[Pmwiki-users] More on attachments

Patrick R. Michaud pmichaud at sci.tamucc.edu
Thu Nov 21 18:10:45 CST 2002

On Thu, 21 Nov 2002, Dawn Green wrote:

> > ready to make the leap to user-authored stylesheets just yet (although
> > I've toyed with the idea many times).
> You say that your audience is "naive authors".  I guess that is a major
> question for me...is your target audience those that will set the software
> up or those that will do the actual "authoring"?  What direction do you hope
> to go in the future regarding ease of set-up for the truly naive
> (programmers or not), if any?

Excellent question.  I think I've mentioned this before but it's
worth repeating--I think of PmWiki in terms of two audiences: "wiki users" 
are the folks who generate web content (and soon will be able to upload 
attachments), and "wiki admininistrators" are the folks who install and
setup PmWiki.  In some senses it could be claimed that as the primary 
developer of PmWiki I should only have wiki administrators as my target 
audience, and wiki users are the target audience for the administrators.
But what really makes PmWiki useful to wiki administrators is that I've 
put a lot consideration into creating a tool that is usable by wiki
users, so I have to keep the needs of both audiences in mind as I'm
creating PmWiki.

Within the "wiki users" audience I see that there are "naive authors"
and "experienced authors".  "Naive authors" are the folks who use wiki 
to generate content but probably know next-to-nothing about HTML, much 
less style sheets or PHP or the like.  Naive authors are easily 
discouraged from generating web content if they have to wade through 
markup text that has lots of funny and cryptic symbols in them.  I believe 
that if you want a site with lots of contributors, you have to be very
careful not to do things that would cause this group to be excluded.

"Experienced authors" are the folks who know a lot about HTML and 
could write their content as HTML, but have chosen to use wiki because 
of its other useful features (ease of linking, collaboration, ease of 
updates, revision histories, etc.) or because they want to collaborate
with naive authors.   Experienced authors usually don't have any problem 
with documents with lots of ugly markup in them; after all, they already
know HTML.  However, experienced authors are sometimes frustrated with 
wiki because it doesn't have markup that would let them do something 
they know they can do in HTML (e.g., tables, stylesheets, colored text, 
etc.).  And, they sometimes have difficulty understanding why naive
authors would turn away from documents that have lots of markup sequences
in them.

For the "wiki administrator" audience--the folks who install and may want
to customize PmWiki--their backgrounds and goals are often quite diverse.  
PmWiki is designed so that it can be installed and and be useful with minimal 
HTML/PHP knowledge, but it doesn't restrict people who know HTML/PHP from 
doing some fairly complex things.  For one, PmWiki allows a site 
administrator to build-in markup sequences and features customized to 
his/her needs (and the needs of his/her audiences).

Thus, to get back to your question about what direction I hope to
go in the future regarding ease of setup for truly naive, I'm going
to continue to implement features that are consistent with the
PmWikiPhilosophies.  In this, I work hard to keep naive authors in mind
as new features are proposed and implemented, often to the frustration
of expert authors and wiki administrators who want PmWiki to do bigger
and better things.  To these latter groups it often seems that naive
authors can simply not use the complex markup sequences, but if
complex/ugly markup sequences are available then they will eventually be used
by someone, and once used they become a barrier to the naive authors.
So, if I see that something could become a barrier to a naive author
I don't include it in base PmWiki, but instead find ways to let wiki
administrators include it as a local customization.

Beyond this, ease of setup is one of PmWiki's main "selling points" (and
PmWiki Philosophy #5).  I'm continually told by lots of people at how 
pleasantly surprised they are about how easy it is to install and 
configure PmWiki.  There's no question that I'll be adding more features 
to ease the customization of PmWiki--right now the feature that PmWiki 
most desperately needs is good documentation about the various ways it 
can be customized by wiki administrators.  That will probably be
one of my highest development priorities over the next couple of weeks,
and it's a big job because there are so many customization options

I have a ton more I could (and probably will eventually) write on this
topic, but have to run to a meeting now.  Did anything I wrote in the long
paragraphs above answer the basic question?


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