Wow. I’ve been thinking my web design and web aesthetics students next semester need to use wikis. But I’d worried wikis were hard to set up. Well, no. The Wikipedia’s entry on wiki software recommended QwikiWiki as extremely easy to install, no frills, simple wiki software, and by Jove they’re right. It took five minutes, and simply consisted of uploading 57kb of files to a directory on a server that runs PHP and following the very simple instructions. Finally you use a text editor to change the admin name and the password in the _config.php file and there you are: a wiki of your own. Looks like it’ll do everything I want. You can edit the template and the CSS, and it’ll accept regular HTML tags (unless you bar them), which I really like, and, well, it looks good enough.

I’ve decided I want to throw my students into the web till they learn to swim. Sure, they’ll get the basic HTML and CSS skills, but I’m not going to try and make them experts at anything. Instead I’ll expose them to as many fascinating new ways of thinking and writing and making and living online as I possibly can, knowing that next year it’ll all be different anyway. Learning how to learn to use and assess the usefulness of online stuff is a skill they’re going to need. And they can hone their HTML and CSS skills by reading a book or website: ideas and creativity and strangeness and surprises are harder to come by.

So I’m thinking blogs (no comment spam, no setup for me, they own it completely; no trackbacks but c’mon, comment spam is too high a price to pay), a fictional “reality show” project in Flickr (no, I’ve not quite figured that one out yet, but I can just feel that it’d be cool), make something collaboratively in a wiki, maybe contribute something to the Norwegian version of the WikiPedia, and then the standard group website project but using a web-based project management site to experience that kind of group interaction, and hopefully, help the groups to work together better. And no, the university’s CMS won’t do all those things. No single system will.

16 thoughts on “qwikiwiki

  1. Lois

    Have them travel the web, blogging about the sites they like/hate and why. Starts out shallow but helps you track if they are getting the material. Their point of view should deepen as the semester progresses.

  2. Liz Lawley

    I’d suggest MSN Spaces rather than blogger, mainly because Spaces has trackbacks and isn’t plagued by Blogger’s current performance problems.

    Also, I found that MediaWiki (which is what the wikipedia runs on) is also very easy to set up, and doesn’t suffer from as much of the “ugly wiki” problem…

  3. Jill

    I like the idea of trackbacks… but MSN? Hm… Actually I should check out the Norwegian blogging services, there are several, but I don’t htink any do trackbacks.

    Thanks for the tip about MediaWiki – I’ll try that! I just sort of assumed it would be complicated! QwikiWiki looks as though it’ll be easy to change the template to stop it being so wiki-ugly, but if the mediawiki’s good right out of the box, no need to bother πŸ™‚

    Lois, yes, I like that idea, and it sort of worked with my last two batches of students in this course, but you know, I think they also need to experience DIFFERENT systems – wikis, photosharing, whatever, and I think that unless they have clear assignments in these spaces they’re not going to. Or rather, some will, but most just won’t bother. Hopefully they’ll blog as they go πŸ™‚

  4. fivecats

    I’m not so sold on why trackbacks are such a big deal. Maybe that’s because I’m not in academia and not needing as “official” a source to someone else’s blog.

    I’ll toss in a few good words about LiveJournal. It’s similar to Blogger but with a better user interface, multiple downloadable apps to write your posts in (mini html editors, really) and Communities.

    I have a blog with both LJ and Blogger. The Blogger account I set up only to reply to someone else’s Blogger blog as something other than ‘Anonymous’. I’m far less impressed with Blogger.

    I also like Lois’ idea of having students blog their likes and dislikes on websites. Seems to me Weez did something similar not too long ago.

  5. Jill

    I really like the community features of Livejournal, but in the couple of hours I spent I found it really hard to adjust the template, whichi is one of the things I want the students to do. Livejournal’s definitely one of the sites I’ll be showing the students, though, because the ways of managing public and private are wonderful. And *they* would be good for student blogging. Then again, the default mode of writing on LJ is so very much the private diary rather than the topic-oriented log of what you see and what your opinions are. The first semester I had students blogging I started by showing them personal diaries and it was disasterous: it took ages to get them writing anything but that style. Personal diaries are great, but in a learning log you really need a different style, and you need to use links and express opinions about things and events not just what happened to you today. Whihc doesn’t mean that there aren’t blogs like that in LJ, it’s just that most LJs aren’t like that and the system doesn’t really invite that kind of writing.

  6. elzapp

    I dont like the thought of using blogger, but if it is the price to pay to get rid of spam, then OK. MSN Spaces? No way! And about that wiki, it took me about 2 minutes to install and set up using MediaWiki. OK, I’m an experienced user, but though.

  7. Jill

    OK, so wikis are cool – and I know, Blogger’s not ideal, but it is so much work to set up 60 blogs on WordPress or MT, and then you have to deal with all the “but I deleted my directory” nonsense and then the comment spam begins and then at the end of the semester you really should close it all down to avoid spam but then you need to figure out which students actually want to keep using their blogs, becuase, you know, it’s nice to let them keep them, but often they don’t know, and if you don’t close a blog down it’s going to get spammed to death and really as the responsible teacher you should be cleaning that out which is utter horror and I haven’t and, well, ugh.

    It’s just too much administration. And it’s the spam that really makes it bad, unfortunately.
    That’s great about MediaWiki – do you think we should use that then, Elzapp?

    (Elzapp’s going to be one of the teaching assistents for the course πŸ™‚

  8. elzapp

    Well, I think I’ve found a solution to the spam-problem on WordPress. I had to hack’a’lot, but I managed to make a “human-verification” on Also see my blog-post on on this

  9. elzapp

    Seems like you have a bug in your trackback interface πŸ™

  10. Jill

    Yeah, my trackbacks suck. I keep reinstalling or patching and then they work a while then they don’t. Sometimes they work to and from other wordpress blogs but not to MT blogs. I’m not the only one with the problem and various half-helpful suggestions keep being made in the support forums.

    Basically I’ve stopped caring. I mean, yes, I love trackbacks, but I’m not spending that time hassling with it. I’m lazy.

  11. Elin

    What’s wrong with MSN? Is it that cool to hate Microsoft?

  12. elzapp

    Do I need to say more? Their HTML is as broken as their browser, and it seems to me that you have no way to change the template.

  13. Elin

    And… blogger doesn’t break their stuff?

    You are right – you can’t change your template – unless you change it to one of their own templates… but in a time when everybody reads blogs through feeds, perhaps it doesn’t matter what you look like?

  14. Elin

    Ooopsies and Daisies. Sorry Torill. Free traffic, and all that jazz, what else can I say. (Could not think of anybody else with a blogger blog).
    Here is the right link.

  15. Jill

    Being able to change the template’s really important in the webdesign course, because the students are going to be learning how to modify templates using their freshly learnt HTML and CSS skills πŸ™‚

    But you’re right. Blogger breaks. Hm.

  16. elzapp

    as I said, I have found a solution to the wordpress spam. Then there is two problems more to solve:
    1: The lack of template-support (You would have to edit the PHP-scripts directly. That is in fact a form for template, but it may seem a bit scary for newcommers). I have an idea to fix wordpress up with smarty.
    2: It takes time to install. Well… I’m thinking of a mass-installation script. It shouldn’t take long to make.

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