Wiki Engine Review Notes

Melvin has done some changes today ?

ToDo: This is unfinished and needs to be refactored - there is redundancy within this and with other related pages, like the WikiEngineReviewTemplateAnnotated. I wanted to get this up on a temporary basis and start filling out review sheets.

Separate Review for Each Wiki

Each WikiEngine will be reviewed on a separate page, using the list of attributes on the WikiEngineReviewTemplate as a basis.

I will try to provide an overall evaluation for all wikis on one page. (Some wikis allow tables, but, even so, a table containing information on each wiki would be cumbersome to view (especially with a 640x480 or 800x600 screen).)

Reviews for Old Versions

When a new version of a wiki is released, a new review should be created. This can be started by copying the review for the previous version, changing the WikiName appropriately, and then modifying the review appropriately.

See WikiMoinMoinReview and WikiMoinMoinReviewZeroFive for an example of the approach and naming convention.

The old reviews will be maintained because WikiFarms or specific WikiSites may continue to use older versions of the software.

What Is a Wiki

If you're reading this on a wiki, you already know what a wiki is, but if you need more information, follow one or more of the these links:

Standard Features of a Wiki

There is a core set of features that all wikis have. They will not be mentioned in a review except by exception.

More About Text Formatting Rules

WikiOriginalTextFormattingRules describes the text formatting rules for the original (Ward Cunningham's) WardsWiki. For all other WikiEngines, the review notes whether the WikiEngine will properly display text marked up according to those rules and briefly mentions additions to those rules.

The WikiEngineReviewTextFormattingTest can be cut and pasted (from the editing box) into another wiki and then read. It provides a fairly self-explanatory check on what text formatting rules that wiki follows. (But it is not complete.)

Most wikis have a wiki page titled TextFormattingRules which describes the markup language for that wiki.

Wiki Philosophy, Hazards

A discussion on the essence or philosophy of a Wiki is appropriate. Here are some links to follow for more information.

In my own words:

A wiki is an interactive web publishing tool. Because it is interactive, there are hazards - including that anybody can edit or erase what anyone else has created. The hazards and some considerations are discussed in the next section.

Users of a wiki will recognize the value of the wiki and will not be destructive.

Protection against accidents and immaturity should not be ignored.

(Trust but be prepared!)

'"Hazards - Safeguards'''

Most wikis allow anyone to edit text, and this creates the risk of data loss or destruction.

Some people accept that as part of the WikiNature.

Some wikis provide safeguards to deal with the potential problem, these include:

If a wiki does not automatically save snapshots, the administrator can make periodic snapshots manually. This an unnecessary burden on the administrator.

If possible, the ability to restore an old version of a page should be shared among several, but not all users.

It's arguably non-wiki to keep the full history of a page unless you seriously require document tracking. Using it as a security precaution is pretty weak. Look at for a better system.

Editing Contention

Anyone can edit, at any time. Two or more people could start editing the same page at the same time. Most wikis allow this, and the final result is based on the behavior of the wiki - in some cases the last to save wins, in other cases (WardsWiki) the first to save wins, and anybody else who saves is warned.

UseModWiki has an editing contention resolution mechanism that warns when more than one person is editing the same page.

Embedded HTML can be a Liability

Embedded HTML can contain Java code that could perform unwanted actions (a virus for Wikis). Many wikis don't allow embedded HTML for this reason.

I suspect most wikis don't include raw HTML because it's ugly and pointless and difficult to use in addition to security concerns. See,,

Wiki Content Copyright

Here are some links to pages that discuss copyright.

My understanding is that the contributor maintains the copyright to his contribution. In the case of an anonymous contribution, the anonymous contributor maintains the copyright, but may have difficulty asserting any claim. On this wiki, the copyright disagrees about that assertion about anonymous edits, putting it in a contentious position.

It is probably best to consider any contribution to a Wiki as a contribution to the public domain, open source, or GPL. In other words, you are contributing to the community, and giving up some of your rights. On the other hand, no one else is acquiring the right to claim this work as their own. <This is my "interpretation" today - needs further review.> No, it is not best to do that. See the MeatballWiki copyright discussion, and the current practice of WhyClublet.

Ok, I've looked once, I need to review the material again.

Others can surely discuss this in more detail , but the answer is not relevant to the choice of a wiki.

Citing a Wiki

Here is a link to a page which suggests how to cite a wiki in an article or paper. Since a wiki reference can be a fleeting thing, I'm not sure how professors will view wiki citations.

Wiki Page Size

In my research so far, I did not collect information on wiki page size. Many wiki users feel that if a page exceeds 16,000 characters it is way past time to ReFactor it. (Refactoring is a concept that I learned about while reading about ExtremeProgramming.)

Wikis may allow an almost unlimited page size (or a size limited only by external factors, such as the maximum size of a file). However, the text editing boxes available in many browsers (notably Netscape) can handle only 32,000 characters. This imposes a practical limit on the size of a wiki page. Most wiki enthusiasts consider that a good thing!

Instructions to the Reader

This is a wiki. If you find I've made an error, please correct it. It will be helpful if you can cite a reference - if I was confused others may be confused as well.

See MeatballWiki where this stuff is on-topic.

Author, Maintainer, Contributors


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