- And after years I'm still hand-porting everything. As of 2019-09-28 I have over 2,000 pages to go.
2011 or earlier - Compiled Website
- I experimented with making my own system.
- Though I experimented with other wiki engines I never ported content into them.
- See /tag/wiki-software
2005-08-21 - MediaWiki
- I switched back to it for a long time.
- Wiki engine 2, redux
- late-2004 - Instiki
- Wiki engine 2
- Wiki engine 1
Then I began to write my own texts.
Before the internet was so pervasive, I used collections of textfiles. When I learned about HTML I was not impressed.
At one point I developed my own website by hand, and was frustrated at how difficult it was to keep a properly maintained site. All I wanted was to have a website be a synchronized copy of a directory on my hard drive. (I would later find the tools to do just that, but they wouldn't be good enough.)
Out on the internet, I saw all kinds of bulletin boards and forums, newsgroup and Email solutions.. I hated all of it and thought they were stupid ways to communicate and store information. I wrote lots and lots of notes describing better ways to do things, and eventually I found a better way.
When I first bumped into the wiki concept, probably something like UseMod, it was a very young technology. The wikis which I found were spectacular failures, and I cannot stress this enough.. failures, complete and thorough.. but the underlying technology had real hope.
I ignored wiki technology for a while, and looked at several content management packages. Back then, blogging was young and a lot of technology was coming to light because of the rising popularity in the web-diary concept. I still find it amusing at how common blogs are, at how wasted the effort is and still how common their reading is. Yes, blogs are a waste of effort. Blog items are categorize-able, but not not re-editable into true resources. Oh but they are simple, and now the barrier that diaries are for little girls is one which we have run right past.
Wiki engine 1 ∞
At one point I bumped into the wiki again, and it had barely matured. I happened upon one guy, and I don't remember how, who was keen on developing his own engine, a modification of one fairly popular one. I came on board with the idea that perhaps I could steer him towards the functionality which I was dreaming of.
I contributed a lot to his wiki. I mean a whole lot. I refactored the entire place. I literally edited every single last page to pull it together into a structure. Yes, I could structure a flat wiki; I don't even think that's hard. As I worked, I had idea after idea after idea, and I learned to write it all down, with the hopes that development of this new improved system would be all the better by it.
A long while later there was still no progress in this project. Having contributed a significant amount of notes, I was quite dismayed. I took my notes and went elsewhere, looking for a content management system which may yet fulfill my needs.
(As it would turn out, the author of this engine was privately interested in switching to MediaWiki. If he told me that then I would have switched to MediaWiki straight away and my life would have been significantly different.)
Wiki engine 2 ∞
I don't even remember how I found the next one, but I remember having a great many fond memories of its lead developer who helped me install this unusual system. I was impressed because of the scope of the ideas he had for it. It was based on a then-alpha language, PHP5, and so literally it was as "bleeding-edge" as any project I had known.
After much effort, I ended up using it for my own self. It spurred even more of a kind of personal productivity I had previously applied to the other community wiki. I was creating a hundred pages a week. In nearly five months I had two thousand pages. My wiki became my "spare brain", remembering and organizing all the ideas I had locked away in my head for so many years.
I was finally able to privately host notes dating back from before I had a color monitor, and write articles which had remained unrealized for even longer.
This engine satisfied me in a way that no other system could. It had real spirit. Unfortunately its development grew stagnant. I grew frustrated at this.. for the same reasons as I was frustrated at my taking the time with my first endeavors with the public wiki. I began seeking out other solutions, but nothing had quite what I needed. I was intimidated at the prospect of switching systems.
Finally, I learned that my installation had slowly been eating away at its database. Some articles were rolling back to earlier revisions somehow.. all silently. I thought I was going mad until I learned that the other users had similar issues. I was truly horrified. Imagine all that unique work subject to random destruction. I am quite thankful for my backups, but it's still a lot of work to recover random information when it was written down for the express permission to forget it.
Apparently it wasn't bad enough to make me switch to another system. Something made me cling to it. I was so totally involved with using its functionality in my everyday life that the very prospect of switching to something else was unthinkable. It's best and worst qualities had me trapped. It was a fantastic tool, but its use was proprietary.
PHP5 finally frustrated its developer to the point of exhaustion; his spirit was failing. That's when it hit me: That engine had no future, and it was all happening again.
late-2004 - Instiki ∞
I started searching the world again, empowered by my understanding of the tools I've been using regularly for some time now. I had a base of understanding of what I needed and wanted.
In late-2004 went with Instiki, because I wanted to learn to program in Ruby and so I thought perhaps I could also become a developer. However, my creativity was badly maimed by the beta-ness of the project as well as its own "rollback" data loss issue. These were issues so horrific that the project should have been halted. Sure, the developer had things to do, but in my mind there was no excuse. I had flashbacks. I was frustrated enough to delete my entire installation which unfortunately included some of my original work. In one article I wrote a simple resolution to the "slashdot effect". Sigh.
At that, I went with MediaWiki and began the process of porting and converting pages by hand. Of course, I would learn of all sorts of limitations with this system, but I came to find many features which I really loved. MediaWiki is good, but not great.
Working with MediaWiki revived a lot of my spirit, but I was horrified at hand-porting my content hosted and its markup language from wiki engine 2 to MediaWiki.
Wiki engine 2, redux ∞
This wiki engine's author ended up delivering it up for the public, hoping to find new developers. People did step forward; I think it took about a week. They dusted things off and went to work right away. More surprisingly, the original author began to contribute again, fixing things and helping out before he stepped away from his baby. At this point I was already using MediaWiki.
And so here I am, working on that wiki engine again. This time, I won't switch back until it understands MediaWiki syntax and can duplicate the functionality I now rely on in MediaWiki. I'll still use it for private documents, but that use is very very limited.
2005-08-21 - Leaving the wiki engine 2 project ∞
Highlited by the utter breakage of the setup, and Apache / .htaccess / mod_rewrite issues, I have to face the fact that I hate doing this sort of stuff. I really hate working on the engine of things like this. It's just no fun.
My installation has fallen by the wayside and I have no feelings either way about it. I haven't for some time. Even before the creator expressed his dissatisfaction with PHP5 I felt this way.
MediaWiki has utterly eclipsed this engine in every way except for:
*bold*.. which I still miss.
So I have left the development team. I'll be working on dismantling the rest of my hobbies shortly.
Guys.. it's been some time since I was first introduced to this engine, and I must say that it as a tool and as a project (and also the author!) have been a significant influence on me.
However, it's time I say goodbye. I think this has been a long time coming.
I was able to struggle through some very serious difficulties engine installation and maintenance issues over the years, and I was rewarded for those struggles. However, I am no longer able to muster the energy to work on my own installation or with the project.
Right now, as an editor I cannot use it to the full extent that I wish. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to use it for organization or notes. There is a lot of potential for the project and I wish it the best.
I'll stay subscribed to various mailing lists, and I'm still available to help out sometimes, but I wanted to be clear that I haven't had it on my mind in some time and I doubt I will in the forseeable future.
When it releases stable versions, I'll check them out.
Aside from random notes on the engine's own wiki, there are still a lot of notes still on the author's personal wiki.. especially some interesting feature requests.
PSS, my passing advice is:
- Publically state philosophies and goals.
- Maintain a simple roadmap for yourselves and the public.
- Rapid releases of even the smallest bugfixes.
Lean on ease of installation/use and in-line documentation.