GroupWiki

Background

GroupWiki is a pre-configured DokuWiki distribution that is designed to help activist, advocacy and NGO groups capture information and decisions. While it comes with some of the more useful plugins installed, it also includes sections and templates for meeting minutes, standing decisions, projects, contact lists, shared resources, graphic designs and documents and reports.

You can download it from here, or try it out at http://demo.interarma.org/groupwiki. (And for those who are interested, its git repository is here.)

Why a Wiki?

There are plenty of reasons for having a wiki, and if you're not already familiar with them, then you might want to start with sources such as this GroupWiki help page, Wikipedia's page on Wikis, or even this video (if you can overlook the occasional cringe-worthy moment).

For activist, advocacy and NGO groups, we believe wikis have the following key strengths:

  1. They allow people to collaboratively create, access and edit definitive and up-to-date information, and to capture and share knowledge in a central location. This is in contrast to:
    1. email lists, which often consist of streams of short messages and/or snapshots of information that you need to sift through; the latter, in particular, can become dated rather quickly — something which can also make it harder to find current information;
    2. services like Google groups, which are great for maintaining mailing lists and carrying out discussions between physical meetings, but which can suffer from similar problems to email lists; or
    3. more traditional blogging engines such as Wordpress or Drupal, which are great for few-to-many forms of communication, but are less well suited to collaborations, and which tend to lack versioning capabilities.
  2. They allow for finer-grained control of who gets access to what information. This can, of course, be done using other systems, but most wikis support some combination of user-group and namespace-based permissions.
  3. They can support embedded databases, which is nice if you want to maintain and search through larger lists and sign-up sheets.
  4. They're relatively easy to use. This installation includes the WYSIWYG editor, ckeditor, which makes it easier to edit richly-formatted pages, and the Wiki engine itself, DokuWiki, is one of the easiest to install and backup — as it's all file-based, you don't need to worry about external databases.

Within a local group, projects are often organised by multiple people. Examples include:

  • planning an event, where several people may be working on different aspects of an event but still want visibility over the whole planning process, or where people may be working on the event as a whole and need some way to ensure that they're not repeating (or worse, undoing) something that someone else has already done;
  • maintaining sign-up sheets, where the task of adding people (and looking up their details, say, so they can be called prior to a big event) should be shared by multiple people;
  • letter writing projects, where one person may write the first draft, and others may make revisions until consensus is reached on the final draft;
  • information gathering or monitoring projects, where the task of entering links or maintaining current statistics might be too onerous for one person but easily shared out or rostered across a group of people.

Wikis can also help to capture and share knowledge and data by enabling people to, for example:

  • write how-tos — e.g. on how to run a film fundraiser or organise a rally — where people who have been involved in the planning process before can contribute directly to the relevant sections of the how-to, and where others can come along afterwards and add to, or update it to reflect more recent experiences;
  • capture and track contact details — e.g. of sympathetic journalists and people in relevant government, and non-government, organisations — something which can not only faciliate a sharing of responsibilities, but which can also provide some level of continuity should a liaison leave the group; or even
  • store frequently used files in a shared location which, in turn, allows people to download the latest (or for that matter, previous) versions of flyer or poster designs, fact sheets or other 'stall' materials.

Installing GroupWiki

Based upon the DokuWiki installation notes.

  1. Make sure your server meets the following requirements:
  2. Download the latest release from here
  3. Read the security page before you begin installing. Take it seriously. If in doubt, ask on the mailing list
  4. Unpack the distribution tarball and upload/copy the files to your web server
  5. Open the doku.php file in your browser and log on using the username root and the password rootpasswd
  6. Go to the Admin–>User Manager page, click on the root user and change its password to something secure
  7. Visit the Help–>Administrator Documentation–>First Use page on your new wiki, and follow the instructions there to further customise your installation
  8. Enjoy your GroupWiki install and browse through the help pages and DokuWiki manual to discover what you can do with it

Changes and Customisations

As mentioned above, GroupWiki is based upon the most excellent DokuWiki core; getting the base distribution to the point where it can be used by a broad range of people, however, requires some work. To simplify this process, the GroupWiki distribution comes with the following additions and customisations:

  • the backup, blog, bureaucracy, ckgedit, clearhistory, data, database2, include, note, pagemod, pagequery, refnotes, searchindex, sortablejs, sqlite, upgrade, vshare and wrap plugins pre-installed;
  • sections and templates for minutes of meetings, standing decisions, designs and images, documents and reports, projects and how-tos, sign-up lists, incident trackers, and lists of group resources, internal and external contacts;
  • modifications to the database2 plugin to support more complex queries, and to prevent tables from being deleted by accidentally clicking on the wrong icon;
  • changes to the default numbering scheme for ordered lists (see this and this for more information); and
  • the inclusion of a help section that covers the basics of how to use and administer the wiki.

Changed

$userpage = cleanID($this->getConf('usernamespace').':'.$author);

to

$userpage = cleanID('wiki:'.$this->getConf('usernamespace').':'.$meta['user']);

in plugins/include/syntax/footer.php to make the linked-to userpages consistent with the naming convention used by DokuWiki

description:
A pre-configured wiki installation based upon DokuWiki and selected plugins
author:
prd
created:
2012-03-05
lastupdated:
2013-05-15
type:
watch, software, web tool
tag:
collaboration, knowledge sharing, documentation
status:
published
namespace:
projects