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oss4lib: An Interview with Paul Everitt and Ken Manheimer of Digital Creations, publishers of Zope Page 4

By Jeremy Reed (Send Email)
Posted Mar 16, 2001


Everitt: To illustrate, I'll go back to one of the eureka moments that Ken and I had several months ago. We've been pretty big consumers and contributers to the Wiki movement, which on the surface is the unapologetic antithesis of librarianship. That is, Wiki really tries to say, "We'll lower the bar so far, you'll always jump over it."

At one point, though, I became concerned that we were building an alternative CMS with our WikiNG efforts, so Ken and I sat down and tried to plan ways to converge Wiki and CMF. We listed the things we liked about Wiki, what were the real innovations, and discussed ways to converge these innovations into the CMF.

We found out that one of the most attractive areas of Wiki was the way it assembled relationships and meaning from a corpus of slightly-structured information. For instance, Wikiwords (the automatic hyperlinks generated from CamelCase words) not only give a system for regular web hyperlinks, they also give a system for the reverse (what pages are pointed to by this page).

In fact, the Wikiword system is a self-generating glossary that distills out important concepts in a corpus. And in Zope, these Wikiwords could become objects themselves. That is, they could become content.

This applied equally to the "backlinks" idea (or lineage) that Ken added to our Wiki software. [Manheimer: A small correction - lineage is actually different than "backlinks", the latter are common to all wikis. Read on.] If you edit Page A and put in a Wikiword that leads to the creation of Page B, then you have a relationship: Page A -> Page B. If you then edit Page B to create Page C: Page A -> Page B -> Page C. The backlink information itself could become content, thanks to the relationships.

Manheimer: The idea is proposed here: zwiki.org/WikiStructuringIdeas. You can see it in action in the wikis on zope.org and on joyful.com, the home of zwiki. See dev.zope.org/Wikis/DevSite/Projects/WikiForNow/RegulatingYourPages for one interesting exploitation of lineage, and see its parent, WikiForNowDevelopments (linked in the header bar lineage display), for an overview of our wiki development features...

Everitt: Neither the Wikiword nor the lineage are part of the content. They exist in between the content. But they are as powerful as the content, and in fact, they can be treated with the some of the same services you would apply to content in a CMS.

oss4lib: At Yale we used Wiki very successfully for documenting several project discussions, but we also experienced many of the common problems with wiki (e.g. who wrote what, how do you track changes, how do you preserve ideas, etc.). What are some other important improvements we should look for from the WikiForNow effort, and what else should we look for from WikiNG?

Everitt: WikiForNow, thanks almost exclusively to Ken's perserverance, illustrates how a smarter system can address the common problems. Without, hopefully, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Each of the three things that you mentioned are in WikiForNow.

However, they get there in WikiForNow by tapping into infrastructure that is shared amongst all content in Zope or in the CMF. For me, WikiNG is more about devolution rather than evolution. That is, take the zen of Wiki and the features of Wiki and make them pervasive beyond Wiki. That means that all content gains Wiki Zen.



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