[pmwiki-users] RFC: PITS 00701 -- WikiFarm confusion

Stirling Westrup sti at pooq.com
Tue Mar 14 15:23:30 CST 2006

Patrick R. Michaud wrote:
> The following message was just posted to PITS (#00701), and I need
> help coming up with good answers.

> So, I could use some help here from people who have set up
> WikiFarms and struggled with it -- what is it about WikiFarms
> (and the associated documentation) that is confusing?

I specifically chose PmWiki over a large number of other Wikis because
of its farm support. I host something like seven domains on one server,
and I did not want to have more than one installed version of the Wiki
to handle them all.

Before I go any further, I just want to mention how impressed I am with
the software. Its incredibly flexible and customizable. The few times
I've delved into the source to figure something out, I've been impressed
with how well put together it all is.

Anyway, when first installing a PmWiki farm, there were several things I
found complex and confusing about the instructions. To start with, I
didn't already have PmWiki installed, so I had to ignore a bunch of
information about how to convert an existing installation. It may have
been better if this information was broken into its own page, and merely
referenced from the farm instructions.

Secondly, I found something like 4 or 5 different descriptions of
different ways of setting up a farm, but had no way to judge between
them; no idea why one person suggested one thing while someone else
suggested another.

Finally, I took pieces from the various descriptions that seemed to make
sense, and built my farm. I was gratified that it worked immediately on
my test setup, but I soon ran into problems.

The big issue was that the domains are all independent and I'm the only
one with write permission to all of them, and the only one who can write
to the farm directories. What I wanted was the ability for each domain
administrator to be able to install cookbook recipes and skins in their
own fields, so that I wouldn't have to be involved.

That turned out to be simple to do in practice, but I was slowed down by
not being able to find any information on doing that anywhere on
pmwiki.org. I may well write up my findings on PmWiki at some point, but
I fear that will only increase the confusion by adding yet another
description of how to set up a farm.

Recently, I've been encountering a new problem. PmWiki has proven
popular, and some of the domains want to run farms of their own, so that
they can install domain-wide skins and recipes, as well as field-local
customizations. Of course, I still want to have a single installed copy
of the software so as to keep upgrades as simple as they currently are.

I've yet to figure out if such Multi-level farms (farms of farms) are
possible. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if they were trivially
easy, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they require a bunch of
special customization.

In any case, I've been seriously thinking of creating Cookbook.MultiFarm
 so as to document what one has to do, once I figure it out.

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