electronic brain surgery since 2001

DokuWiki of the Month: Wineskin Media

This article is part of a monthly series.

Every month I present a DokuWiki powered site which is special for its design, content or clever use of the software. To give you a first impression on what the site is about I'll send a short, interview style questionnaire to its creator.

Wineskin Media

Wineskin Media

This month's site came to my attention when its owner asked for help on the IRC channel. I immediately liked the artsy design of wineskinmedia.com.

Questions were answered by the site owner Bill Powell.

Can you give a short introduction on what your wiki is about?

This is the web site for my one-man company, Wineskin Media. I help small businesses publish books and journals, start web sites, and advertise their business, so this site is both a portfolio for my work and a way to interact with my current clients.

Since when is it online?

I've been running wineskinmedia.com since late 2005, but it began as a WordPress site, since I was using WordPress for my personal blog at the time. In late 2007, a potential book client commented that he was going to choose another typesetter over me because, among other reasons, they would offer him access to files for his projects _as they worked on them_. Any time he got anxious, he could somehow saunter on over and give a virtual peek over their shoulder.

Book projects can drag on for months, so I immediately saw the appeal here. My own model consisted of an initial foxtrot of emails followed by weeks of, for the client, ominous silence.

It sounds a bit silly now, but at first I couldn't imagine how I could ever offer this kind of access myself. Gradually I realized that there was no point in running Linux and playing with new programs all the time if I couldn't find a solution to a little problem like this. So I looked around.

Why did you chose DokuWiki? Did you try other software before?

Yes, strange to say, I actually started off looking at bug management software. I got way too deep into Flyspray before I realized this wasn't the right angle. I didn't think of a wiki, because the only wiki I'd ever used was Wikipedia, and I'd thought of it as a site I read, not a global collaboration.

When I realized I wanted a wiki, I knew that I wanted:

  • Access control, so each client could have a private area.
  • Plain text files, instead of a database.
  • Some control over directory structure, for storing files like PDFs.

By then, I was just about fed up with the web interface of WordPress. I spend hours a day in Vim, and I wanted to edit my files directly instead of clicking through hoops. Before WordPress, I'd edited files like this, but I didn't exactly relish straight HTML, sparse as it is. When I discovered wiki syntax, I was awed. No joke.

I think I installed a few wikis, and I know I visited the truly harrowing nightmare that is WikiMatrix. In the end, DokuWiki had access control and plain text files, and it dropped PDFs and images into a plain directory, so it won. I modified the old WordPress theme I'd gotten years ago so I could use it with DokuWiki.

Did you do any modifications to the software?

Yes. I have a few plugins I consider essential, such as “bookmark” and the Esther Brunner “comments” plugin. I needed “incl_form” so people could sign up for my mailing list. I also use a plugin that lets me include other entries, which is handy for putting an entry on the front page.

Making the site “secure” for my clients was a bit of an odyssey. I modified template.php in a couple places; when my clients uploaded a file, I didn't want them to see the whole directory tree, just their own subdirectory.

I followed the DokuWiki security instructions, and even set up an SSL option, so passwords wouldn't go over in the clear. Getting SSL to work was rather torturous because at the time I was using a shared certificate.

I also had to get rid of the “feed” button, so hapless clients wouldn't subscribe to the feed and have their passwords bouncing around in bookmark lists1). I'm not a security expert, and I'm sure I missed things here. I don't plan to store any credit cards or anything, but an attempt at privacy seems courteous.

In a sense, I'm working against the whole structure and point of a wiki, I suppose, trying to compartmentalize these things. In fact, I may eventually have to migrate to a database system that was designed for this sort of thing. But for now, I'm happy with this system.

Who is editing the site?

At present, I do all the edits. My clients can edit their own project pages with me if they wish … but so far, they're more comfortable with email. Go figure. ;)

But it is good to have, say, a project schedule in a particular place. Even if they don't always update it the way I might like, I can quickly refer us to this page when questions arise, rather than digging up an email.

Brag about your statistics ;-)

Sadly, I haven't even looked at the logs. I don't put efforts into marketing the site as a site; it's more a place I point interested clients to after I've contacted them. Everyone seems to like the site, though. :)

Is there anything else you want to tell about your wiki?

Well, as I said, I'm often in Vim, so the first thing I did was get a syntax file working for DokuWiki. There wasn't one made yet, but I modified wikipedia.vim, available at http://www.vim.org, and it seems to work. And this little interview reminded me that I ought to upload the thing. ;) Just get wikipedia.vim first, and then download dokuwiki.vim. I find that syntax highlighting makes all the difference.

If you know of a DokuWiki driven site which is somehow remarkable and should be featured as DokuWiki of the Month, drop me a mail or leave a comment, please.

dokuwiki, dwm, wineskinmedia
remark: the feed button does not expose any passwords and feeds respect ACLs, so this is rather unnecessary