Server News oss4lib: An Interview with Paul Everitt and Ken Manheimer of Digital Creations,...

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

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.

The idea is proposed here:
You can see it in action in the wikis on and on, the home of
zwiki. See
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…

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.

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?

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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