A #hyperlocal publishing project – experiences with #DokuWiki on chester.website

I’m about three days in to a #hyperlocal publishing project.  You can see where I’m at by clicking through to chester.website.

I bought the domain a couple of days ago, having taken my inspiration in particular from Adrian Short’s suttonwiki.org, though other examples closer to home also helped me further conceptualise where I thought a niche could be filled.

I then had to work out how to use some existing hosting I had for a now defunct and password-protected blogsite which no long generated any traffic.

This involved a bit of trial and error behind the scenes, for which I was not really prepared.  Nevertheless, it worked in the end.

I’ve had experience of online communities before – a very long, but formative, time ago.

I was once an active, though short-lived, HTML coder on OpenOffice.org – the dynamics of that site were fascinating.  To be honest, the measure of success in such collaborative ventures – at least for me – doesn’t lie so much in how much gets done as how many people get involved.

As far as chester.website is concerned, it’s still very early days.

But one thing I never realised was how easy to use such software is.  The particular wiki I decided to try out was DokuWiki.  It seemed lighter and simpler than the software Wikipedia uses.  Maybe there are limitations down the line; but the fewer barriers for both admins and users there are, surely the better for everyone concerned.

Participation is key.

And quirkiness, too.

We’re not looking to replicate traditional encyclopaedias but, rather, put online stuff people need to share; stuff that otherwise they might not ever get a chance to put out there.

I’m a great believer in the small who are good.

I’ve seen, in my own training, how ordinary people can produce extraordinary things.

How “extraordinary” can mean “especially ordinary”, at the same time as it inscribes the idea of “particularly” …

So I felt, in a strange way, that as my blogging has always had very little impact, perhaps I would do better setting up as editor, enabler and facilitator of others’ thoughts and ideas.  I’d never really got my head round wikis; always found the mark-up language a little too much of a barrier.

The great thing about blogging, about tools such as this WordPress, is the only barrier that exists is the keyboard you punch.

But wikis, or at least #DokuWiki as is, frankly is no barrier at all.

Except in one thing.

Working out how to create brand new pages is a challenge.  Incredible, eh?  You’d think it quite otherwise in software designed for mass collaboration!

Very easy to do; eminently sensible once you realise; amazingly unintuitive until you work out how.

The trick?  Read the following, quoted from chester.website’s Start page as it currently stands:

How do I create a new page?

  1. Search the page you’d like to edit in the Search box at the top right of the site
  2. If you can’t find the page (it should come up automatically if it exists – if it doesn’t, it’s not created yet), then click on the Search icon
  3. Click on the button “Create this page” at the side of the Search results page that will have come up below
  4. Start posting content
  5. Preview!
  6. Save!
  7. Smile!

Yup.  The fundamental tool isn’t your File Explorer or Manager but, quite simply, your bog-standard Search box.  With that, you do absolutely everything.

I normally ignore Search boxes.  They’re the last place I go.  The first day I spent about eight hours or so not finding the explanation anywhere.

So just remember that, more generally I mean, if you ever get too frustrated.  There’s always a solution to almost everything – its not being available doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

It just means you haven’t found it as yet.


The next challenge is to get users in through the door.  Visitors are already there, but a great wiki – and I intend this to be one – isn’t only, nor even mainly, about readers: it’s about participants who feel they own what is growing before them.

Like all good open source, it’ll grow if it fulfils a need.

And if it doesn’t fulfil a need, at least I’ll have learnt how to use the tech.




  1. That’s one way to create new pages. However there is another, preferable way: start with a link. In a wiki ideally all pages should be connected to each other by links, because the link is the primary navigation system in a wiki.

    So when you want a new page, think where it fits in with the already existing content. Then go to a existing page and create a link to your new (not yet existing) page. Save, then follow that link to create the page.

    You can use this to prestructure your wiki and encourage people to contribute. Think about what should be documented and create links for it. Others can later come and fill in the missing pages.

    Happy Wiki’ing

    • Many thanks for the info. 🙂 I was wondering how Adrian (Short) had managed to get so many (useful) red links on suttonwiki.org. So I presume we use the internal links to nudge people into editing useful structure which doesn’t yet exist?

      A lovely idea to gently manage the direction of a site.

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