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TWiki Knowledgebase For Advanced R&D

TWikiPackage for use as a knowledge base for a scientific/engineering research group of about 200 people in a small company environment

What's the main purpose of this TWikiPackage?

The main purpose is defined as follows: This TWikiPackage will be an application from which different kinds of knowledge can be disseminated in a clear, structured and transparent manner. Knowledge types might include:
  • general scientific principles
  • practical approaches to using scientific principles
  • facts
  • definitions
  • workflow documents
  • Q&A / FAQ management


  • It is assumed that the Knowledge Base is located on a corporate intranet, i.e. behind a firewall. Therefore, spamming, hacking etc. is considered less of a problem here.
  • It is assumed that the users will be intelligent when it comes to things other than IT stuff, and complete idiots when it comes to using TWiki.
  • Applications other than Knowledge Management are not considered (like personal calenders, project management facilities and other 'office management' stuff), but can be added through different TWiki

What should this type of TWikiDistribution be capable of?


  • Non-IT users should feel comfortable - only training required for the wiki features (so e.g. no training required to use 'Search')
  • Easily edit very long topics
  • Search intuitively, e.g. like in Google, with search results ordered by relevance
  • Clearly indicate the place of the topic in the topic structure(s)
  • Easily include pictures/figures
  • Shorter URLs without the "cgi-bin/view/" part

Gaining trust in the TWiki content

  • Clear indication of topic history - both meta data (who did what when?) and view of textual changes
  • Optionally have assigned 'knowledge domain experts' authorize certain topic revisions
  • Also show the state of authorization on the topic page

Aiding the assigned TWiki editors and enthusiasts

  • Be able to label different types of content:
    • definition, fact, scientific theory, problem solving strategy
    • names of different knowledge domains in use in the corporation
  • e-mail notification (whole site and per category)
  • Options for easy bibliography management
  • Have a way of indicating the age of the entry and a search to encourage updating of out of date entries that are still relevant.

Other functionality

  • creation of PDF versions and static HTML versions of (parts of) the wiki
  • automatic numbering of headings
  • automatic numbering of common tags (e.g. figure, table)

Useful in some environments

  • Easily include math equations
  • A question-and-answer store for Requests for Information (RFIs) with approval system: anyone can submit a new entry, but some can be approved by e.g. product management. A FormattedSearch makes it easy to see which entries are approved vs. draft.

Elements that define this TWikiDistribution


After the discussion in TWikiDistributionHowToDiscussion I thought I'd just start one of these topics and see where it goes. If noone joins in, this will just become my personal note book as I get along in installing using TWiki. I hope not though smile

-- JosMaccabiani - 15 Apr 2005

Erm, I'm an engineer, and I can't remember the last time I used a math equation in a wiki page.

You forgot "completely anal access controls to satisfy the corporate audit weanies"

And change notification - generally regarded as important in this sort of application.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 15 Apr 2005

Math equations: maybe i should clarify, i'm a geotechnical engineer on the R&D side of things. So in a knowledge base (vs work breakdown base) we'll heavily use math equations (once i've got it working finally)

Access controls: add it if you want smile my company isn't big enough to go for that sort of thing. As long as history and possibly 'authorizing' the contents of a topic works easily.

I'll add change notification (but I assume that won't be taken out of the core soon smile

By the way: is this topic ever going to be useful to anyone?

-- JosMaccabiani - 15 Apr 2005

This sounds useful, particularly if broadened slightly to cover all types of technical work, including software development and software product support. I've built this sort of knowledge base with TWiki myself and it has proven very useful.

One variant of this was a question-and-answer store for Requests for Information (RFIs), which frequently ask similar questions - there, the idea was that anyone could submit a new entry, but some would be approved by product management. A FormattedSearch made it easy to see which entries were approved vs. draft.

Also, for time-sensitive knowledge (e.g. based on product versions) it's useful to have a way of indicating the age of the entry and perhaps a search to encourage updating of out of date entries that are still relevant.

-- RichardDonkin - 16 Apr 2005

Yes, it'll be useful, but (to use Patent-lawyer speak) the claims are too broad; you need a less generic title and a summary statement, e.g.

TWiki Knowledgebase For Advanced R&D

TWiki configured for use as a knowledge base for a math-oriented research group in a small company environment.

As for relevance; yes, it's very interesting. I work with one installation which has similar requirements, though without the math; that is a TWiki used by a team of gene technologists. Their principle concerns are (1) organising the analysis of large amounts of experimental data (2) providing a knowledgebase for licensees (2) potential patent protection (4) project management. They also need all the other stuff associated with a bleeding edge R&D group e.g. publishing support such as bibliographies and static HTML and PDF generation, personal calendars, blogs etc. etc.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 16 Apr 2005

Richard, I'm very interested in the Q&A store. Many RFI's at our company are e-mails to all@ourPLEASENOSPAM.company. The requester recieves a lot of useful info, but he's the only one.

At present, we've succesfully introduced a culture in which knowledge requesters add a [specific_codeword] to the subject of an e-mail. All e-mail with that codeword (including the Replies) are copied into a seperate IMAP folder.

Eventually we will need to store the refactored Q&As somewhere - preferably TWiki. Could you elaborate a bit on how you implemented this? (not just the technical side, also how the corporate approval process works). Thanks.

PS: for now I narrowed the scope, as per CrawfordCurrie's suggestion. If there are specific differences with software support, perhaps that's a reason for a TWikiForSoftwareSupport TWikiPackage?

-- JosMaccabiani - 16 Apr 2005

  • Added automatic numbering of headings and some other tags, e.g. figures and tables, so topics might be combined to form a publication.
  • Users will prbably like shorter URLs without the /cgi-bin/[state] part

-- JosMaccabiani - 16 Apr 2005

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Topic revision: r9 - 2005-04-16 - JosMaccabiani
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