new wiki user

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new wiki user (workshop)[edit]

This new wiki user introduction is designed for people with an average level of computer literacy. It is not intended to stand on its own but rather to provide a training agenda. The training introduces procedures and wiki best practices for MediaWiki users and administrators who support them. See also the wiki FAQ.

Eventually participants may be able to take their own wiki home with them on a sticky wiki, populated with the workshop content. This would run on any PC.


The objective of the workshop is to give the attendees a good understanding of Mediawiki concepts and experience in hands-on use. You will learn about wiki editing and how to perform administration procedures, the basic skills you need. Aside from this you will be shown where to access further skills as required. Beyond this, the objective is to convey certain best practices, such as re-using content, to take advantage of the great deal of work that has been done elsewhere, and how things can be kept organised. The exact amount and details of units completed will depend on the questions asked and the time available. The ultimate objective of the training is to "train the trainer", so that anyone who goes through this method will be able to guide others in it.


This workshop is designed for the presenter to use a projector to display the modules (slides) of the workshop on a big screen. Participants are shown how to set up and use their own wiki on a workstation at the lecture facility. On their own wiki, participants work through the units at their own pace. They also learn to collaborate on an online wiki to ask questions or import content to their personal wiki. These qusetions will then be reviewed and integrated into future trainings.

The workshop is self contained in that all required software is given to the participants on a memory stick and many of the principles discussed may be demonstrated using the content of the workshop itself. Rather than having a course handout, the attendees can use the tested and proven procedures provided on their take-home memory stick as a starting point for adding more content or for passing on what they have learned.

An interesting facet of this training is that it is iterative and self improving. By following the procedures here, you will be improving this course for the next participants.


Some information about the technology to be covered. Here is something interesting to kick things off:

What is a wiki?[edit]

Presenter notes: At this point it may be a good idea to ask what people are thinking of using wikis for. Attendee knowledge and assumptions or questions about wikis can be discussed, such as notions of privacy or control.


Wikipedia defines a wiki as "...a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis.[2] Wikis are used in business to provide intranet and Knowledge Management systems. Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as "the simplest online database that could possibly work"."


Web 2.0 refers to the second generation of web services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. It is the business revolution in the computer industry using the Internet as a medium to harness the collective intelligence of users. As more people use the network, the collective intelligence accordingly increases.

Ward Cunningham invented the first wiki in 1994. It was originally named wikiwikiweb by Cunningham, who took a "Wiki Wiki" (fast taxi) Chance RT-52 shuttle bus line that runs between Honolulu International airport's terminals.

In essence, a wiki is a simplification of the process of creating web content (articles) combined with a system that records each individual change that occurs over time, so that at any time, an article can be reverted to any of its previous states.

Wiki concepts[edit]

  • Open collaboration and sharing of knowledge, a key idea of "Web 2.0"
  • Unstructured-gains structure over time.
  • History - nothing is lost
  • "Red links" and easy article creation
  • Categorisation, for grouping related articles

MediaWiki concepts and navigation[edit]

Presenter note: At this point it would be good to open a MediaWiki online and demonstrate various types of actions while talking to the participants.


  • Navigation
    • Recent changes (also closely related to history, watchlist and contributions)
  • Search box - the difference between "Go" and "Search"
  • Toolbox
    • Special pages
  • User pages
    • User page - what it is used for
    • User talk - communicating within the wiki, this is important for collaboration
    • Preferences - we will use these when setting up a user
    • Watchlist
  • Editing
    • Article and discussion - how do they relate?
    • History
    • Watch

Now that you know a few things about wikis, think about what you could do with a wiki. Discuss what kinds of pages you could create if you had a web browser based notebook with the ability to interlink and group pages easily.


Now that we have covered the basic concepts, let's get everything set up for the workshop.


A brief overview and discussion of requirements:

  • Cut and Paste
  • Tabbed Browsing
  • Spell Checking

Setting up the software[edit]

The training on a stick comes preloaded with not only a complete server running Mediawiki, but also a range of other useful free and open source software, you can continue to use this any way you wish after completing the workshop.


Have all the software set and ready to go on the participant's workstations, ready to proceed to the next units.


Setting up a user[edit]

There are wikis which allow anonymous editing, however it is much better to set up a user, this will allow contributions to be linked to an account, and a lot of wikis have a "login-to-edit" policy in place anyway, to avoid being spammed by robots. Company wikis are often even more restrictive, with a "login-to-view" policy. In such cases, the create user procedure will need to be modified to allow the sysop to set up a user for someone else who would then get their login details emailed to them.


Setting up a user, offline and then online, in a tab and making sure the user can receive email notifications.

  • Have you created both a wiki-on-a-stick (wos) user and an online user for collaboration? We will use the wos user for running through most of the exercises but you will need an online user as well, for giving feedback and some of the collaboration exercises. Create your online user here

Mediawiki user skills[edit]

The goal of this section is to equip you to edit MediaWikis with confidence and engage in collaboration with others. We will also learn about non-technical content skills such as how to create a page by linking to external pages on the web where appropriate and how to keep content (groups of pages and other items) organised. These are the skills that will allow you to exploit the potential of MediaWiki as a knowledge management tool, as well as learning how to acquire additional skills and develop best practices of your own and use some of the great content already developed and proven in the field for what you want to do.

Given that the use of a MediaWiki involves a knowledge of wiki markup, the first section will focus on getting you familiarised with it. It is recommended that you either use a cheatsheet handout or open it in a tab for reference. You may also find the Wikipedia:Tutorial helpful. We will link to it where appropriate.

Creating new pages[edit]

There are three main ways to create a new article:

  1. Type it into the search box, then if it doesn't already exist a "create this article" link is shown
  2. Type it in to your browser address bar, eg. then click "edit"
  3. Create a link to your new document by adding double square brackets before and after it's title, like this [[ ]]. The link will show up red indicating that clicking on it will create it. eg. an example non-existent article. This is what we recommend and will be practising in the workshop, to help you avoid creating orphans - articles not linked to from anywhere. The red links are an important wiki concept. You can easily specify that you would like a page to exist using the square braces, without necessarily needing to create that page there and then.

To make sure you are comfortable creating new pages, editing them and using external resources opened in tabs while you work.


Create a few pages using red links

  1. On your local wiki, which should be open in a tab in Firefox, click on the logo in the top left to load the main page.
  2. Hit the "edit" button above the page.
  3. You will now see what the page looks like in wiki markup.
  4. Open the wikipedia Tutorial page Wikipedia tutorial (Editing) in a tab. This gives you information about the edit window you are looking at. You can select this tab at any time if you get stuck.
  5. Underneath the existing content, create a new heading called "My Pages". You can use the Wikipedia tutorial (Formatting) formatting section to find out how to create a heading. Remember to add a comment in the summary box, then hit "save".
  6. Now think of three to five pages about subjects that interest you that you would like to create, and arrange them in a bullet list beneath your new heading. Use the double square brackets introduced at the beginning of the module to create the pages. Example pages could be "My goals", "Shopping list", "Research topics", whatever. It's your wiki, go crazy! You can find information on how to create a bullet list here: Wikipedia tutorial (Talk pages). You should now have something that looks like the following.
== My Pages ==
*[[My goals]]
*[[Research topics]]
*[[Notes on the annual review]]
*[[My novel - ideas]]

Again, enter a brief comment in the summary box and hit "Save". Once you have saved, the new pages will show up as red links on your page.

Bonus learning
  • Who can think of a faster way to get the formatting for this exercise right?
  • Naming conventions: There are some things to consider when creating new pages, generally it is important to use descriptive naming, and while on your own wiki pretty much anything goes, if you want to create new pages on a public wiki for yourself, they need to be within your own "User:" namespace, as in "[[User:Joe/My Goals]]". Can you think of some of the problems that might crop up when naming articles? Presenter notes: Use general/specific examples to explain the namespace problem, as in, the "My goals" article can only exist once on a given wiki. More information about naming can found at Wikipedia, here.

Editing pages[edit]

In this module we will learn how to add content to new pages and practice some formatting skills using wiki markup.


Get a few initial pages of content set up by entering text in the edit window, copying and pasting from online sources, and creating internal (wiki) and external links.


Create some pages of content and format them

  1. Click on the redlink for the first page you would like to create.
  2. You will see the edit window since you followed a link to a page that doesn't exist yet.
  3. You can now start creating the article, here are some ways to add content:
    1. Create a bullet list of the structure you want to flesh out.
    2. Do a google search on the subject matter in a tab, then paste snippets of relevant information into your new page.
    3. Make a list of links to websites with related subject matter, this section of the tutorial shows you how you can make links to non-wiki sites: Wikipedia tutorial (External_links).
  4. You can use the preview button to see what that page will look like once it has been saved and adjust the wiki format accordingly.
  5. Experiment with different level headers to see how that affects your page.
  6. Carry on until you have at least a little bit of content for each your pages, remember you can open new pages in a tab, which you can close to get back to the main page, or you can click on the logo again to achieve the same result.
Bonus learning
  • Earlier on the presenter briefly introduced the distinction between article and discussion page. How do you think they relate, and how does their content differ? Have a look on Wikipedia if you are unsure.
  • What if you don't want the table of contents? Or the edit links at each heading? Try adding these "magic words" at the end of the text: __NOTOC__ __NOEDITSECTION__

Uploading Files[edit]

info here on how to upload media


Now that you have the editing skills to easily create wiki pages, it is time to look at the most important aspects of the collaborative process that is driving content development on thousands of wikis. You will need to use your online user account for this section, not the wos user.


To convey basic MediaWiki collaboration skills and provide links to external resources for more advanced policies.


Exploring history
Before jumping in to edit pages when collaborating, it is a good idea to check out the history first. Or you may simply be curious. Did you know that every edit anyone makes to a wiki article is stored? There are a few different ways to access these changes.

  1. Check out the recent changes at a few different places: Wikipedia, Organic Design, P2P Foundation.
  2. Apart from immediately getting a feel for how active a wiki is, which other information can you glean from recent changes? For instance, can you see what edit summaries are good for?
  3. Follow some of the links going out from recentchanges (open in tabs!), like "diff", "history" "User talk" to see what they look like and what kind of information you can get out of them.
  4. Add a few pages to your watchlist. Can you find where to change which articles are on your watchlist? And where would you change how to be notified of changes to articles you are watching? More info on watching can be found here: Wikipedia Help:Watching pages. A watchlist is like the recentchanges filtered down to the articles you care about. This is important on very active wikis like Wikipedia.


  1. Open your user page in a tab
  2. Starting with one of the recentchanges pages, find a "diff" and open it in a tab.
  3. Copy the address of the diff into your user page, add an edit comment and hit save. Hint: Browser address bar!
  4. You have now created a link to a specific edit made to an article. You could also email such a link to someone. What might be some uses for linking to a diff?

Talk pages
There are two kinds of talk pages on MediaWikis: The article talk ("discussion" link at top of pages) and the "User talk", which you can see a link to among the user links section. The difference is that while article talk pages are used to discuss the article they belong to and are always useful to look at or even add to before editing a collaborative article, user talk pages are used for directly communicating with other Mediawiki users and will alert the user if they have been changed and possibly even email them to let them know. Using what you now know, you can use the history to find out which user did what and communicate with users via their talk page.

  1. Chat to some of your fellow workshop participants to find out what their user names online are and navigate to the talk pages of at least two course mates.
  2. Add something to your course mates' user talk pages. Maybe links to some cool sites you found during previous exercises? You can look at existing pages for inspiration.
  3. Don't forget to sign so they know who you are! You can find help regarding talk pages here.
  4. Hit refresh on your browser to see if someone has left a message for you.
  5. If you wanted to be emailed when someone leaves a message, how would you do that?
Bonus Learning
  • When doing the last exercise, did any edit conflicts occur? What are edit conflicts? How can they be avoided? e.g. Skype, section editing.
  • The policies and guidelines "Working with others" section contains a wealth of useful collaboration tips and policies. Even if you are not working on Wikipedia, it pays to make use of these proven and tested methods, or at least know where they can be accessed.

Content Management[edit]

This area contains a couple of modules, first an introduction to the idea of reuse and then a module with a hands-on exercise where you get to organise the new pages on your wiki.

Concept: Reusing information[edit]

Presenter note: At this point it would be good to browse through some wikis to demonstrate examples of reuse
In some of the previous modules you hopefully got a sense for one of the key ideas when working with wikis, which is that we can easily reuse existing information and link out to external sites, or copy articles, templates or procedures off Wikipedia or any other Mediawiki to create your own content made up of "snippets" patched together, which form an article. This workshop is itself an example of this "wiki way" of creating content. For most purposes, it is safe to assume that most of the information already exists somewhere so before you before you go about writing a lot of original content for your own usage, "google" the subject -you should be able to find lots of useful links and snippets to get you started.

Remember to reference (i.e. provide a link to) the source page when doing this on a public wiki, for the personal wos it does not matter, apart from having it for your own information, of course.

Another note on reusing information: Whenever you are unsure about how to format articles or or are wondering about the best practice for anything, the Wikipedia help portal is a great resource.

Organising content[edit]

You can get a sense of how quickly a wiki could get really messy, as it is very easy to create new pages, so next we need to look at a few ways to keep things tidy.


Learn how to keep content organised and apply some methods and tools generally used on Wikipedia for this purpose.


Categorising pages
A category is a software feature of MediaWiki. Pages that have Category: at the beginning of their name (eg. represent a so-called category, a kind of grouping of related articles. On other systems, this is called a "tag". When a page belongs to one or more categories, this information appears at the bottom of the page.

The page of the category contains text that can be edited, like any other page, but when displaying the page, the last part of what is displayed is an automatically generated, alphabetical list of all pages in that category, in the form of links. Any page that can be edited can be put in a category by adding a category link to the page (usually at the beginning or end so they can be seen easily), e.g.: [[Category:Category name]]

  1. Open up (or bring forward) the tab that has your wos running.
  2. Think of a category that groups three of your previously created articles together.
  3. Add three of your articles to this category. If you get stuck, use this page for help.
  4. Create a link to your new category below your list of articles. Careful! Don't categorise your main page, just link to the category.

Working with templates
Templates are pages in the template namespace. This means any page beginning with "Template:", such as [[Template:Templatename]] can be used as a template. The content of a template can be added to a page by typing {{templatename}}. Templates are used to add recurring messages to pages in a consistent way, to add boilerplate messages, to create navigational boxes and to provide cross-language portability of texts.

  1. Create a new article called "Template:Nav".
  2. Into this new article, paste a bullet list of the first three articles you created on your wos.
  3. Hit save. You have just created your first template!
  4. Now edit each of the three articles to embed the template within them, by adding {{nav}} right at the start.
  5. Once you have done this, you can easily navigate directly from one article to another, they are now linked via the navigational template you created.
  6. Now that you know what templates are, have a look on some other MediaWikis to find out what they are being used for. You can even copy templates you like for your own use, but it might be best to learn about importing and exporting first because of the dependencies. Here is a list of templates. And you can go here for help with templates if you get stuck.
Bonus learning
  • See if you can find a template you like on Wikipedia and copy it to your wos. Did you notice any problems?
  • Remeber, you need to create the template article first, and then embed it in another article to see how it works.

Mediawiki sysop (administrator)[edit]

There are two main ways to deal with administration on Mediawikis, firstly through the special pages, which can be accessed through the navigation link. Special pages provide access to security settings, statistics and maintenance tasks.

Secondly, the server hosting the MediaWiki may be accessed directly via ftp, in order to change files like LocalSettings.php. This file is downloaded, edited in a program like Geany to make changes, and then the new version is uploaded using an ftp program such as FileZilla. This method is used to install extensions, edit the sitename or display a "site unavailable" message.

The inside view of MediaWiki

Allow uploads[edit]

info on how to allow uploads, file types here

Advanced (sysop) editing features[edit]

  • Move (rename)
  • Protect
  • Advanced learning

Why would you delete a page? Why should you delete? Why shouldn't you delete?

Accessing MediaWiki administrative functions[edit]

Article protection[edit]

The MediaWiki software was designed from the outset with openness in mind and for this reason not much consideration went into the design with respect to content restriction. The general problem with implementing a proper security solution is that although most of the actions one can perform on articles can be restricted easily, the ability to read content cannot be easily restricted on a per-title basis. The reason reading is difficult to restrict is because it's an operation which is not just performed via one action, but rather that many different actions, special-pages and extensions access article content and display it in diverse ways. To make matters worse, many of these diverse means of article access are done by querying the database directly rather than going via the Article class.

To allow restrictions on the reading of article content requires a hook at a very low-level in the programming which is common to all the kinds of operations involved in the retrieving of article content. We use the SimpleSecurity extension which adds these low-level hooks into the code dynamically and uses them to extend the native MediaWiki permissions system to include a "read" action in the restrictions list. For a description of the specific functionalities which are added or extended and how to use them, see the mediawiki article at

Exporting and importing content[edit]

Firstly maybe some history of why the export/import functionality is available might be a good idea. It was probably intended as client side functionality so that adminstrators could move and import articles and their entire history between wikimedia projects using templates as a workflow mechanism. There is a caveat that since http requests are involved there is a limit to the amount of material that can be posted to the wiki instance, so a large number of pages with entire history is going to make large xml files which might fail. The server side importing using the maintenance script importDump.php does not have this limitation, however you need access to the server to use it.


  • Single page exports
  • Books from categories
  • Books from lists



To learn how to export and import pages using MediaWiki by updating the training here on this wiki.

Bonus Learning
  • How does it know if it should overwrite a file or not? (time date stamp)
  • How can you change that (edit xml file, search and replace, then upload)
  • Exporting pages in HTML or XML

Altering xml exports[edit]

Below is a perl snippet that uses regular expressions to alter the timestamp to the current time and username to Imported content in an xml mediaWiki export containing only the current revision, not the entire revision history.


Working with extensions[edit]

Templates & transclusion[edit]

  • syntax, default namespace
  • using parameters with templates
  • named parameters (and the affect on parameters with "=" in the value)
  • default values ({{{name|please enter a name}}})

Dynamic variables & functions[edit]

  • magic words
  • tags and parser functions
  • parameters, named and numeric

Using HTML and CSS in articles[edit]

  • CSS (site-css, skin-css, user-css, page and namespace css rules)
  • Raw HTML (bad for publicly-editable sites, good for locked-down wiki's)
  • Embedding YouTube videos
  • Embedding SWF's
  • List of other embeddable content using similar extensions


  • User wiki skins
  • Web skins
  • Skinning methods, incl.
  • OD template skins to work from OD/Wikia - we should make these into a proper portfolio of options along with robs skins


  • Characters
  • Sandbox
  • Legal issues for editors (copyright)

See also[edit]