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Saturday, December 5, 2009

How To Set Up a Wiki

Wikipedia has changed the way most people study and research. If you've got some spare change, they run entirely on donations.

Turns out, it's amazingly easy to set up your own wiki that looks and works just like Wikipedia. You can grab some server space for ~$0.03/day at a place like WebHostingPad, and the hosting services that they offer include everything you need to get started.

First, log into your hosting control panel (cPanel for many) and/or fire up your MySQL manager. Create a new database, then create a user and associate it with that database; make sure you give the user full control over the database. Write down the database name and the username and password associated with the managing account, in addition to the username and password that you use to administer your website (your cPanel login, for many).

Head on over to MediaWiki and download their latest software. Unpack the archive using 7zip, then FTP into your server using FileZilla and drop the archive contents into a web-accessible folder (/www/wiki, for instance). Fire up Firefox and head to http://YourSite/wiki/config/index.php; follow the onscreen prompts to get everything configured, using the database and administration information you wrote down in the previous step.

FTP back onto your serverspace, and move the 'LocalSettings.php' file from the 'config' directory into the main directory (/www/wiki).

You're done! As long as everything went well, you should be looking at something that looks a lot like this.
Customize to your heart's desire, recruit a userbase, and wiki away!

A note to potential wiki-ers: if you've never edited Wikipedia before, you might not realize that Wikipedia has its own markup syntax. While it's really, really easy to learn in no time at all, you might have trouble convincing your organization to learn it. Unfortunately, there are no simple, plug-and-play WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get, Microsoft Word-style) editors available for MediaWiki yet. Perhaps soon!

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