific things and quite well. But only the Wiki is robust enough to do that in the most wide way.

(Word of How to)
(Very cool, best pratices on the Wiki)


- Space to discussion for each topic
- Useful Plugins
- MySQL Support
- Free and Open Source
- 140 Languages

Jason Nyquist's picture
Jason Nyquist
Wed, 2011-02-02 03:51

Sorry, I got sick over the weekend. m(_ _)m and it’s already Wednesday here…

I don’t know a lot about wikis in general or MediaWiki in particular and almost nothing about individual wikis other than Wikipedia and Wikispaces, where I have my own robust garden of thought. I happened upon MediaWiki when searching for a collaborative tool with scope and high levels of customizability.


  • It is easy to install!
  • I want to create an environment that allows for multiple pages on the topic from different perspectives, like blekko’s slashtag search. What I found and hopefully can manipulate to my purposes are MediaWiki’s categories (I have yet to see this done well), namespaces, and (blanking on what it’s called) a system for the existence of many pages of the same name in parallel.
  • Next, Wikipedia nor most of the wikis linked to in this forum are pretty. Yet templates do allow for an alteration of the main CSS of a project. Hopefully the possibilities here are vast.
  • Then, most wikis are less than dynamic. But MediaWiki comes packaged together with the latest version of jQuery, so the potential has to be there. There are also some extensions related to AJAX.
  • Wikipedia makes occasional dumps of their full or partial contents, there is a Wikipedia extension (see a Wikipedia page inside your own page), and pages can be followed via RSS. Though they’re still young, extensions make it possible to port Twitter, RSS feeds… right into a page, connecting your wiki to many other external content producers beyond a page’s static footer.
  • The wiki markup language is at entry-level fairly straightforward, but for my purposes it seemed limited. Yet with a little further digging I find that you can write html tags (though not <a>, which most of my CSS attaches to!), add classes and IDs, etc… at a level of customization controllable by an admin.
  • A wiki can be set to be edited by anyone, but a more popular (among readers and editors) page’s permissions can be set to allow only users of a type to make edits.
  • There is a large community of extension developers, editors, and users, and it’s growing.

Beyond what was already mentioned, then, MediaWiki looks like it could become, if it is not already, a very rich development ecosystem.

If anyone knows of any wikis or alternatives to MediaWiki that do what I listed and do it well, I would love to check them out. Thanks!

A L's picture
Wed, 2011-02-02 06:41

1. Wiki seems to have a flexibility where articles can take a life of its own and multiply through its apparent openness to allow others to modify the content and expand further. The rigidity in CMS and other collaboration tools as well as a lack of revision history is one of the many aspects that differentiates from Wikis.

2. If I understand the question correctly, some interesting sites that uses MediaWiki are: and (NSFW site)

3. In my experience, MediaWiki runs incredibly fast compared to Confluence, where Confluence runs on Java, (over)loaded with Ajax functionalities. MediaWiki has a more hierarchical approach to organizing articles. Also, MediaWiki is Open Source where it is advantageous in various aspects including programming, debugging, support and distribution of its code.

Enric Senabre Hidalgo's picture
Enric Senabre Hid...
Thu, 2011-02-03 01:22

Well, this is great! I think we accomplished very well our first mission: finding and explaining the good reasons for choosing wikis, and specially MediaWiki (also with some great examples :)

I invite you to use this thread as a good resource, a fresh bunch of arguments in case you need to explain someone the convenience of MediaWiki (something that may be needed sometimes).

Now let's move to our second activity...