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MediaWiki – All Powerful, All Annoying

Don’t get me wrong, I love MediaWiki. It’s ‘overkill’ for what I need, but then again, I wanted a stand-alone ‘encyclopedia’ where primarily text based articles were listed, without the ability to comment. And until someone can trim WordPress to run as fast as MediaWiki, I’m sticking with it. Well, that and they need an ‘import from MediaWiki’ tool, cause at 700-odd pages, I’m not doing it by hand. It’s a static website, and it does it’s job well.

But right now, and every time I need to update it, I hate it.

I don’t mind using command line to wget the latest version and unzip it, overlaying the new files atop the old ones. What I mind is having to manually visit the pages for all my extensions, and determine if I need to upgrade or not. It makes me wish for WordPress with the happy ‘Hey, that plugin needs updating!’

See, there’s no admin ‘side’ to MediaWiki, like there is for WordPress, or ZenGallery, or anything else I run on my sites. MediaWiki is for the hardcore people who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. And as a user, I think this is the real problem with the whole thing. Until they make a user friendly admin side of the whole thing, MediaWiki will remain used by the nerdy, the geeky and the techie, rather than the whole world. Part of why WordPress became so popular is they made it not easy, but easier to run your own blog. It’s still got problems, sure, but they made it so you could easily learn how to manage your own site.

And then there’s MediaWiki.

MediaWiki sucks to admin. Like today I found out I could turn on File Caching. That’s great new, I think! I use it for my gallery and my blogs (runs faster among other things). Except that, unlike WordPress (where Donncha’s freakin’ amazing WP Super Cache can clear out files on a scheduled basis) or ZenPhoto (where it runs once a day, or whenever I press ‘clear!’), MediaWiki has no cache expiry. That blew my mind, but seeing as MediaWikis are ‘mostly’ static content, it makes a little sense.

So I turned it on and ran $php maintenance/rebuildFileCache.php which force caches everything. All at once. This is awesome to get your site ‘started’ and all told, it took up about a moderate, but not huge, bit of space.

Also, I was told ‘When you edit a page, the cache is refreshed’ except I did, and it didn’t. Then I was told ‘Add this to your page URL and it will prompt you to recache.’ (this being ?action=purge) except that didn’t either. If I was logged in, it did nothing. If I was logged out, it did, but then I went back and it was still the old page. Finally I sorted out that the cache pages had to be owned by ‘nobody:nobody’ (this isn’t too weird, BTW). The problem NOW is that if they were owned by that, then the script rebuildFileCache.php didn’t work!

So, great, it now works, it now flushs when I edit and save a page. If I run the rebuild command, I’ll have to manually go in and chown the files to nobody, which annoys me, but I have godlike access to the server and I can always fix it. But what if I want to delete everything in the cache? Basically I have to dump the entire folder. Which is annoying, but at least it’s working now.

Why would I have to flush the whole cache? Because I make a formatting change, let’s say. Also, I have advertising on my sites. How does this get affected?

In the end, I’m going to keep the cache running for a month, see how it goes. But it still annoys me how much of this is lacking because of no admin ‘dashboard.’

Then again, that’s MediaWiki. Function over form. All powerful, all annoying.