Create your own personal wiki

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wiki-tips

Have you ever worked on a really large and complex design project, that spans over multiple years? There is a lot of stuff and knowledge to keep track off, and while it might be simple to memorize, your team members might remember things differently. Anyhow, if you need to keep track of knowledge or want to use it in a team, having a wiki will certainly do no harm.

Wait … before you jump right in … think

Before you get started though, think about what your documentation needs really are. I recommend doing some requirements gathering and thinking beforehand, because once you went down the path of working with a wiki, you might find out it wasn’t the right one. When that is the case, you are in trouble. Most wikis come with their own syntax, and converting all your content later can easily become a headache. You want to avoid that.

Use your criteria

Some criteria important for me, were the ability to include images, video and audio files. It was important to me that the syntax was basic, while simultaneously providing enough features.

MediaWiki looked quite promising, but if you’ve ever tried to edit or author a wikipedia article, you will notice very quickly that some stuff requires a bit of a learning curve.

Further I wanted it to be easy to maintain, and didn’t want the heavy maintenance of a database on some web server. This brought me to concepts like “Wiki on a stick” and alternatives that run as stand alone software. I also wanted it to be easy to transfer.

For size and scalability I expected to be at a couple of hundred objects (meaning articles). While we had internally a plethora of documentation systems, there was none that filled the need to have things grow organically and create links to documents that don’t exist yet.

Sources

If you’ve no idea where to start with your requirements, and what things to consider, I recommend reading a bit into the subject. A good starter for me was the book “Wikipatterns” by Stewart Mader. This book will give you all in a nutshell that you should know about Wikis.

If you want some really basic idea, this pdf that someone posted after the Game Developers Conference in 2008 will come in handy 10 tips for a successful wiki. Game dev studios work on games for a long time, and there is a lot of stuff to keep track of, such as characters, levels, things that might be related to code or art standards.

For figuring out what wikis are available, and how to find the right one, visit and answer the questions in their wizard. You will in the end get a list of tools along with their feature list side-by-side.

Recommendations

Wiki software

Besides using Evernote, where I quite honestly can never find anything, I tried Voodoo Pad. It’s a Mac only software that runs also on your mobile, if you wish to use it on the go, and integrates with Dropbox. On top of that it allows you to place a password on your content. I do find Voodoo Pad to be a good way to keep track of notes and the like.

Personal wiki without a database

For full on documentation, I have switched later on to Dokuwiki. It runs without a database, and is super easy to use. You get your content in very quickly, it supports videos, and the syntax is as easy to learn as markdown. I found this blog post about setting up dokuwiki as personal wiki to be really useful, and with the instructions provided, I was after only one hour fully set up and started typing away.

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