December 16th, 2008
I used to run a website for traveling by rail in the United States. I let it falter, and eventually took it down. But I still have the domain, and am working to bring it back as a wiki.
The first step in that process was selecting which wiki software to use. I have a few requirements for the site:
- Availability of both WYSIWYG (friendly for beginners) and non-WYSIWYG editors
- A number of nice-looking themes to choose from
- Nice to have: a hierarchy or category system
- The ability to search within only a particular section or category in the hierarchy
- Easy to maintain software; not having tons of plugins to keep up-to-date for security
- Stellar spam prevention
- Nice to have: ability to redirect people to the new page after a rename
I’m frustrated that there is no wiki out there that does all of these. There are quite a few that do all but one, but which one they omit varies.
My two finalists were MoinMoin and MediaWiki.
MoinMoin will let you easily define arbitrary categories (by creating a wiki page following a certain name). The search screen automatically presents checkboxes for restricting searches to a particular category. Some reviews have complained about its anti-spam features, but they are all talking about older versions and they seem to have done some work on this lately.
MoinMoin has tons of features and is easy to set up and maintain. But here’s where it falls down: themes.
Over at moinmo.in, there is a “theme market” for themes. Only most of the themes there haven’t been compatible with the current MoinMoin release since about 2005. Most of the rest have one download, then a long discussion page full of mixed bug reports, diffs, and non-diff “edit this to make it work” comments. Most of these don’t state what version of the theme they apply to. Most themes won’t work with current browsers and Moin releases without them. UGH. After discussing on #moin, I’ll probably go in there and at least organize the ThemeMarket page by release.
Then there’s MediaWiki. It’s got a lot of features, and a lot of complexity. It has no current WYSIWYG feature, though apparently there is work on one.
MediaWiki has an amazing category system. It can generate sorted lists of pages in a category, supports subcategories, etc. Surprisingly, though, you can’t search in just one category. (Though it might be possible indirectly via some syntax; not sure.)
Searching in MediaWiki overall is less capable that in MoinMoin.
MediaWiki does offer namespaces, and namespaces are the sole way of searching just one part of a site. They’re used well over at, say, uesp.net. But namespaces are heavy-handed. You have to edit config files to define them, and they bring with them other associated namespaces for discussion and whatnot. It’s not as easy as creating a category in MoinMoin, and might not scale well to lots of future categories.
MediaWiki does appear to have good spam prevention, and support recaptcha.
I eventually selected MoinMoin and have set up most of my content in it. But now that I am to the point of selecting themes, I’m having some second thoughts.
I also looked at DokuWiki. Its design makes me nervous. The user list is stored in a single file. You can’t search by category. You can search by namespace, but there aren’t checkboxes for it in the search screen; you have to know the syntax. WYSIWYG is a plugin. Categories are a plugin. So — too many plugins to maintain, and no real features above MoinMoin.