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The structure of this wiki


Most wikis seem to have some structure. A structureless wiki would simply be a bunch of pages, with no differentiation between different kinds of page, and a structure that emerges simply from the way that pages are interlinked. Possible, but …

Wikipedia has a little structure, but underneath the structure seems more detailed and pretty arcane. The essential ones are

  • main pages
  • talk pages
  • category pages
  • special pages

and then other facilities such as the revision history.

Structure allowed by the software

I talked about Wikipedia above, and those are the generic features of all Mediawiki installations. I won't go into details, as I have no specialist knowledge. A lot of features are covered by the Wikipedia page, Comparison of wiki software. Here I want to talk only about what is allowed in DokuWiki.

This, to me, is an essential aspect of wikis. For any links you make from one page to another, it is immensely useful to be able quickly to check what page links to a particular page of interest. This feature is provided in most wiki software, but in Dokuwiki you have the option to display the backlinks directly on any page. You then don't need to hard code backlinks, you can just rely on the backlink list. I've put the backlinks at the bottom of most pages, as I've done here as well.


This is perhaps the key feature that Dokuwiki provides and Mediawiki does not. Dokuwiki allows you to structure the wiki in a similar way to how you structure a file system in folders and sub-folders. Because nearly every computer user is familiar with this, it takes very little effort to understand, and just a little care to execute. Dokuwiki documents this as namespaces.

People need to be aware that this power needs care. Because of namespaces, two or more pages can have the same name, in different namespaces. This is similar to two documents have the same name in two different folders. You need to take care which one you are referring to. The simple rule is, a link will always link to a page in the current namespace if it is present and you don't specify the namespace. The simple rule is, always put the namespace into the links to be sure you get the page you intend.

Just like folder structures, this gives the power to have different access rules for different parts of the wiki — the different namespaces. This doesn't matter for Wikipedia, because in that case every page is intended to be open to every person who wants to try to edit it. But with smaller wikis, you don't have the same number of people monitoring the pages, and it may well be useful to restrict the permissions to create and edit pages to named people.

How I use namespaces

I am unlikely to have lots of users on my wiki, so I probably won't need to use the access control rules, beyond simply not allowing any unregistered people to create or edit at all.

But what it is useful for is to section off different kinds of page, in a sort of local ontology. I intend to keep updated a list of all the namespaces that I am using, and what they are for. But here I will explain just the basics.

Blog-like pages

At the outset, I realised that I wanted to be able to have something like a blog functionality, and this is done with my dated pages. Just in case I want to write many pieces in a month, I have a separate page for each month, such as 2024-04 for the month in which I am writing this.

Terms, etc

In MediaWiki sites such as the P2P Foundation wiki there are categories that help you find pages on the same topic, theme, etc. In MediaWiki there is nothing to stop people using category pages as pages in their own right. For example, look at this category page in the P2P Foundation wiki. You have to scroll down many many screenfuls to get to the actual list of pages in that category. The page material is, indeed, a useful introduction to the category, but the fact of it being a category page seems to have led to a merging of two useful functionalities.

In any case, I wanted to do without separately-defined category pages, to allow this kind of dual purpose without prejudice. Some time back I actually wrote a separate page spelling out my reasons for no categories as a separate kind of page — I have a different namespace for this, but it's more flexible.

Another very common practice across the Web is to use tags, often user-defined tags, for similar purposes.

In any case, I wanted something that covered not only tag functionality, but also topics and themes. (I've set out what I mean by these various “t” words in the term term page.) Thus, each term (or other t-word) page gives my meaning, along with any other vital information, and the backlinks allow you to see which pages have used the word significantly. 1) For example, the term “wiki” is significant for many pages in this wiki, so I create a link that looks like [[t:wiki]], which gives this link to the term: wiki.

Works in progress, or to be continued

In contrast with dated entries and terms, I want some pages to be continuing reference points that I add to or keep updated; or that I invite others to collaborate on. Because I may want to invite different people to collaborate on different areas, or may want to have different public visibility for different areas, I am using several different namespaces to do this, beyond “d:” for dated entries and “t:” for terms.

Here is my list of namespaces — see there. Here are two new (2024-04) ones:

  • publications, P so that I can create a small example of what I imagine could be a knowledge commons for regenerative academics and intellectuals.
  • people, groups of people, or organisations, to whom I give the letter A standing for Agent or Actor.

I have naturally written more on CHOICE than on any other topic, and if it were just one namespace, the CHOICE index would have an unmanageably large number of backlinks. Thus there, and if any other similar situation arises, I've divided the space into sub-namespaces.


Of course, I can make any word into a link or not, so if the use of a word is not significant, I won't link it. This is very like careful indexing in a book.
wiki/structure_of_this_wiki.txt · Last modified: 2024-04-28 19:36 by simongrant