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Two TWiki Applications under my belt, Going for the Third

2007-10-13 - 02:29:15 by NeilRG in General
I'm a systems administrator and programmer at a non-for-profit working closely with civilian agencies in the US. The organization as a whole is interested in Wikis. I have been able to successfully champion wikis (specifically TWiki) within my own division and among the people I work with.

The first successful TWiki deployment was a large survey application for a government agency. We were able to mold the site using skins and templates into a sleek interface. Auto-generated index pages provided navigation through the use of nested formatted Searches and the ever-useful Spreadsheet plugin. Because TWiki is open, we were able to make a few point modifications to add necessary formatting features to the form system. We were also easily able to integrate additional CGI scripts to handle account management out-of-band and additionally to bring data in and out of the survey application. The customer was very pleased with the site and we were able to deliver it in enough time to meet their schedule. I still field requests for adding new users from the customer even though the survey is officially over!

On the heels of the stand-up of the aforementioned survey system, we became involved in a second structured wiki deployment, this time supporting a technical team inside of our own organization. They were working with complex system models (with hundreds of variables and equations), and they needed to document all the variables (attributes and usage). They needed a collaboration platform that would allow everyone to contribute, with robust reporting capabilities and revision control. A member of the project team suggested the potential use of a wiki. Once I verified that their needs were suitable, I told them about TWiki and demonstrated its data-centric approach and support for wiki application development. Some of the team members were excited, while others still had doubts and wanted to cling to their stodgy Excel spreadsheets and Sharepoint.

I figured the best way to break this trepidation would be to show them a demonstration. Working with the team members who were already on-board, in less than a week's time we had a mock-up running. Over the course of the next few months we iterated the forms and techniques for auto-generating and formatting content for importing into the system from the existing modelling tools. Then we focused on a custom export mechanism (we needed to preserve complex embedded tables and graphs ... the flexibility of TWiki Metadata was instrumental in making intelligent content hinting possible). With each new feature addition, more and more of the team was converted, or at least would admit to the value of the new system. Ultimately, the project staff was comfortable enough using TWiki that they chose to use it as the HEAD branch of these variable definitions, from which they would export and plug them back into the modelling system for validation.

We have gotten so good at TWiki in my group that my boss took notice. She wants us to create a task management/project tracking/asset tracking system using TWiki where we can collaborate with our stakeholders internally. That, and to move our intranet site into TWiki as well. I am very excited and have been waiting for an excuse to pull out all the stops and play with all the new plugins available in 4.1 and 4.2!

-- NeilRG - 13 Oct 2007


PeterThoeny - 16 Oct 2007:

Thanks Neil for sharing your story with the TWikiCommunity! After all these years I am still amazed on the many different types of StructuredWiki applications people build.


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Topic revision: r3 - 2007-10-16 - PeterThoeny

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