[WMS] Re: Thoughts on standards

  • From: Florian Festi <festifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wiki@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2004 10:08:10 +0200 (METDST)


I am one of the few Developers of MoinMoin the WikiEngine that (insert 
advertising here)

> 1) Any major change of the standards on a huge site like Wikipedia is
> hard to implement given user resistance. There are minor details that
> can be improved and made more consistent, of course.

It is very clear that changing Wiki markup is a pain. Situation for 
"small" wiki engines is not better as we may not have 1.000.000 pages but 
several thousand instances all around the web and lots of admins that will 
have to convert their wikis without deeper knowledge of the engine.

So in fact noone will do large steps. So if we talk about standards I 
expect it will be standards about wiki engines that already have very 
simmilar markup. But this does not mean we should limit ourself to small 
step at the beginning, but we should be aware how difficult it might get.

May be there is a chance to make finding some standards easier. I don't 
know about other engines but in MoinMoin there are parts of the markup 
that is very unlikly to change. Things that cannot really improved.
We would perhaps simply ignor the standard before changing them. There are 
some other parts thatwe did that way because someone wanted that feature 
that is  not widly used. Lets say somthing like Superscript. So we would 
consider changing this to comply a standard. An there are even things we 
are considering to change but did not do yet.

I would suggest that additional to the syntax of the markup the wiki 
engine developers state how likely some markup is to change. We could 
perhaps simply use background color in the spredsheet. I suggest the 
following schema:

Level 1 (green): Don't care if it is resonable. (Feature not yet 
implemented or planning to definetly change it)

Level 2 (yellow): We might change this but it should be simmilar to our 
old markup. (like "*** list item" to "  * list item")

Level 3 (orange): We might change some implemetation detail. (like not 
requiring whitespace at the begin/end of headings)

Level 4 (red): hell freezes before we change this. (like supporting 

Of cause these statements can only be a first impression.


The next thing I would like to state that I still have the feeling that we 
don't still know what exaclty we are doing here. I am missing the goal of 
the working group.

There are people talking about compatibility and moving markup between 
engines. I think this is impossible. If we want to move data between wikis 
we should use a parsed and defined format. This still has limitations as 
the foreign users we not be able to read "failed" markup, but is much more 
likly to be implementable. I have some thoughts about this but I think 
this should not be part of this working group right now.

> Beyond that, I believe that we should try to distinguish different
> "groups" of standards and standardize within these: the UseMod-likes,
> the TWiki-likes, and so forth.


> 3) I think this effort right now is too narrow. The markup syntax is not
> the only aspect of wiki tech that we need standards on, and not even the
> most important one. Here's a few I can think of:

I think we should start somewhere. Further interoperation between wiki 
engines is a very insteresting topic and I would very much appreciate if 
we could use the working group as a forum to discuss this. But right now 
we should only concentrate about issues that might have an effect on the 

> * WikiSpam. There have been discussions about a shared blacklist but
>   IIRC nothing has come into place yet. Here we need to mostly agree
>   on who will be allowed to make additions to the blacklist. To make
>   it wiki-like, a cross-wiki way to review the contributions by one
>   IP address would be good. Still we need to be aware of the spammers
>   trying everything they can to get off the blacklist - at least some
>   barrier to entry may be desirable.

We are introducing an MoinMoin wide solution with an central black list of 
URLs with the upcomming version. But we do not have any experience yet.

> * Extension standard. I'm not just talking about the syntax. Many
>   extensions (graphs, latex, etc.) work according to the same scheme:
>   get some input from the wiki, generate some output. It would be nice
>   to be able to take an extension of this type and plug it into any
>   wiki.

We plugin extentions is by wrapping external programms with 10-20 lines of 
Python code. I don't see an really easier solution. But a common syntax 
would make sense, IMHO.

> * Cross-wiki transclusion.

This is a really hot topic. (I recommend http://xanadu.com/ for everyone 
interested). Main problem I see is not the is not the last modified stamp 
but the ability to offer a rendered piece of a page.

> * Copyright metadata.

Yes, lots of small wikis simply ignore the copy right laws.

> * In a similar vein, page import and export including page histories.
>   Again, XML would be useful here. MediaWiki already has the export,
>   the import was still beta last time I checked. Note that MediaWiki
>   XML just puts the wikitext into one element.

There is Wiki XML RPC invented by the JSPWiki people.
It might have to be extended a bit to be useful...

> There's more, obviously. My point is that we shouldn't limit ourselves
> to working together in only one field. Now, I agree that we should first
> focus on addressing the markup situation, but we should make our mission
> statement broader than that so that this effort will lead into a new era
> of cooperation among wiki developers.

Agreed! If this working group really works and has some impact on wiki 
development it is too valuable to just stop it.

        Florian Festi

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