Where to, wiki?



I don't remember when wikis became a big thing for me, but for a long while they were a part of my life. At some point I was operating four of them, one running on my own custom engine. That's not even counting TiddlyWiki.

That one's kind of special. The first version of my webcomic list was made with it. But then a certain Firefox extension stopped working, and I lost my ability to update it. I moved its contents to a static web page and never looked back. TiddlyWiki 5, that came out after a while, didn't need any browser extension, but it was noticeably bigger and slower, and I had lost confidence anyway, not to mention how much more aware of accessibility issues I was by then.

Things went downhill from there. My custom engine became too much fuss to keep online, so I took it down. (A descendant still survives, which is damn cool.) Another wiki was overrun with spam, while never attracting contributions, so it was the next to go. And the other two were folded into static websites, though that happened later.

Don't worry, I was never without a wiki. At another time, having to redo a site from scratch on the sly and in a hurry, my chosen solution was OddMuse. What was supposed to be a temporary staging ground remained permanent, as always. It also stayed effectively a single-user setup, because nobody else wanted the editor password. (No way I'm leaving a wiki open this side of 2015.)

Which is pretty much what happened to wikis as communities in recent years. But then, people also keep declaring forums dead, yet here I am moderating one, posting on two others and lurking on yet more. But forums are much more accessible. Can we lure people back to wikis as well, like Alex Schroeder pleaded roughly a year ago?

For now, I haven't even succeeded with myself. An app named Tiddloid Lite was just brought to F-Droid. It rekindled my interest in TiddlyWiki, and how. But after several attempts I'm yet to start a new wiki based on the latter, for several reasons, all hard to articulate.

Wait, I know: it's simply too easy for me to open a text file and add a couple of lines. So easy in fact, I have little reason to bother with a wiki. No wonder many developers use one big Org Mode file for the purpose. As for the less technical of us, they'll want rich text, and I can't even blame them.

But plain text files can't bring together communities. No, not even if you put them up on a software forge. Also, they're kind of banal. That's a good thing usually. Except sometimes you want them cool. And Org Mode is much too linear.

A wiki solves all these problems and more. It would be nice if I could recapture that spirit. Timely, too: over on the Community Wiki, they seem to think the medium is due for a revival, if it hasn't started already.

They may be right, too. I hope so in fact; that would be fun. Feasible, too. As the saying goes, we have the technology.

Question is, do we have the people as well, or is it just us nostalgics, looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses?


Tags: website, philosophy