Version 2 Syndrome

by pieterh on 06 Jul 2009 15:31

About a year ago we did two things which were very important for anyone using Wikidot. First, we sat down and designed a new way of showing pages, which became the ListPages module and the dynamic template system.

If you've not used this module, you need to try, because it gives you something like the power of a database in your wiki. In fact, I wanted to rename ListPages to Select, and may still get my wish. "Select from=category where=tags orderby=something"… it just feels properly familiar.

ListPages and (the new, improved) templates changed the way we make dynamic Wikidot projects. Before that, we depended on forums, and the FrontForum module. But forums are not really integrated into Wikidot - you can't tag forum posts, you can't attach files, you can't use templates - and though we're used to using forums for online discussion, they fit uncomfortably into the Wikidot world.

One of my ongoing projects is to build a package that imitates forums but does it using plain Wikidot categories and pages. When I can reimplement forums, Wikidot starts to look like a tool for building certain types of web application. More than just a wiki, indeed. And we're looking at how to implement web forms (oh yes, this is going to be fun!), so that your users won't have to learn wiki syntax at all, just enter data into fields. I want Wikidot to be a tool that we can use to build a new kind of application that brings people together at the lowest possible cost.

As we sketched the outlines of ListPages and dynamic templating, we also looked at where we'd been spending our effort over the year before that. You may have noticed, if you're a long time Wikidot user, that the product stagnated while we planned and worked on Wikidot 2. Wikidot 2 was meant to be the ultimate Wiki engine, but it got stuck in "version 2" syndrome. What starts as a crystal clear vision turns into a "change everything" project that goes nowhere, and slowly.

So the same day we designed ListPages and templates, we did that second important thing, and killed Wikidot 2.

I don't like massive changes. Michal will confirm that my mantra is "make small, simple changes, and then improve over time". I really like the way Wikidot has been moving towards becoming an ultimate communication platform for online projects. The code is not perfect, but it works really well, it's fast, and it's stable. Michal and his team are among the best programmers on the planet. You can, if you doubt this, download the open source version and look at it.

The goals of Wikidot 2 were honourable but we were failing to improve the tools people used and depended on every day. When the current product has no more bugs, and no more obvious things to improve, and when we have a stable and profitable business that gives us enough margin, we'll start on a fresh Wikidot 2.0 design.

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