Fun with TikiWiki

Martin has been setting up TikiWiki CMS/Groupware for a client

I just spent about four days setting up TikiWiki CMS/Groupware for a client. It has been interesting, to say the least.

This came about when I proposed creating a wiki of tutorial material for the client (a software publisher) for an upcoming product, rather than write a tutorial book about the product and have it be in print just in time for the next version to come out. The rest of the idea is that we'll take snapshots of all or part of the wiki at appropriate times and turn them into quick-print books and/or CDs, to pay for the development.

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O'Reilly and Addison-Wesley have been publishing a number of books that started as wikis, so there's precedent for something like this. For that matter, Randall Munroe is (gasp!) turning xkcd into a book. After I proposed writing my material in wiki format, the idea grew, and now we're also putting the actual product documentation on the wiki. There are about 8,000 existing pages of documentation in HTML format, and there will probably be hundreds new pages for the latest documentation updates, in addition to the tutorials I'll write. I'm planning to import all of the existing material into the wiki database so that it can be indexed for full-text search.

I did a search for wiki software and decided that MediaWiki, the software used for Wikipedia, would serve our purposes. The only deficiencies I could see in MediaWiki for our purposes are that it lacks Access Control Lists and content staging, but I thought we could manage without those given the strong API support.

My client said to go ahead, and when the LAMP account was set up, the ISP mentioned it had two wiki options on its Fantastico installation menu: PhpWiki and TikiWiki CMS/Groupware. I made the assumption that the ISP would support software on its menu better than software that I installed myself, so I looked into both of these and discovered that TikiWiki appeared to be even better suited to the application than MediaWiki.

The initial installation was very smooth. However, as I turned features on and tried them out, I kept running into permission errors. I'd report them to the ISP, and it would track down the Apache mod-security rule that was causing the problem and white-list it. As of right now, there are five disabled mod-security rules, two over the ISP's previous record.

I have been all over the sprawling administration menus in TikiWiki, trying to understand the multiple ways it has of organizing pages. It's a challenge, especially since not all the features in TikiWiki 2.2 behave quite they way they are supposed to work. For example, I set up some categories and gave them permissions exactly as documented, but couldn't make any page with a category set visible to anonymous or registered users unless I explicitly set page permissions to override the category permissions. For now, I'm avoiding categories and using freetags and structures instead.

TikiWiki 3.0 is currently in beta and due to be released in May. Perhaps it's time now to look into a version upgrade.

Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out the best way to import the existing HTML documentation. I'm doing a few manual experiments, but I won't want to import 8,000 pages by hand. Fairly soon, I expect to go looking for an import script for loading TikiWiki pages from HTML files or to start writing one myself.