Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Wikify Me

Wow. I've started to work on creating a website using MediaWiki software. If all goes well, substantial portions of my Aquaman website will be replaced with this new wikified version (you can probably even guess the address of the wiki). I'm pretty excited about it because it means I'll be able to invite people in to help keep the content up-to-date and to maintain the website. While I love Aquaman, I'm just not too good at keeping websites up-to-date. And other fans have been asking me for years if they can help. Now I can say, "YES!"

Anyway, I've been dipping my feet in the wiki pool, and have discovered a LOT in the last few days. The biggest discovery so far, though, has to be templates. I knew that Wikipedia uses templates to make life easier for their editors. I didn't realize that it wasn't simply a natural function of the software! I got all excited when I went to Dreamhost's Wiki and saw this stylesheet for infoboxes on websites. I assumed, very wrongly, that I'd just need a little markup and I'd be good. Ha.

Because I want to use the infoboxes on my wiki, I grabbed what I thought was the code from Wikipedia for the Superhero infobox, planning on adjusting it to my needs. It didn't look like it would work... and it didn't. I then discovered what Templates are (I originally wrote a bit about namespaces and the structure of wikis, but decided that's too techie even for me). I found the template for my infobox, but I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I then found this helpful page that explains the details. Progress is being made!

So I created the template on my aquawiki, and... it didn't quite work. It was all messed up with extra characters. I couldn't figure out why, because everything I was reading seemed to indicate it should work fine.

Eventually I found a mailing list that had the answer. I needed to install an extension onto MediaWiki to PARSE the code correctly. The templates, the way I was using them, don't automagically work with the main code... they need a ParserFunction Extension. Funny how none of the pages on templates seem to mention that clearly. I found the installation instructions and followed them, and then checked my test page... perfection!

The reason I'm posting this is because someday I may help Eric to set up his Wizard of Oz wiki, and I want to remember how to create templates properly. And also, there's a tiny chance that someone else out there has a wiki that they want to put infoboxes on, but can't figure out the details. Now I've hopefully given enough clues for them to put it all together (Custom CSS => Template code from Wikipedia (both infobox and the ! templates) => ParserFunctions Extension).