Using Posts as a Wiki?

Hi. I’m looking to build a wiki that users can control, and I’d like to use Discourse to do that. The best way I can see to do it is just to allow users to create a “wiki page” by creating a new wiki-fied discourse post, and that single post will serve as the full wiki page.

*Is that in fact the best way to do it?

For example, is it ok to have a single post that is edited by many users, left open for editing for weeks at a time, and also grows really large (like this kind of size)? A single post seems pretty different than a full wikipedia-like page, so I want to be sure it can work and be stable.

*I see that you can add a table of contents. Are there other plugins I should use? For example, I think discourse could work for wiki-style url linking, but I’m not sure yet.

BTW, here are some other posts I’ve looked at:

I see here that it’s possible to wiki-fy a post.

I also see the extended discussion here about creating a wiki–that conversation is several years old and seems to focus on a few different things, so I’m posting here for this more focused question.

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As one of the posters in a linked topic it is noted that there are three things useful for creating wiki topics on Discourse.

One which you noted (What is a Wiki Post?) details converting a regular post to a wiki post meaning that any user with the correct trust level can edit it.

Another which you noted (DiscoTOC - automatic table of contents - theme) adds a table of contents to only the first post of a topic.

The third you did not note specifically but mentioned is Knowledge Explorer Plugin which you may or may not have the ability to install based on your service plan or self-hosting.


For many months our site has had Wiki pages in a separate category with discussion pages in a related category. The Wiki pages are kept to just one post and the corresponding discussion pages work as normal topics.

Yesterday having learned of the (DiscoTOC - automatic table of contents - theme) added it to a few pages and allowed those with trust level 3 and higher to start using it.

In the other post (Is anyone working on a Discourse Wiki?) an example of the table of contents was given with Knowledge Explorer. I didn’t know it at the time but that page makes use of two of the noted items, DiscoTOC - automatic table of contents (theme) and Knowledge Explorer Plugin. Since our site is not on a service plan that allows the Knowledge Explorer Plugin I can’t elaborate more on it.


A single post seems pretty different than a full wikipedia-like page, so I want to be sure it can work and be stable.

It works on our site and is stable. As I noted the discussions are moved off to a corresponding post and since I have admin rights on the site, I can move any replies to the discussion post. I did try some things to limit replies but was not happy with the outcome; open for suggestions.

The main reason it is stable is because most users on our site don’t contribute to the wiki pages. I also see the same thing at StackOverflow where many would rather leave a comment about a needed edit rather than just making the edit. Also its good to know that all post on Discourse have an edit history and can be rolled back.


One other thing about wiki pages that I view much differently than many is that they do not have to start out cleanly. One of our most popular and most commented on topics is at present and has been for many months, just a growing collection of links, excerpts, comments, etc. The idea is that as things are discovered related to the topic (Bug hunting toolbox) it is just dropped into the wiki post so it is not forgotten.

It has reached quite a sizable list and now needs to be reformatted and filled in with more details and working examples. The table of contents theme gives us the ability to take the next step and organize the information with an ease of finding something faster than reading the entire post.

HTH

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In my case I would need the users to be able to run the show–creating the wiki posts, editing them, etc…

What does the Knowledge Explorer Plugin actually do? Is it basically a more refined search method?

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Categories have a setting to make new posts as wiki posts. I use it extensively.

I don’t use “wiki-style url linking”, just normal Discourse linking.

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I wonder if that would improve if wiki posts had the user who first posted it hidden. I feel uncomfortable editing someone else’s post when it has their name attached to it.

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An admin can change the ownership of a post so I tried this and this is what I learned.

  1. As an admin I can change the ownership of all post in a topic. Can I change the owner of a post?
  2. As an admin I can not use the admin GUI to just create a user. Looks like it can be done from the console, sadly I lack that privilege so I did the old fashion way. How to manually add user in discourse?

image

Hopefully that is not confusing.

I could not find a way to hide the creator of the post.

As a suggestion perhaps Discourse should create a user just for owning Wiki post and/or that can be set when creating the category.

Now knowing this I am changing the ownership of the Wiki post. :smiley:

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Here’s some practical advice was a wiki editor of some years: no wiki makes sense to everyone, so you have to explain it somewhere. Where you explain, encourage the behavior you want.

Collaboration requires manual gardening, and that includes encouragement. For Discourse I encourage folks to be bold and make edits because we can always fix anything, but also it’s totally fine to discuss changes in a topic. Then, if we come up with clear edits I encourage individuals to make the actual changes.

A little bit of hand-holding goes a long way for wikae. ^_~

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Thanks for all the replies here. So, for the question of whether it is ok to have a single discourse post become a full wikipage–meaning it can get very long, many users can contribute, and it can stay open for a long time–sounds like that should be fine, is that right?

There is a 32000 character limit to the length of a post. Also if you are using DiscoTOC with the page and it is long, expect the table of contents to take a few seconds to render.

Thanks, that’s the exact kind of detail that’s very helpful to hear. I wasn’t aware of those limitations, and they are pretty serious for my use case.

Are there other technical issues I’ll face trying to allow users to make their posts long wiki-pages?

While not a technical issue, if you start to come up with features you would like to have added for wiki post you will run into the Discourse use cases, e.g. Wiki improvement – Split content into multiple sections?

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Thanks. Yes, that is probably the underlying concern. Discourse has so much going for it–the clean interface, so much great functionality, easy implementation, etc. But ultimately it is for forums, not wiki articles. So even if there are workarounds to get close to wiki-like functionality, there’s a concern that trying to use Discourse for a meaningful and growing wiki will be constantly trying to fit things into discourse that it’s not currently built for.

I’ll think about it, and I would personally be very excited if discourse did have full wiki functionality, but I lean toward trying to find a full wiki solution for building a wiki.

If you watch the video presentations given by Jeff you will see that he is one who will listen and is open to change but you have to make a very effective case. That is a route you may not have considered.

That’s the default value, but you can easily change it via site settings if you need to.

“a few seconds” is way too long and that should never happen.

Generating the table of contents with that component should happen instantaneously. If it does take that long, then there’s something wrong and I can fix it if you share more details about when it happens.

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Seems like there are some different views here.

So it would be helpful to hear from the team on this: Do you expect it will work fine to use Discourse to set up a wiki site? The method being to allow users to set up “wiki pages”–in the form of users creating wiki-fied posts.

(The reason to try this approach instead of using a full-on wiki tool like mediawiki would be that discourse is easy to use in general, looks great, etc.)

Have you read 32,000 characters? I don’t consider that a “limitation” per se.

A page of about 30 kB to 50 kB of readable prose, which roughly corresponds to 4,000 to 10,000 words, takes between 30 and 40 minutes to read at average speed

I think you have plenty of room to grow and engage. :rainbow:

I think it depends how big these “wikis” get. If they are lightweight simple affairs liberally mixed with some discussion, then probably OK. If they are massive one million word novellas in an effort to rebuild wikipedia from scratch, then probably not.

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Ha. We’ll put the potential problem of “massive one million word novellas” into the bucket of “we’ll deal with that one when get there” type of problems… So not massive posts, but probably posts of “moderate” wikipedia length, perhaps like this one.

From the basics that I can see–the ability to allow users to create wiki-style posts, the TOC plugin, and the basic ability to link to urls in normal posting–it seems like it could work.

Being new to Discourse it’s tough to know if there could be unforeseen issues that come up with building a wiki site --not a full wikipedia, but still a wikipedia-like site focused on a specific set of topics–with Discourse, so that it would be better to just start off with wiki-focused software like mediawiki.

I understand that ultimately the real test will be once I dive in, but this feedback is very helpful to identify where to start diving.

Thanks,

I am so you to those limits from days gone by that I never thought there would be setting to change it.

Settings -> Posting -> Max Post Length

PostgreSQL notes

the longest possible character string that can be stored is about 1 GB.

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In Wiki improvement – Split content into multiple sections?

Stephen notes:

Here is a possible way with a variation on develop a discourse plugin to extend the wiki functionality but instead of a plugin it might be doable with a theme since a them is just JavaScript and CSS.

The editor for Wikimedia is MIT licensed and as noted in the Wikipedia article is written in JavaScript, Node.js, PHP

Just thinking out loud but would it be possible to use a theme like DiscoTOC or similar to add the [edit] at the end of each section which when clicked takes the section, passes it off to the Wikimedia editor and when the changes are done updates Discourse post. Then Discourse would be able to side step the whole issue of having to create a Wiki editor yet get the pizzazz and marketability of having better wiki pages.

Its a good thing Discourse doesn’t have down votes, I would never offer this up as an answer at StackOverflow.