Web rant

Dear, gentle readers – look away now. I regret that this post it likely to be one of those where Jonathan goes off on one, and most of you have no idea what he’s talking about.

Right. ‘Webby crap,’ as it’s affectionately known. I’ve been more-or-less immersed for a couple of weeks now, and it’s starting to grate (aside: boy, am I glad I don’t really do this for a living). First up – blogs. I’m more-or-less reconciled to Movable Type, now they’re more-or-less posting update instructions for recent versions (though it’s still too hard to discover that 3.17 is a drop-in replacement for eg. 3.15. ‘It just works’ should not be assumed for such things). WordPress, however, continues to impress me – 1.5.1.3, despite having the most ridiculous version number in recent memory, pretty much rocks. I do, however, need to look into anti-spam measures for it. Blacklist isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the default WordPress stuff. WordPress’ Codex, however, is wonderful.

Next: Wikis. Oh, dear heavens. I’ve been trying to resurrect a Mediawiki-based project I started last year, but ran out of time to finish. But I think I must admit defeat, Mediawiki is simply not ready for mere mortals. Administration and customisation is far too convoluted, and even with considerable hacking about it’s still too complex for end users to get their heads around. I shouldn’t be surprised, since Mediawiki is designed to run Wikipedia, and quite rightly, that’s the development focus. Indeed, I’m surprised the developers are so understanding and helpful to other users. But my judgement remains that Mediawiki simply isn’t right for the project I’m attempting. Merde.

Twiki looks like the next-best fit, but they’re obsessed with CamelCase links and there’s some odd terminology for namespaces. Heck, ‘namespaces’ is bad enough, but ‘webs’? Could that be any more confusing for wiki-newbies? Besides, the project I’m attempting explicitly doesn’t want a strict hierarchy like that. I’ll probably install and try anyway, but I don’t hold out much hope that my audience/users will be willing to suffer the learning curve.

The only things that look plausible are JotSpot and Confluence, but they’re both way too expensive for my project. JotSpot appears to do excellent WYSIWYG, but I’ll admit surprise that it’s all gone rather quiet. There was plenty of buzz last November or thereabouts – what’s happened since? Confluence, meanwhile, doesn’t fully solve the WYSIWYG nightmare. I should probably write a Wiki wishlist, but really, that would be a design document for a significant development project. And however much I keep glancing in the direction of Rails, I’m not a developer. Still, I can’t shift the feeling that we’re all missing something when it comes to wikis.

Finally, to finish on a positive note – I just bought Xylescope. I don’t do webby stuff very often, and I forget most of what little I ever learn about XHTML and CSS. Xylescope and CSS Edit pretty much solve that problem for me; the former allows me to find out what my web application is spitting out, the latter allows me to change it. Brilliant.

5 thoughts on “Web rant”

  1. glad you know what you’re a doing, Bro. ’cause I sure as hell don’t, I’m still struggling with the fact that a board rubber could have erased all Einstein was thinking about, then where would we be? Let me know if I have to do anything in the Unstuck Diaries.

  2. I use twiki and work and it does what I need of it, but some of the customisation leave me thinking there must be an asier way. (We use [[][]] delimited linking a lot to avoid camelcase.)

  3. Hi Ryan. I’ll mail you – from your blog, it looks like you’re about to become a marketing chap for JotSpot? The short answer is that this is a modest/non-profit site which nevertheless could end up with a large number of users and a significant page out. I’m confident underwriting the existing (tiny) hosting fees, but if the site’s long-term existence depends on an open-ended and potentially costly monthly bill – well, that’s not a viable solution.

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