Tie And Jeans

Paralyzed, but not by options

I got into a short conversation on Andrew Watt’s post about Wiki and Language, focusing on the frustrations of using Apple’s Wiki Server.

There’s a lot to like from the admin side of things, and I often have trouble expressing to the IT folk what in particular I dislike about the system. But in coming back to the neverending design process for our English wiki, I realized that it’s actually pretty simple — in Apple’s Wiki Server you can’t fix things later.

Almost all of the “permanent” features of the wiki pages need to be set in the theme, which is only editable via Plist files. This means that any changes to what goes where needs to filter up through a tech person (to make the theme changes), then to the server admin patch the server’s theme files and restart the wiki service.

It’s built in such a way that it can’t easily evolve through use. Which for a classroom wiki is the kiss of death.

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2 thoughts on “Paralyzed, but not by options

  1. Among my complaints is that I don’t know how to build templates for individual pages. I can’t create, for example, a template for a ‘nation’ description, which tells students to “insert flag here” or “insert population here.” or a ‘Biography’ template that has birth and death dates, major accomplishments, or “photograph here.” So it’s difficult to create an easy-to-follow rubric that lets students know when they’ve completed the work.

    My larger complaint has to do with teaching students to respect their own work by creating a wiki that they’d be OK using as a review tool for the final examination… but that’s largely a matter of training students, rather than a specific fault of the software.

    • tieandjeans on said:

      I’ve tried to deal with the template issue by making static pages and having students cut/paste the contents of those to create their new entries, but obviously this is not ideal. In addition, the layout options within the wiki frame are poor – just one flowing block of text wrapped around media. We’ve been fighting some similar issues when trying to format our interal IT help pages. I’m going to take a crack at this over the next day or so, and will let you know what I come up with.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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