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Wikibooks, Open Source Books

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Jun. 24th, 2008 | 09:17 am

One of the projects I am working on right now needs a manual, not just man pages, but an actual manual.

My goals:

  • Online All documentation should be online and editable online. Anyone should be able to edit it. Anyone should be able to extend it. We live in a Wiki world, and the day and age of collaborating via controlled copies is over. (And yes, this is something I very much dislike about the MySQL Manual)

  • Hosted Find a hosted solution that I do not have to maintain. Maintaining software takes valuable time from me. I only keep hosting mailing lists but Google Apps lacks this feature. For a Wiki? Someone else can do it. The solution needs to be non-onerous though.

  • Exportable. Sometimes you want a book in your hands, and for this reason I think books in the "it is a dead tree Jim" are good things. Skip a few years into the future and it is probably going to be an electronic book. People still want to have the book in their hands. In a perfect world they will want to have it in their hands, be able to change it in their hands, and then synchronize the transfer of their corrections back to the main book.

  • Information Should be Free No one should have to pay to access it, and just as importantly I want to make sure that anyone is free to take the book from the website and print it. If an outside publisher can print a thousand copies and sell it, I think that it is awesome. No onerous sign up processes. Anonymous is quite fine.

    So what do you think? Wikibooks? Is there another solution out there?
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    Comments {17}

    TikiWiki CMS/Groupware

    from: marclaporte
    date: Jun. 24th, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC)

    Hello Brian,

    I think many Wiki engines may correspond to your general description. I will describe the one I use (TikiWiki CMS/Groupware) and why I think it's great for collaborative documentation and to foster a community.

    TikiWiki CMS/Groupware is a full-featured, tightly integrated, open source, multilingual Wiki-CMS-Groupware, written in PHP and actively developed by a large international community. Over 170 have contributed to the source code, and several times more to the documentation, support, bug reporting, etc.

    1- Used to manage the multilingual support site (wiki + forums) for Firefox:

    2- We eat our own dogfood and when exported to PDF format, it weighs in at 962 (!) pages.

    3- After years of challenges of trying to keep our multilingual documentation in sync, we now have a very sweet tool to handle synchronization of content in a wiki context (source document always in flux, no master version, etc):

    4- Structures to make it book-like and have a table of content:

    5- Comments below the wiki pages
    Even if people can edit pages, in some cases, they will prefer to comment below

    6- Staging and Approval
    I understand you want to keep it open. But if one day, you want to have more control:

    7- Page ratings
    Ex.: "Was this page useful?"

    8- Alternate content per version
    If you are documenting software, you will run into the situation where most of a page is similar for two versions, but there could be a small difference.

    9- Tags & Categories
    For easier finding of related stuff

    10- Watch a page or a category (email notification of changes)

    11- Hundreds of built-in features
    It has more features than you could ever need. You can start with the wiki and feel confident that if you need features down the road (ex.: bug tracker, blog, newsletter, etc), they are built-in. No need to install separate apps. In TikiWiki, you'll have a unified user/group & permission system. The look & feel, navigation, search, etc. will be consistent.

    12- Open Source, community project and easy to host.
    TikiWiki is a community project, licensed LGPL and runs on standard PHP/MySQL.

    13- Large community & actively developed

    I like to think of TikiWiki as the "Wiki Way" applied to software development. Here are my arguments to support this:

    As for a hosted solution, I am working on one. It's "invitation-only" at the moment, but you are invited :-) TikiWiki is 5 years old and nice and stable. But the WikiFarm stuff is still in development.

    What do you think?

    Best regards,

    Marc Laporte

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