Teflpedia:Starting a wiki
If you are thinking of starting a wiki you will probably already be aware of some of the following. This article was originally written by the founder of Teflpedia but others are welcome to contribute.
In general, you have a number of options with regard to the software and the hosting. Typically, the cheaper and easier things are, then the less control you have over the technical side.
Wiki farm[edit source]
The simplest way to create a wiki is to use a "wiki farm" like wikia, bluwiki or wikidot In order to create a wiki in such places you may first have to present a proposal, or you may simply be able to start one up.
In general they will have some way to monetize the process. For instance, in the case of wikia they will put advertisements of their choice on your wiki and you will have to pay to get rid of them.
Such sites vary, but you will have less technical control than you would have over a full Mediawiki installation, on the other hand you should also have fewer technical problems.
Before using one of these sites you should check up on the possibilities of subsequently moving your wiki to another site in case the need arises in the future. For instance, if your wiki becomes immensity popular and you wish more technical control of it for some reason.
Simple wiki[edit source]
If you want to be more technical you can set up a different type of "wiki" software. Some of these are simpler to operate than a full mediawiki installation.
Finally, you can take the bull by the horns, buy some hosting, and set up your own mediawiki installation. Many people may want to do that as it will give them the same “look and feel” as Wikipedia. But it’s a trade off of low cost and simplicity against higher cost and more complexity.
Another advantage of a Mediawiki installation is, that for people used to Wikipedia, it will quickly begin to look like a "real" wiki.
Other considerations[edit source]
Before starting up there are various other issues you will need to consider.
Let’s imagine that your wiki becomes amazingly big and successful and you think that you could be able to make money from donations or advertisements – or even sell the project. If you’re locked into a wikifarm then that will not be possible. You would also want to consider the implications of running a non-Mediawiki installation.
You will also want to decide on the copyright status of the wiki. Currently many wikis are under Creative Commons By-Attribution Share-Alike license as that means they can share content with Wikipedia and each other. But that means that the contributions to the wiki don't actually belong to you but continue to belong to the original editors - whether this will cause you a problem in the future depends on your ideas for the future of you wiki and its content.
If you happy about people using your content without any attribution whatsoever then you can make it Public Domain. It may be easier to start off Public Domain and go to a more restrictive licence later than go in the other direction.
Namespaces and categories[edit source]
While you can set these up after you have your installation up and running it is a good idea to spend some time thinking about it beforehand. Most articles will go by default into Mainspace, but you many have a need for other major spaces as well.
Categories are a lot more flexible and can be created on the fly.
Purpose and limitations[edit source]
You should think about and have these clear in your mind before you start. You can always change things later but you should begin with a clear written goal.
Technical knowledge[edit source]
If you want to run mediawiki you need to be prepared to open up the code a bit and do things to it. This is the only way to install mediawiki extensions and you will want to do that. It’s not exactly difficult, but editing code is a bit hair-raising if you’re not used to it.
Some wikis are highly customised and have specially written extensions. Others - like Teflpedia - are more barebones. If you know next to nothing about the technical side of wikis then you would be well advised to find some friends with some technical knowledge to help you out.
Cost and Teflpedia's hosting company[edit source]
So let’s imagine that you want to set up a media wiki. You need a host. Teflpedia started with UKHOST's copper plan which was a surprisingly reasonable £29.99 a year.
That was fine for Teflpedia's needs, but when Teflpedia hosted another wiki for a while it wasn’t enough. You can see the sudden peak in usage in August 2009 Teflpedia:Statistics. Although the peak in the actual number number of visits was not vast, our visitors uploaded and downloaded a large number of image files which had the result of burning through our bandwidth is a couple of weeks.
Around the end of 2010 we had to move up to paying £40 per year as we became more popular.
Teflpedia's owner has always found their "live chat" people at UKhost to be very helpful and there are some reasonable tutorials as well. There is also a forum where you can find some helpful people. The people on the invoicing side seem a bit less sympathetic .
You also need to register a domain name but you can probably do that at reasonable cost through your hosting company. You might wish to protect your chosen name by registering more than one domain and redirecting them to your chosen one: .org, .com, .eu or .co.uk for example.
Setting up Teflpedia[edit source]
If you want to follow the (sometimes embarrassing) trials and tribulations of setting up Teflpedia read these threads:
Anybody glancing at those threads will understand how much you need to find out if you're starting from scratch.
In fact the hosting help desk set up the wiki on behalf of Teflpedia - which was not their job, but they probably took pity on a techno-newbie. Nevertheless, it might be better for new owners to attempt to set up the software themselves as they will learn more about it.