[meta-sig] Re: [Python-Dev] SIG: python-lang

Ken Manheimer klm@digicool.com
Wed, 31 May 2000 17:25:36 -0400 (EDT)


On Wed, 31 May 2000, David Ascher wrote:

> Jim, in your spare time =), could you summarize _how_ you folks at DC use
> wikis?  How do you decide what to read?  How do you deal with a wiki after
> you've been away from it for a while?  (The RecentChanges page is only a
> crutch in some ways).  How do you evolve wikis?  How do you tell people
> about changes you want them to know about (the equivalent of cc:
> guido@python.org)?

I can describe what we're doing with wikis for a consulting project i'm
involved in here.  We use wikis, a mailing list, and an issue tracker in
concert to collaborate with our clients.  The wiki is used for
accumulating and organizing development information - from technical info
like use cases and domain research to project plans, schedules, personnel
info and tasks.  Sort of a progressively growing, extensive notebook -
with many folks contributing to the notes.

From the start we loved that we could put things in some reasonable place,
but as it grew we had increasing difficulty keeping track of what's where
- finding our way back to stuff put in, even stuff we put in ourselves -
and also chafed from losing track of changes.  I implemented a simple,
wikish extension for hierarchical organization of pages (and spent some
serious effort retroactively culling and arranging the 100 or more
existing pages into the framework) that was surprisingly successful - i
think everyone found it much easier to find their way around, and our
client showed a lot more confidence using the wiki, not just by navigating
what we put in, but by starting to carve out regions of the wiki for
themselves.

For an example of the structuring stuff, visit
http://www.zope.org/Members/klm/TrackerWiki - all the wikis on zope.org
incorporate it, and the latest zwiki product from simon michael includes
it, exposed in one of the alternate zwiki skins.

The notification issue has *not* been solved, but we're working on it.  
Tres and some other folks are developing an observer-pattern-based
event-propagation system for zope - which will be quite useful for
delivering notifications on wiki (and other object) updates.  See
http://www.zope.org/Members/michel/Projects/Interfaces/ObserverAndNotification

(In the meanwhile, what happens in our consulting wiki is that people tell
eachother about important updates - in the course of a conversation,
direct email, or sometimes the mailing list, if it's of general interest.)

That ain't all.

Another big concern with wiki-style development of pages is retrospective
information - not just that the page changed, but *how* it changed.  This
can be as important as the change notification!  Jim just finished
refining the ZODB to make object version information available, and
incorporated tim peter's ndiff module - so, for suitable objects, it's
easy to get at the change history.  !  Maybe in not too long we'll be able
to distinguish lines according to who contributed them, how they changed,
etc.  !

(I think jim's going to post something saying more about all this.)

Personally, i think that wiki has some prime lessons in KISS approaches to
content management - the wiki gesture to indicate pages, and create them,
the wiki flavor of structured text rather than html to create content (i
think our structured text improves on that), heightened significance (as
search targets and page-creation tokens) to the names of pages and
bi-directional navigation of links between them (backlinks - enhanced by
my parent/child characteristics), etc.  I suspect that we're going to be
exploiting, generalizing, and *extending* these principles in zope, coming
up with easier (KISS) ways to do more.  Whee!

(I'm excited about this, can you tell?-)

Ken Manheimer
klm@digicool.com