Wiki or facebook? Decision decisions.

Loads of people in my office have a Wii. Being British, this is a terribly amusing state of affairs.

I was considering setting up a space on our work wiki where we could jot down our friend codes, games we’ve got, would recommend, release schedules, etc. (or just link to external resources – the world always needs another clearing-house, right?) when it struck me that Facebook might be an alternative – it would be easier to open to other people (although harder to regulate the scummy masses) and easier to post information.

The problem is that I just don’t like using Facebook. There’s something terribly clumsy about its interface which really turns me off. I can never quite find where I’m supposed to be going at a particular time, and the way groups are formatted is just a bit, well, shit. There’s the Wall for conversations, but also the discussion boards, and it’s just a mess, especially with no way of checking what’s going on without putting some dedicated effort into visiting all the time. I thought we left that behind the best part of a decade ago.

So I’d like to use a wiki and integrate our forums, but our forums are, uh, well, “not available” is pretty accurate. I guess I’ll plough through the Confluence plugins and see what I can do.

Square-bracket hell

There is little wiki syntax interoperability. In fact, it’s so bad that there are dedicated libraries for converting between almost every wiki system, the best probably being a Perl library called HTML::WikiConverter which also has an online demo and can covert HTML to sixteen different syntaxes. Sixteen!

There have been several efforts over the years to come up with a common syntax, and they’ve all petered out. The latest is called Creole and at their last workshop Ward Cunningham was on the Panel. In their own words:

Creole is a common wiki markup language to be used across different Wikis. It’s not replacing existing markup but instead enabling wiki users to transfer content seamlessly across wikis, and for novice users to contribute more easily.

They also have a reasonably impressive list of wiki engines with plugins for supporting this interchange syntax

You can see the wiki syntax they propose in the latest version of the spec (0.4 at the time of writing).

It’s not too bad so long as you can read words mixed between five vertical bars [[a bit|like this]] [[and|then]] [[maybe something|like this]]. It’s obviously to maintain the “all formatting is double-character” and to allow people to keep putting things in square brackets. Which of course they do all the time. Or, in the several thousand wiki pages I’ve seen, twice.

At least it doesn’t use MediaWiki’s markup for italics and bold. Visual clutter is crap.