[Moin-user] Wiki for document management

Greg Ward gerg.ward+moin at gmail.com
Fri Oct 3 14:04:42 EDT 2008


We are a small-but-growing software company that needs a good way to
manage our software documentation (requirements, specs, designs, etc.).
Because we write medical software, we are subject to regulation by
various authorities (e.g. FDA in the US) -- so yes, we really do have to
write these documents, keep track of them, be able to retrieve old
versions, keep track of who has reviewed and approved them, ensure that
they cannot be modified after they have been approved, etc.

Currently, we are using our MoinMoin wiki for these documents.  The
advantages of this should be obvious.  ;-)  The disadvantages:

  * editing a large document with MoinMoin is awkward -- we're all
    jealous of MediaWiki's "edit a single section" feature.

  * no way to work with a group of documents en masse.

Let me clarify this last one.  E.g. for a single new feature, we will
typically create four wiki pages:

  NewFeature/BusinessRequirementsSpecification
  NewFeature/SoftwareRequirementsSpecification
  NewFeature/SoftwareDesignSpecification
  NewFeature/DevelopmentTestPlan

There are various operations we would like to be able to do on the whole
group, but the critical one is the ability to link to (or print, or
download, whatever) a specific version of the complete documentation for
NewFeature.

If we were using a tree of text files managed by a version control
system, this would be obvious: create a tag and then use it to address
the group of documents.  (Or, if using a modern VC system with global
revision numbers, just use the revision number/hash/ID/whatever.  Tags
are obviously nicer, though!)

The problem is that MoinMoin versions individual pages and, as far as I
can tell, there is no way to address a common snapshot of old versions.
It's kind of like CVS without tags.

Oh yeah, another disadvantage:

  * no concept of review/approval -- this ties in with versioning, since
    the whole point is to say, "Tom and Dick approved v3, so that is the
    gold standard we will use -- the docs for NewFeature are frozen at
    v3".

This one is a bit unfair: it's really not something I would expect a
wiki to have.  If we end up settling on a wiki as the answer (whether
it's MoinMoin or not), I imagine we'll have to cobble something together
for tracking reviews and approvals.

Anyways, I'm just wondering if anyone else has similar problems and, if
so, how you have addressed them.  I am aware that there is a whole
category of software called "document management systems".  From what I
have seen, they appear to be large, complex, expensive ways to wrap
version control around your word processor.  Oy vey.  I'd much rather
have a wiki with global version numbers.  Makes me wonder if anyone has
written a wiki where the backend is just a
Mercurial/git/Subversion/whatever repository.

Thanks --

        Greg




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