Monday, December 8, 2008

Getting Started With MediaWiki

Now that you've selected a hosting platform and you've requested installation of MediaWiki, the next step is to begin customizing your wiki and entering content.

Step One: A Plan

We've all heard before how it helps to have a plan.  And despite this, did I have a plan when I first started customizing and adding content to Lowville Long Ago?  No.  Do I have regrets?  Not necessarily.  Is there an upside?  Yes on two fronts: a) I have the freedom of experimenting with different options and b) you get to learn from my mistakes.  Is there a downside? Yes - the process of setting up the wiki probably took 3 or 4 times as long as it should have.

What should be in the plan?  Here's a partial list:

- make a list of all the customizations if possible.  A good way to find out what might work is to seek out wikis that you like and note how they are different than your base installation.  Some customization that I've added to Lowville Long Ago (and that I will discuss in future posts:

- logo
- navigation menu (or sidebar)
- account structure (ability to create accounts and make edits)
- upload file capability
- search and replace text capability
- templates and forms
- semantic capabilities (key knowledge/relationship management functions)

Step Two: Take Time To Learn

A very important part of setting up your wiki is to learn what can and cannot be accomplished.  Also you'll need to learn how to enter certain codes to format text since the MediaWiki platform is not WYSIWYG.  It took me quite a bit of time to remember what [[     ]] does versus [      ].  This is why setting up templates and forms for data entry (to be discussed in a future topic) will be important.

Step Three: Start With Simple Content

I selected simple news articles for my initial content at Lowville Long Ago.  If I had selected items such as advertisements or election summaries, I may very well have been discouraged.  Your plan should include what initial content will be added and strive to keep it simple.  Once you get the hang of the formatting codes, linking and entering data, you can progress to more complex content.

Next: specific customizations for MediaWiki