"What is a Wiki?" questions

What is a ''Wiki''? What is a ''MoinMoin''?

The term Wiki is a shortened form of WikiWikiWeb. A Wiki is a database of pages that can be collaboritively edited using a web browser.

A MoinMoin is a wiki provided by the python wiki program MoinMoin.

What is this good for?

To be honest, it is good for whatever you use it for. At Lineo we have put up a wiki on our internal web site with very many pages, which describe various projects, architectures, ideas, etc. for people to comment on. Some pages just sit there and convey information. Other pages are an open invitation for discussion and commentary. We also have set up a wiki for a very simple skills database.

In general, a wiki is very much a free-form tool, whose value derives from the use to which it is put. For instance, a page in a wiki can serve the same purpose as a discussion thread. You could use a wiki page to collaboratively work on a project.

Wikis are used internally by the guys who write Zope to manage their ideas and projects.

What are the major features of a Wiki?

Here are some important wiki features:

What about Wiki security? Isn't a Wiki subject to complete wipeout or nastiness from a saboteur?

This is an important question. In general, wiki's used to have NO security. (That's right!)

For MoinMoin this has changed with the introduction of Access Control Lists, see HelpOnAccessControlLists.

But, assuming you do not use ACLs, the possibility exists for accidental or conscious destruction or corruption of part or all of the wiki.

There are two main ways to devalue a wiki. One is through erasure and the other is through corruption. Dealing with erasure is not terribly difficult, because there is a change log (and back versions) of every page maintained in a location inaccessible to web users. Thus, when page deletions or major content erasures are detected (which should be fairly quickly), pages can be restored quite easily to their previous good state.

Explicit and intentional corruption is more difficult to deal with. The possibility exists that someone can enter incorrect information onto a page, or edit pages to intentionally change the information so it is incorrect (for example, people can change the attributions on a page to make it look like a different person made a particular comment, or someone can change the content of a paragraph to alter its meaning in a detrimental way). Pretty much any collaborative system has this problem. In practice, wiki corruption is an extremely rare event, and one that can be dealt with (if needed) with the notification feature (to a fixed auditor) for new material submission.

In other words, the philosophy of wiki is one of dealing manually (the term for that is SoftSecurity) with the rare (exception) case of a saboteur, rather than designing in features and overhead (both in implementation and in usage) to avoid the damage caused by a saboteur.

Questions about using this Wiki

Finding and accessing information in the wiki

How can I search the wiki?

There are already more ways to search and/or scan the wiki than you can "shake a stick at":

How do I see what's been going on recently in the wiki?

Click on the RecentChanges link at the top of any page.

What are these WeirdRedLinks I keep finding all over the place?

Any mixed case name that doesn't have a page will show up as a red link.

Adding information to the wiki

How do add something to the wiki, or change something that's wrong?

If you see something you'd like to comment on, add to, or change, just click on the EditText link at the bottom of the page, or click on the icon at the top of the page. The page is brought up in a text-edit pane in your browser, and you simply make the changes. The wiki formatter will generally "do the right thing" with any text you enter. If you want to get fancy, you can do most of the same types of formatting that HTML allows you to do. See the HelpOnFormatting page for some tips and examples.

Are there any conventions I should follow when adding information?

Not very many. It helps to keep certain types of information formatted in a consistent way. One important convention that will help with consistency is the use of "Template" pages.

The wiki has a feature called "Templates" which show up when you create a new page. If you click on one of these when creating a new page, then that page will have a structure similar to others of the same type. For example, when creating your own Wiki homepage, you should use the HomepageTemplate page, which is available when you create a new page in the wiki.

How can I add non-text information to the Wiki?

If the content already exists on a web site, then just add a link to a wiki page. Follow these steps:

The wiki will automatically make a hypertext link from the text you type in.

You can make the link "prettier" by putting "cover" wording for the link in brackets. The cover wording will appear on the page, but the link will take the user to the URL when clicked on. Here's an example:

  [ This will be the link text]


This will be the link text

How do I add an image to a page?

You can include a url to the image in the page. Example:


Adding documents in an intranet

If you're using MoinMoin on an intranet, it may be useful to make links to documents on file shares available to everyone reading your wiki. For example:

[file://servername/full/path/to/file/filename.txt Click here to read filename.txt]

You can also link to files with spaces in the filenames by manually entering the URL encoding for spaces(%20):

[file://servername/full/path/to/file/filename%20with%20spaces.txt Click here to read filename with spaces.txt]

Another obvious and maybe better option is to use the AttachFile action.

Should I ''sign'' my changes?

If they are significant, or you want people to know that you made them, then yes. Just put your name or email address after your comment. It is not uncommon to indent your comment under the statement your are commenting on. Also, it helps to italicize your comment to make it stand off from the main body of the page you are commenting on.

However, in some cases it may be appropriate to just make your change anonymously. Correcting spelling, formatting, or trivial word changes are some examples where it is not necessary (and even discouraged) for you to sign your modification.

Adding other document formats to the wiki

Can I add HTML to the wiki?

If you want to add a single line of HTML, use the HTML macro. This is done by putting your HTML text as a parameter to the HTML macro, like so:

[[HTML(<font size=+12>This is large font</font>)]]

This would show up on the page as: HTML(<font size=+12>This is large font</font>)

It's also possible to place an HTML document into a page by adding #format html as the first line in the page. If that line is there then the whole page will be interpreted as HTML (thus making links to other pages becomes a bit more difficult!) Make sure that you only add the body portion of the page (not the HTML headers or anything else outside of the body, including the <BODY> tag itself).

Installation & Configuration

How do I activate the "DeletePage" option?

"DeletePage" is not active by default, since it's most often used in intranets only and is somewhat dangerous in public wikis. To allow this and other dangerous actions, add them like this to


For being allowed to delete pages, you will have to log in (through UserPreferences).

Administering the Wiki

How do I administer the wiki?

There is a lot of administration information on the RecentChanges page, including the number of pages, and the macros and actions that are installed.

I usually set up an "AdminPage", where I put macros for these, as well as information about the real physical location of the pages, and macros for orphan pages or other things an adminstrator for the wiki might want to look at.

Can I restore a page from an older version?

  1. click on the little "i" in the top-right corner (PageInfo).

  2. click on "revert" of the version you want to restore.

For being allowed to revert pages, you will have to log in (through UserPreferences).

How do I create a new Template page?

Templates are pages that show up automatically as options when you create a blank page. Any page that ends in the word Template will automatically show up in the list. Hence, if you want certain types of pages to have a similar format (similar headings, organization, etc.), you just define a page that ends in Template, and when creating pages of this type, select that template and edit it. The wiki fills in the starting content for you. Templates are editable wiki pages like any other.

To create a Template page, just create a new page called <something>Template.

HelpMiscellaneous/FrequentlyAskedQuestions (last edited 2008-04-29 11:45:52 by localhost)