How to Get in on the Wiki Revolution

How to Get in on the Wiki Revolution

You're smart. Your friends are smart. Share all your smarts.

 

WHAT YOU NEED

 

> Mac OS 10.4 ($129, www.apple.com)
> PHP 4.x or later (free, www.php.net)
> MySQL 4.x or later (free, www.mysql.com)
> MediaWiki (free, www.mediawiki.org)

 

Wikis - those collaborative hypertext things where users can remove, add, edit, or change content - are one of the original Web 2.0 solutions (circa 1996) and deliver on the oft-stated bit of wisdom that two (or 20, or 200) heads are better than one. But the important thing to know about wikis is that they are also a great way to share information, ideas, plans, or gossip with your family, friends, and coworkers. And there are lots of ways to wiki, ranging from the supereasy (signing up for a free hosted wiki at www.elwiki.com), to slightly more involved (setting up a wiki on a hosted Web server with preinstalled MySQL and PHP support), to the old-fashioned way: creating one from the ground up on your Mac. Here's how to set up your own wiki using all three methods.

 

Note: If you're not up to speed on all things wiki, you might first want to read "Wiki 101."

 

WIKI ON YOUR WEB SPACE

 

Setting up a wiki with a hosted ISP account is simple if your host provides the required MySQL and PHP services. If it doesn't, you'll have to settle for a hosted wiki (see "Wiki the Supereasy Way,"). We used a fairly typical broadband Web-hosting package from AT&T Yahoo with a standard setup that you should be able to adapt to your specific situation.

 

1. Suss Out Your Services
Go to your Web host's Domain Control Panel (that's AT&T Yahoo parlance - your host may call it something else) and browse what services are available to you. If you've got the required MySQL and PHP support, find out which versions your provider supports thusly: Follow your Web host's instructions to install phpMyAdmin (AT&T Yahoo users: Click the Install Admin Tool link), a freebie that provides version information, as well as tools that help you activate MySQL and create your master (sometimes called "root") MySQL username and password. Follow the onscreen prompts to install and launch phpMyAdmin, where you'll see the active version of PHP listed. Click the MySQL Info link to see what version of MySQL you've got. Our server software is a bit outdated, so that's why we chose to use MediaWiki (free, www.mediawiki.org). Not only does it power the mighty Wikipedia, but it's also available in older versions that work with older server software.

 

Most modern broadband accounts provide frills such as Perl, PHP, and MySQL. Just make sure to download the version of MediaWiki that works with your host's setup.

 

2. Download, Upload
Download the appropriate version of MediaWiki for your server's MySQL and PHP configuration, double-click the package to unzip it, and upload the resulting directory to your Web host using Cyberduck (free, www.cyberduck.ch) or your preferred FTP client. You'll probably want to change the directory's original name (mediawiki-1.6.10) - we called ours "wiki" and put it at the top level of our Web directory (www.mysite.com/wiki/) to keep things simple.

 

Find all of your PHP and MySQL info here. If you ever lose the master password, you can reset it by clicking Privileges.

 

3. You May Install at Will
MediaWiki uses a handy installer script - just load www.mysite.com/wiki/config/ in a Web browser to access it. Fill in the text fields as prompted, following our screenshot example below for the tricky ones. You'll be asked for three different usernames. First is the Admin Username, the name of your wiki's administrator (that is, you). Second is the DB Username, which interacts directly with the database and can match the master name you set in step 1 - or for tighter security, you can enter a new username that will only be used for accessing this part of the database. Third is the Superuser Account, yes, the same master MySQL user you created in step 1. Once you've chosen your usernames, click Install. If you get a page marked red with errors, go back and verify your database username and password and the SQL Server Host name - the latter stymied us for a while until we gave up and consulted our host's documentation.

 

Big tip: We had to dig through AT&T Yahoo's documentation to learn that the MySQL Server Host is called mysql, rather than the default localhost.

4. Clean Up

The installer creates a file that you need to move - find it in wiki/config/LocalSettings.php, move it into the /wiki directory (or whatever you named your main wiki directory in step 2), and then delete the config directory. Now go to www.mysite.com/wiki and admire your handiwork. To add your own logo to the upper-left corner and otherwise customize your wiki, click the Configuration Settings List link and open the LocalSettings.php file that you just moved. You may notice that there are way more settings than we can cover here, and that's OK, because most are superfluous to the average wiki. Smart people will make a backup of the LocalSettings.php file and/or tweak only a few settings before testing the results. Note that you can add to this file by copying and pasting directives from another file, DefaultSettings.php (in the wiki/includes folder) - it's a bit tricky, but full directions are provided.

 

The good news: You don't have to touch most of the settings in LocalSettings.php (right). The better news is that each title links to a primer on that setting (left), including the default and allowable values.

 

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Anonymous

It worked perfectly - thanks so much!!!

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Bin Hu

It works well. Thanks.

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