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August 22, 2002

Weaving Wikis and blogs together

Les Orchard, who runs the 0xDECAFBAD blog, has come up with something brilliant. (0xDECAFBAD comes up at the head of my blogroll, at least until some other hex-inspired blogger does him 0x1 better.)

Les has created two MovableType plugins that allow users to type content using Wiki tags instead of HTML tags. For those who don't Wiki, Wiki systems use simple-yet-powerful markup that Wiki systems translate on the fly into HTML. For example, in a Wiki system, preformatted text may be indicated by indenting the content two spaces. A list item may be created by starting a line with '* ' --- you get the idea.

One of the things I've had to learn to do in order to use Radio under Mozilla (no nice IE-based HTML tool) or MovableType is learn to compose simple HTML on the fly. (Actually, if I'm going to type anything of any length, I paste it into NT Emacs, edit it using the html-helper mode, and paste it back into Radio/MT). It's not that it's that hard, but it is an impediment to introducing others to using these tools. I've been using UseModWiki for about two years, and one thing I can say about Wiki text formatting rules is that they are dead easy to use.

Les's plugins let you type Wiki-format text in your MT entries, and then use either a local or an XML-RPC service to convert your Wiki format text into HTML when you republish your pages.

Weblogs are great for the thought of the moment, but Wikis are great for aggregating content around a given area, or remembering other kinds of knowledge. Les has been publishing both a weblog and Wiki for some time. For me, the combination he's put together has been interesting but not compelling, but I think with this idea he's really onto something very good.

The only downside so far is that Les doesn't quite support UseModWiki yet. Les is TWiki guy. (I tried TWiki once, but found the resulting sites a little too cluttered.)