Back at the last CodeFest, Marc Laporte, project admin for the TikiWiki project, held a meetup to get feedback on TikiWiki.

Codefest php Quebec meetup for TikiWiki

TikiWiki is at its core a Wiki engine, but now has many features, perhaps one of the most feature-rich wiki and CMS avalaible. Marc Laporte said they have been adding features for the past years, welcoming contributors, with new innovative features ahead. One of the issue he mentionned though was that the lack of visibility of TikiWiki by developers & users alike. One recent report stated that the most popular CMS are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, 3 other open source content management systems, with fantastic growth and expanding developer community. All other CMS software like TikiWiki were all part of the “2nd tier”, with much less visibility and momentum.

One of my immediate reaction was that the success of these software is mainly due to their plugin architecture and also their themes extensibility. I said to Marc and other TikiWiki developers (LP) that it allowed third-party developers to develop extra-functionality that the core team wouldn’t judge essential to the project. This point-of-view isn’t new or necessarily mine of course, I must have seen it written thousands of times on the Web, and experienced it myself when doing Joomla / WordPress websites.

It took me well over 30 minutes to realize that the TikiWiki developers didn’t see the “core + 3rd party plugin extensibility” model as immediately obvious in terms of getting better software. Marc Laporte said he preferred to give new contributors commit rights, add features to the TikiWiki codebase, with making everyone agreeing on the developed features. If a service provider has a client request for a new feature, then the community’s policy was always to ask the service provider to develop it him/herself and add it to TikiWiki.

This collaboration method is bound to create a huge monolithic software after a while, and that’s exactly where TikiWiki is right now. They’ve got pretty much everything you would be looking for in a CMS/groupware/web application, with hundreds of configuration pages possible, with forums, blogs, groups, maps, calendars, end-user programming, etc., covering pretty much any situation

Interestingly, Marc calls it “Software Development, the Wiki way”. Regardless of skill, experience, anyone is welcomed to contribute and add code together, in the same way that every Wikipedia page is authored by hundreds, possibly thousands of contributors.

You can’t dismiss this approach — after all who would have predicted that Wikipedia’s collaboration model would have worked? I wouldn’t, and many others would have bet on having domain experts authoring articles instead, in the same way that we expect today having a lead developer for every plugin, module or piece of software. In that light, the only thing TikiWiki has to do to get significant traction is perhaps just better marketing. And of course, getting an architecture that would allow anyone to ship code in the wiki way, without breaking the whole system.

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