Wiki Server

Trinity College has been using MediaWiki in the IT department for a long time now to document tasks that have to be repeated, bugs encountered, bug fixes and so on. When we started the iPad pilot we continued using this wiki for the IT related facets of the project. But, we decided that non IT staff involved in the pilot would also benefit from access to read and edit a wiki. If staff found bugs, then they could create a page on that bug with a workaround. Or, if they found a good app or had a thought on the pilot in general, they would be able to add to the wiki. The version of MediaWiki we have been running in the IT department uses markup language only and is far too intimidating and/or complicated for many computer users. Being a bit of a Mac fan, I wanted to try Mac OS X Server’s Wiki Server as it is attractive to browse and has an easy to use wysiwyg editing interface.

Our Wiki

More after the break…

Implementing an instance of Mac Wiki Server is extremely easy as you only need to turn on the web service, however getting it to use our existing OpenLDAP directory server for authentication proved challenging. Setting this up is something I’ve wanted to attempt for some time as it opens up many management options provided by Mac OS X Server.

Setting up authentication in this way is commonly known as the Golden Triangle or sometimes Magic Triangle. There is a reasonable amount of help online for people setting this up but mainly for Active Directory environments. For a start, I wasn’t exactly sure what was meant by binding Mac’s Open Directory service to OpenLDAP. However, I understood what was trying to be achieved. So when setting up the Open Directory service on our Mac Server, I selected the Connect to another Directory Service option (which is the correct option). But, as it didn’t work straight away I wasn’t sure I was doing the correct thing. After looking at some logs I realised that the bind was successful, and that it was an authentication type mismatch. The following page fixed that up for me http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1619. Now that I had the authentication working, I was getting the following error when attempting a login after authentication. ‘NoneType’ object has no attribute ‘shortName’. Luckily someone who had stumbled across this problem before had written down a workaround that can be found at http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2173671. After this all that was left was to do was to match OpenLDAP attributes to their corresponding Open Directory attributes.

Coming from MediaWiki, some things that aren’t available that I’ve come to love are templates and categories. Mac OS X Server Wiki does have tags that can work as a substitute for categories but as yet we haven’t found a useful alternative to templates. For those who aren’t familiar with MediaWiki, the templates I’m talking about aren’t necessarily full pages set out in a certain way were you fill in the gaps. They are customisable and use the functionality of the markup language. A couple of examples we have are ~~~~ which when saved adds the users username and a date stamp of when the page was updated, {{A}} which puts an Action Item heading in place. One more is [[RT:####]] which links to a IT request ticket in our Request Tracker system (where #### is the ticket number). That said, I don’t think staff outside IT will notice this as an issue of great importance.

The biggest con we have come across so far with Mac OS X Server Wiki Server is that when you are on an iOS device you can’t edit or create a page. I think this is a massive shortcoming. No doubt sometime in the future at one of Apples big announcements they herald this as a fantastic new feature that will change the world of wiki-ing. I have been following a discussion on this topic at http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=12029898 which demonstrates the need for this functionality. If you’re using Mac OS X Server Wiki, please don’t hesitate to visit Apple’s feedback pages at http://apple.com/feedback to request this functionality, as we have.

Overall, I like Mac Wiki Server. It has a modern professional feel when viewing pages and is easy to edit. Now all we need is for it to be used on a wider and more regular basis in our organisation by encouraging all facets of the project to partake in the collaborative effort.

 

Are you using a Wiki in your institution? What benefits have you seen?

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One thought on “Wiki Server

  1. Thanks Trent for this information. I look forward to learning more and trying it out as part of the initiative to use this more widely and regularly.

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