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MediaWiki and Typo - Pros and Cons for Personal Use

Posted in Fri, 11 Aug 2006 18:37:00 GMT

Now that this site runs both MediaWiki and Typo, I need to decide what to post where. Unfortunately I want to continue running both because they each have their advantages but ideally I could just run one, at least externally facing. These are some of the features I like of both MediaWiki and Typo which makes it hard to choose one over the other for all my posts. As a disclaimer, this is a personal wiki so I won't be discussing multiple users. The below lists the pros for each, If it's listed it means the other one doesn't have it ;)


  • Heading-based Article Formatting: MediaWiki provides some functionality based on article headings. Headings are desginated by =, e.g. = My Heading =. This is similar to <h1>My Heading</h1> but MediaWiki goes a couple steps further:
    • Automatic Outline Numbered TOC: A great feature of MediaWiki is the ability to take all the headings, assign anchors and create an outline numbered TOC. I find this invaluable for navigating long articles. For example, the TOC on my Installing Typo document lets me quickly nagivate to the section I want, whether it's to reference it or to edit it.
    • Edit at Arbitrary Levels: MediaWiki's ability to open up just sections of an article for editing makes it a lot more convenient to update articles if you only want to work on a section. There's no need to scroll through lots of text you aren't interested in modifying. If you choose a heading level with its own sub-headings, they'll be included for editing. This makes editing large articles especially easy.
    I'm actually kind of surprised that I haven't seen this feature on other wikis since I find it so useful.
  • URI Redirects: When you change the name of an article and the URI changes, MediaWiki will automatically add a redirect so sites using the old link will still get the article but be notified that the location has changed. This is very useful if you want to change a URI of an article that's already been indexed or bookmarked by others.
  • Category Pages: MediaWiki's category pages are useful for scanning articles because they list all the titles in multiple columns with alphabetical headers. Many blogs I've run across don't seem to have effective ways to scan articles by title. The TOC I added to my Typo install is very useful for me but some blogs have many times the articles this one does. I think a MediaWiki style category page would work better for scanning lots of articles quickly. The ability to have sub-categories is also nice.


  • Comments: One big feature of blogs that they let people comment on the articles. MediaWiki has a "discussion" section per-page but that's really just another wiki page, not a chronological list of comments identified by author. Some sites have links to forums and other software but it's nice to have the comments right on the page. Most blogs don't get too many comments per article but for blogs that do, say Tim O'Reilly's blog or the RoR blog, it'd be nice to have threaded, scored comments like on Digg or Slashdot. Howeve,r for my purposes, having comments is a lot better than no comments.
  • Dynamic Sidebars for Catgories and Tags: Typo sidebars for categories and tags are plugins that make database queries and retrieve the number of articles per group. This means that new categories/tags are automatically added to the list and it's pretty easy to sort the items by different criteria. To add custom items in the nav bar for MediaWiki, you have to create two MediaWiki entries per link and then reference them in LocalSettings.php config file, and you still don't get number of articles per group. Getting the number of articles and even listing all the groups in the nav bar probably doesn't make sense for Wikipedia but it could be nice on smaller wikis. Perhaps it can be done with a custom include. MediaWiki seems harder to browse and the Wikipedia portal pages seem a bit cumbersome to make. Something optimized for smaller sites would be useful

I don't mind hacking software but I'm not crazy about either adding heading-based articles to Typo or adding comments to MediaWiki. That being said, adding MediaWiki formatting to Typo seems to be better than adding comments to MediaWiki. The cleanest way would be to port the formatting code to Ruby and create a Wikimedia text filter. The other features should be easier to add.

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  1. Ajay said about 3 hours later:

    It seems like you use Mediawiki and Typo for different purposes so do you really need to combine them? The combination seems to be working fine for you now. About categories in Typo, Piers plans on adding hierarchical categories eventually. There is a categories page in Typo right now. It’s at this link. You can add article titles to this page yourself and format the page as you’d like.

  2. Piers Cawley said about 12 hours later:

    I think ‘plan’ is a little strong Ajay. It’s on the list things to investigate at some point, but there are a lot of other things I expect to do first.

    A ToC generating plugin would be excellent. I’d suggest adding it as a postfilter that works on the HTML generated by the textile/markdown/whatever filter which stashes the ToC metadata in the article’s whiteboard hash. Then write a sidebar that formats that metadata into a ‘real’ table of contents.

  3. John Wang said about 23 hours later:

    Continuing to use MediaWiki and Typo together is certainly an option. One of my pet peeves with the current situation is that the site isn’t very integrated. If I keep both, I’d like to migrate both to using the same theme (hopefully a 3-col theme which would require Typo enhancement) and more consistent nav. Then I’d probably look into a unified search, say using Xapian.

    I haven’t looked into postfilters yet (didn’t know they were available). Can you have an arbitrary number of postfilters? I seems a more flexible approach would be to have n number of filters and order their execution (vs filter and postfilter). Specifying which configured filters are to be used a per-article basis would be cool too, e.g. an emoticon filter ;) Maybe too pie-in-the-sky?

    One issue with a TOC generating filter/plugin is that it doesn’t solve the editor issue. MediaWiki is a great large article editor which is very important for me. After Typo 4.0, I don’t use the the Admin UI to create articles any more b/c the TimesRoman(?) font looks very small on my screen. Now I do everything in an external text editor and paste it into Typo. Changing article creation/editing would probably be a larger task than creating the TOC from the headings but I see them as parts of the same issue.

  4. Strafverteidiger Freiburg said 8 months later:

    It seems like you use Mediawiki and Typo for different purposes so do you really need to combine them?

    Of course this is great.

    Thanks guys for the Post.

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