[MediaWiki-l] Reorganizing your wiki when the whole world changes...?

Greg Rundlett (freephile) greg at freephile.com
Wed Nov 12 18:59:00 UTC 2014

On Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 9:45 AM, Daniel Barrett <danb at vistaprint.com> wrote:

> Imagine the impact on Wikipedia if, say, the periodic table of the
> elements from chemistry was completely revamped, changing the name of every
> element, the groupings of elements, etc. It's easy enough to fix the
> Periodic Table<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodic_table> article, but
> what about the thousands of other articles<
> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ASearch&profile=default&search=hydrogen&fulltext=Search>
> that include the word "hydrogen"? They are all instantly wrong. Fortunately
> this doesn't happen often!
> However, this kind of situation happens all the time in companies that
> have internal MediaWiki sites. The company reorganizes, changing the names
> and missions of all the teams, repartitioning into groups that don't map
> one-to-one with the old teams. Suddenly, in one second, thousands of wiki
> articles are wrong.
> I'm wondering if anybody has been successful at getting a company wiki to
> survive this kind of change...?
> My company has a very successful wiki with 200,000 topics, and these
> company reorganizations are extremely destructive to the wiki. Thousands of
> article titles contain the names of teams. Tens of thousands of articles
> include team names in their content. Every article that doesn't get fixed
> is an error, waiting to confuse a new employee.
> Automatic search-and-replace does not really help except in the simplest
> cases.
> We've mostly relied on recategorization and mass article renaming, both
> using Pywikibot. But this does not fix the article content. In an ideal
> world, each page would have an "owner" who would take the initiative to fix
> the content; but in companies, everybody is busy with other work, and pages
> don't really have owners... some were even written by ex-employees.
> Any suggestions appreciated!
> DanB

 (Just saw this now.)

The Replace Text extension works pretty well, and even warns about
conversions that can't be undone [1]
http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:Replace_Text  Perhaps that's what
you're referring to when you mention automatic search and replace.

One thing I do is to create and use templates like {{CompanyName}},
{{PrimaryDomain}}, {{EngineeringTeam}} so that you can use them throughout
the wiki and update the template if ACME Widgets changes to ACME Rocket
Motors due to merger, acquisition etc.  The problem then becomes the
glossary of tokens and getting people to use them.  You don't want to get
too obscure because that would be a pain, but it's pretty easy to
occasionally use the Replace Text extension to find new instances of ACME
Widgets popping up in article content.

[1] If you want to replace "ACME Widgets" with "ACME Rocket Engines" and
Replace_Text finds existing occurrences of  "ACME Rocket Engines", then it
warns you that you may not be able to undo the replacement.

Greg Rundlett

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