[Mediawiki-l] Is MediaWiki-l dysfunctional? What is it good for, really?

Monahon, Peter B. Peter.Monahon at USPTO.GOV
Thu May 24 16:46:42 UTC 2007

> Date: Thu, 24 May 2007 15:23:17 +0100
> From: "Gary Kirk" <gary.kirk at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: Is MediaWiki-l dysfunctional? 
>      What is it good for, really?
> Peter Blaise wrote: "...A page will appear that 
> tells you that the wiki is not set up, and that 
> you need to do that first.  Click the appropriate 
> link and then fill in form.  The rest is done 
> automatically..." ... and that is all it says!  
> Which we find a tad bit, um, unguiding...
> Well, once you've entered your wiki and 
> database details, the rest *is* done 
> automatically; what's the problem?
> Gary Kirk

Thanks, Gary.  

"Fill in the form and those "database details" are an undocumented,
unexampled, very deep mystery for newbies (and oldies alike), provided
they can even get to that point - usually we get lost long before that
and we don't have any troubleshooting checklist to find out what went
wrong, especially if we don't get an error message, but just get either
no response or a blank screen ... or worse, we do everything as
mentioned without any failure notices, but nothing works!  

Where do we go next?  


Well, I'm HERE!  

I appreciate that you don't get it.

May I suggest that try documenting and share your own MediaWiki
installation steps, detail by detail, and why you made any choices?  

Please actually try to document every single exact on-screen prompt and
response (I've found that Apache "default" has more than half a dozen
install screen choices alone, and Apache "custom" install offers a
dozen-and-a-half screens plus at least 5 changeable areas - Apache HTTP
Server, Apache Runtime, Build Headers and Libraries, APR Iconv Code
Pages, and Apache Documentation - and produces 1,140 files IF all goes
well, and PHP has 144 installation screen decisions to make after which
I got 14 errors and a no way to confirm that PHP was actually installed
successfully and supportive of anything, and MySQL and MediaWiki and
PHPMyAdmin each have dozens more challenges where the uninitiated can
get lost).

And also document the exact responses an installer must decide on at
each screen, and also explore the determinants of why an installer would
make one choice or another.

And include installation exception handling and error recovery.

And once any installation completes, include how to confirm that the
installation was successful, that it is then appropriate to move on the
next steps knowing that all previous steps are properly in place.


Oh, and that "...the wiki is not set up, and that you need to do that
first.  Click the appropriate link and then fill in form..." has 25
choices the inexperienced novice newbie has to guess about with scant
little explanation (and no examples), then later wonder if something
doesn't work, was it their choices that went wrong ... or what? 

Let's just all admit that a:

"...contemporaneous, complete, accurate, *linking steps and confirmation
checks* for [installing] the entire suite of OS/WS/DB/PI/WP/E&E..." 

...ain't out there, and it's up to Peter Blaise to do it if he wants one
(unless someone beats me to it?).

I understand the challenge.  I once documented a 70-second task setting
up a new user on a network and on their private workstation, and it took
2 hours to accurately document very screen, menu choice, and proper
answer, handle exceptions and so on, and test it so a novice could
follow the steps and do it from there.  

I appreciate many people think it totally unnecessary, or too hard, a
waste of time ... and that a brief cheat sheet is enough for them.  


Anybody else?

- Peter Blaise

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