My first weeks with XWiki: thoughts and impressions

12 May 2022 5 min read

Written by

Alexandra Nicolae

, Account Manager

Coming from a non-technical background and environment, the first thought of interacting with a piece of software can sound a bit daunting. However, in this case, all worries were carefully stacked away into folders and subfolders that I gradually labeled as ''problem solved'' thanks to an organized, honest, and friendly approach and it was a matter of hours before I got to play with creating my first, very own draft of a knowledge base.

  • First steps to understanding anything:
    • An organized approach and a carefully curated thought process
      • Understanding the theory
        • Applying it through practice, practice, practice

If this format looks familiar to you, or just easy to make sense of, congratulations! You're one step closer to understanding exactly why and how XWiki has such useful features. 

First off, what better way to understand exactly how a well-organized approach can help save time, prevent issues, and create a more enjoyable user experience than through practice? One of the first things I have done is to create my very own XWiki instance, which I started customizing for a very hands-on learning experience.

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Parent and Children Pages make happy families

Like I mentioned, some of the most important things to first understand are Pages and their hierarchy. The standard template Page can become whatever is needed, and classifying data into categories and subcategories is as easy as it gets when you have a Parent Page and Children. Think of it as a digital file cabinet, flawlessly organized into colored folders and carefully labeled so that no information is lost or hard to find. 

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The easy-to-implement Parent-Children Livetable Macro can facilitate navigation and turn wikis into an organized person's dream.

DIY App

You can only imagine the excitement I felt when I figured out that I can create a collaborative web app without extensive technical knowledge. Inspired by a small incident of an order having never arrived, I imagined what the process of keeping track of shipments could look like et voila! Fully customizable entries, with standard templates, to start from and just like that, the theory of numerous features can be visualized as practical use cases, all created from scratch using the App Within Minutes Application. PS: it's in the name and keeps its promise to make an app come to life within minutes!

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Tailored code and flattering features

As I've discovered, custom becomes more than just a keyword when there are over 600 extensions to choose from. The possibilities for creating your very own wiki are bordering on endless. Whether you want to update the look and feel or carefully curate and manage access rights or integrate analytics (yes, Google Analytics too) into your wiki, there is most definitely a setting or extension which can help you with that. 

With many other extensions and so many other methods to enrich the way you organize data, it's been an interesting ride and through time, you're guaranteed to be able to become an expert-level user and step up their wiki game.

After all, why shouldn't software be fashionable when attention to detail is such a valuable asset?

The Welcome Party

Of course, a beginner's journey can be difficult at first, but that is not the case when you've got teammates not only eager to help you and talk about their experience in turn, let alone be happy when you bug them with questions. A really cute metaphor for all the questions popping up is the typical code bug: you acknowledge it, you understand it and you solve it, only to learn from it. I like to think of all learning experiences this way because the path to progress lies straight ahead. Naturally, the learning curve is never linear or constant but with consistent support, it can be eased into and turned into something fun.

With the invaluable support of wonderful people across more than just one team, I'm managing to do more than just grasp the concept and slowly getting into the serious stuff. Here are a few tips & tricks I picked up along the way:

Don't be afraid to explore around

Transparency is one of the core values of Open Source technology and that is reflected in everyday tasks and activities. At first, it is only natural to explore around and fathom how exactly everything is organized, whether it's code archives, HR-related stuff, and activities, or even your own profile, but this becomes more than just a habit over time: it's the modus operandi for knowing your way across the internal tool and neatly arranged files.

Communication is key

As cliché, as it may sound, openly communicating, is indeed the solution for both the team and external users in all cases. Starting from the onboarding process, when friendly faces as first points of contact make the transition into the team more than easy, to witnessing other teams expertly handle day-to-day challenges, an honest and open approach have built a strong base and provide constant structure for fruitful collaborations.

Asking questions gets answers

Whether it's directly asking a more experienced teammate or looking up anything in the search bar, any question is bound to get an answer. Personally, my first stop was the XWiki blog , which is really an amazing archive that can give solutions to questions you haven't even thought of yet. Another great solution is having a look through the discussion forum where there are plenty of tips and tricks coming from XWikiers and external contributors. After all, that's the beauty of Open Source.

Final thoughts

Last but not least, we've all read various articles and opinions on social media, ranging from wild conspiracy theories to reasonable future predictions about how Web 2.0, our current digital playground, is evolving and slowly transitioning to Web 3.0. This makes me wonder what the future will look like, but one can only hope to see the values they believe in - transparency, independence, and organic growth - reflected into daily practices for all internet users just as well as they reflect in the XWiki culture.

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