Category Archives: Wiki

Mediawiki is not for enterprise

UPDATE [Sept ’07]: I am the Infrastructure Architect for a 9000+ organisation and although we’ve toyed with Wikis we haven’t adopted them at all. Many issues around Knowledge Management have hindered adoption. For the last year all my blogging has been internal, but I’ve recently started putting some thoughts back out into the public arena. If your struggle reflects mine you might find my new blog of interest.

Although I have done quite a bit of work with Mediawiki, having had one of our teams utilising it for the best part of 4 months to document their processes, I’ve gone rather cold on the product. Firstly the lack of a GUI editor presents a huge barrier to adoption. I haven’t tried the FCKEditor but it doesn’t thrill me. Secondly the single wiki approach is fine for small organisations, or teams, but something more flexible, probably of the self-serving genre, is required for a large enterprise.

So I’ve been looking around and it seems the two players that get the most press in this space are SocialText and Atlassian’s Confluence. I’ve worked on a SocialText blog before (not version 2) and thought it an appalling wiki. I also am unimpressed with its highly restrictive infrastructure requirements. Confluence, on the other hand, looks fantastic. It strikes me as having everything you could possibly want in a wiki, with the concept of workspaces, security, not to mention the broad range of options available as supporting infrastructure.

There are a couple of other names that drop into the frame. Blogtronix has an interesting blog offering, but the wiki (at least when I saw it about 2 months ago) was appallingly weak, not to mention the fact that it seemed to want be a bit of everything else as well, it’s spreading itself too thinly. Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server, released as part of Office 2007, has some interesting contributions to this space. I’ve only seen demos of their wiki, but heard good things. Again, this product tramples over so many other parts of an enterprise service offering that it’s hard to integrate.

With the momentum fairly well built up behind RSS and blogging (see my many previous posts on the work that I had to do to get these on the agenda), I’m beginning to look more seriously at wikis. I’ll report back whatever findings I think are appropriate to share externally.

More persuasion

I met yesterday with our CIO to talk through social media in general. I had sent her the articles Genie in a Bottle and Where's your wiki? (from the excellent Sviokla's Context blog) and she very diligently read them. She took time to look at the internal blog site and our wiki. In general I was very impressed and pleased with the time she gave before we met to 'check things out'.

We talked a lot about the different social media applications are (i.e. blogs, wikis) but we also discussed the culture of the company and how relevant the challenges talked about in the Genie in a Bottle article are to us. I related some of my experiences and the apparent reticence of people to enter into the conversation. I think she was surprised, but then so have I been. When I began going down this route I didn't have an appreciation for this cultural challenge. I wonder, when we publicise the blog, what percentage will begin to blog and what will continue longer term. I think 10% will be high. Will this be enough to derive value?

The wiki editor was a bit off putting – and I agree. Forcing people to learn a syntax to write into a wiki is not good. This application has to improve if it is to widen its appeal to the average business professional. It needs a WYSIWIG editor, so I wonder if MediaWiki is the right platform.

Right at the end we talked about RSS, which from the beginning is the technology I have seen as most necessary. I am firmly convinced that any IT department should be enabling the desktop with an RSS Feed Reader. This capability to be part of the plumbing. I still have some way to go to win this argument – but this meeting has moved it on a step. My CIO committed herself to read the blog site for the next week. I said, that if she finds herself not going back to it, it is because she doesn't have a feed reader – so we agreed that after a week I'd return to install RSS Bandit (both of us lamented the unprofessional name and logo of the product) and she'd then compare the experience with and without.

Blogging Directive

Well, I met our IT Director this week. Having come away from the Blogs and Socail Media Forum determined to just press ahead myself I got a bit of a "hold it" message from above, so couldn't. Having had a good feeling about the blogs going ahead and seeing Wikis not really going anywhere this meeting kind of shifted everything around. We didn't even get time to talk about RSS!

There was a great deal of concern over what people would blog about – and who would read it, and a great deal of interest in using Wikis to brainstorm ideas, or similar activities, that currently see a vast amount of emails flying back and forth.

So the state of play is that we'll lock down access to the blog platform to just one part of the UK organisation. For me, this is a shame, because I know of a few people globally who have been reading my blog and it has begun to provoke a dialog. As a little test of my popularity (I hope my self esteem is up to it) I challenged any readers who would be cut out to reply to my blog, and if I got enough I might set up a separate blog and cross post relevant articles to the open blog.

On the positive side, and despite this not having been advertised yet, two new bloggers have started posting this week.

Another positive, is that the interest in Wikis gives me more reason to work on the SSO for MediaWiki. I posted recently that I would hopefully get some time. I did, I got the Auth_remoteuser.php script and read it through. I did a search replace to support AUTH_USER instead of REMOTE_USER, and that was as much time as I had.

Marching on

It's the fifth of April already, time to review what I accomplished in March as far as introducing RSS and blogging into my organisation.

I have become increasingly sceptical about the benefits of blogging externally for an organisation like mine, where reputation is so utterly critical. Anything that puts that at risk will have no traction whatsoever. I was interested to see the debate following on from Scoble's trip to Amazon (I blogged about it here). One subject that did get my attention was the recruitment angle to blogging.

We get a lot of university graduates into the firm at the end of the (Northern Hemisphere) summer. I wonder if it would be possible to get them blogging. They'll be young and enthusiastic and some of them may have blogs already. Now the real question will be, internal only, or external blogs. I will try to spark this debate in my organisation and see where it leads.

Wiki's, too, have taken a bit of a back seat. We have a wiki that we are for a new team advising on technology. We are trying to pull information from all sorts of people across IT and the wiki is ideal for that. The group is not yet officially launched, so we've been keeping it low key. That will change next month as the remit for the groups work has now been agreed.

So my main attention has been on RSS and evangelising its use. I did my presentation to a group from marketing today and it went very well. However, the way things work in our organisation means that I (being from IT) was telling them about something I thought they should be asking IT to enable them to use – kind of recurses in on itself and is a lot frustrating. Still, there is no doubt that RSS should be used. I had a similar reception to RSS from internal communications.

I've been blogging daily to my internal blogs, expressing my opinion on matters IT. However, most of the others who have blogged have given up. On the other hand our feed reader has been tested and passed by our QA lab. I demonstrated our community server site to the IT Director who was very pleased and I'm to push its use out wider within the IT department. However, I want to write a quick reference guide for RSS Bandit and other commitments have gotten in the way.

So in short, things are ready to launch on the blog front; and I am just holding it up. Everyone is persuaded by the potential of RSS, but no one seems willing to make it happen.

Recent Changes RSS feed not working

I tried to subscribe to the RSS and ATOM feeds on the Recent Changes page in my (MediaWiki) wiki. Bandit gave the following error:

Refresh feed ‘Wikis\mydomain.net‘ failed with error: The XML declaration is unexpected. Line 2, position 3.

It turns out that there was a blank line at the bottom of my LDAPAuthentication.php script, which was added to the beginning of the feed. This meant that the >?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?> appeared on line 2, but it must be on line 1 or the XML is invalid. Apparently, blank spaces in LocalSettings.php can have the same effect.

Having fixed it, I now can’t recreate the error. I’m assuming this is because of caching, or because I haven’t changed anything in the wiki since fixing it.

Technocrati tags: Mediawiki, RSS

Mediawiki and ImageMagick

Yeeouch, tried to install ImageMagick on one of the Mediawiki wikis this afternoon and it didn't want to play. There are several attempts at instructions from different people, each with some slight variation and none worked for us. If I, or one of my colleagues, gets it working I'll post here how we did it. If someone is reading this and has done it please let me know how.

My environment is IIS 6, MediaWiki 5.6, PHP5, MySQL 5, ImageMagick 6.2.6.3.

Update: You don't need ImageMagick, just enable GD – see comments below.

Technocrati tags: Mediawiki, ImageMagick

Migrating to server

The past few days I’ve been setting everything up on a server as I begin the process of moving the use of blogs more into mainstream – well, ok, only a little bit more – use within my organisation.

I made a couple of changes that are worth noting from what I did on my XP desktop. The server is 2003, so it’s IIS 6. I wasn’t sure if that was going to make much of a difference. I installed MSDE and the Web Data Administrator, and the WDA failed to connect. After much fiddling I figured it was probably IIS 6, so I removed it and MSDE and went for SQL Server 2005 Express plus the SQL Server Management Studio.

I was worried that Community Server wouldn’t like SQL Server 2005, but it didn’t seem to mind. Installation of Community Server was a snap. The only thing that tripped me up was giving the NETWORK SERVICE user access to the data. To do this, use the Management Studio and go to \Security\Users in the left pane, create a user called NETWORK SERVICE with the login name of NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE.

Another change I made here is putting the community server at the root of the web, rather than a cs sub-web. This enables me to use the front page of the community server as a sort of portal onto the blogosphere and wikis.

PHP was a bit of a bother, mostly because I’d forgotten several of the more fiddly things. Also IIS 6 setup differs a bit. I found an excellent resource here and following these instructions got PHP working a treat. I hadn’t realised before, that the extention required for MySQL 5 (php_mysqli.dll) is not added instead of, but in addition to, the php_mysql.dll extention – so you need both lines in the php.ini file.

MediaWiki setup was painless. I had changed the default port for MySQL so in the setup for MediaWiki add the port to the server name – i.e. localhost:1025, or whatever port you use.

So that makes a server, with PHP5, MediaWiki, CommunityServer, IIS6, MySQL5, and SQL Server 2005 and all working nicely.

Next challenge – get people to use it.