On collaborative simplicity, wiki complexity and the Word2DokuWiki macro

But mostly just about the Word2DokuWiki macro.

Part of the interesting thing about working with a group I’m working with is that many of the users are substantively non-technical. In order to allow people to collaborate together I had installed a wiki and in fact, had chosen the most feature robust one I could think of, MediaWiki< - the same software that runs the mighty, mighty Wikipedia.

Not smart. Basically, even though a wiki is a pretty simple concept the interface and software and extra features were a little too much for the team(s). Concepts like watchlists and a need to have flexible ACL and easily administered security as well as occasionally restructure the wiki made MediaWiki, for all its power, a mistake. So, I looked for the most stripped down, pure wiki I could find and stumbled across Dokuwiki. Less is more. DokuWiki uses simple text files and directory structure and a simple ACL and security structure to provide a robust minimum of wiki features and does it well. It also allows quite easy restructuring of the wiki since you’re not using a database (ie. simple moving of pages between directories). Very, very handy and easy to understand and hack. Quite taken with it actually. Oh yeah, and backups are a simple tar and gzip of the root directory. Put that on a cron job and you’re set. Sweet.

All reviews so far have been much more positive with DokuWiki. I think it’s for much the same reason that Apple products work so well. Figure out what are the most important features for your audience and then implement them well so as to make them as simple and effortless to use for your audience as possible. Avoid the extraneous. Oh, and DokuWiki’s interface is also much less intimidating and easier to figure out.

I also realized this evening that a number of people are only using dial-up and don’t have broadband (shudder) so after seeing a post on an OpenOffice writer DokuWiki macro (dead link) the other day, when I found a Word macro to convert Word docs to MediaWiki format (dead link), it seemed that modifying it to give me a Word to DokuWiki format converter was a no-brainer to help along some of my largely offline and Microsoft cursed group audience. Other than switching the bullet and numbered lists macro around a bit it was quite trivial to make it work.

If you want it, please grab the file here: Word2DokuWiki macro (with instructions)