DIY Wikipedia

Wikipedia runs on MediaWiki.
My wiki does too.

Installing mediawiki

I use a third party installer which is packaged with my website hosting package. Basically, I created a subsystem, then installed MediaWiki there. In the current version of MediaWiki, many extensions are already installed. For myself I have added: CiteThisPage, Cite, WikiEditor, and TitleKIey. You can look up the instructions for installation by typing the name of the extension and then search for them on MediaWiki. So for instance: ‘ CiteThisPage’ lives here. Installation usally involves downloading the extension file from somwhere, unzipping it then transferring the contents to the special-name directory within the extensions directory. This also needs to be uploaded to the server. Next, there usually are some statements that need adding to LocalSettings.php (and uploading to the server) I use Adobe Dreamweaver for both steps.


Extrension are bits of software which extend the functionality of MediaWiki. Some extensions are prepackaged with MediaWiki (depending on the version).

Installed extensions

The extensions I have added are for:

  • CiteThisPage : adding a “cite this page’ box to a wikipage
  • Cite: adding inline citation info. A full bibliography is listed at the end of the wiki-article.
  • WikiEditor: a wysiwyg editor, or as near to one as MediaWiki has been able to create it.
  • TitleKey: looking up terms without worring about upper or lowercase
  • DebugMode, for getting more information when MediaWiki displays errors

I had some trouble with getting the extensions to work, but that was largely due to not reading the instructions properly. There was one issue which was suprising: the WordFence plugin from the WordPress installation in the parent directry blocked things within the MediaWiki installation. I solved this by unblocking myself from the so called blocked attacks.

Problem extensions

Did I say that MediaWiki is not user-friendly? That would be an understatement. It is terrible. Almost all instructions are aimed at programmers (which I do not even try to follow because I have no idea how to run commands on the server of my hosting provider). The instructions that are aimed at “normal” people tend to be in response to some problem or other and invariably don’t work after a while. Which noone will tell you, so getting anything to work is a big investment, time-wise, with no guarantee for success.

Upgrading the MediaWiki database

There is a very important command, to upgrade any database files after a software upgrade, and the instructions are devilishly hard to find and even harder to understand because instructions like these are all aimed at programmers with ordinary people tacked on as an afterthought. Basically, you need to run the mw-config file which is in the same directory as the initial wikipage, making sure that you contine to the second page and rebuild the tales.

Exporting/importing pages

If you want to get templates, codes, modules from the “real” Wikipedia or from one of its derivatives, this is done by first exporting the page from the source MediaWiki installation and then importing it into your own. The problem is they may wreck your installation and what is worse there is no easy way to get them out. For pages you create yourself you may use the extension “nuke” which is prepackaged and only needs activating, but that extension does not work for imported templates. So: removing them one by one is the only and very laborious solution.

Personal tweaks

  • I have changed the mediawiki logo to my own. Here is how to do this. It boils down to uploading your new logo file to MediaWiki using the ‘upload file’ command on the left hand site of any mediawiki installaton. It has to be the right size. Then you change the LocalSettings.php file to refer to the correct file and location.
  • I quite like the default appearance which is called the Vector ‘skin’, so I left this statement in LocalSettings.php : $wgDefaultSkin = “vector”;
  • Because my wiki is mine and I am not currently collaborating, I added a line to prevent creating of new access. This page explains how this is done.
  • I have not succeeded in getting MediaWiki to accept HTML files. The helpdesk just gave up, after giving a few answers which did not work.. A pity, but not sufficient reason to give up on MediaWiki altogether.

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