Simple Farm: MediaWiki extension review

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http://mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:Simple_Farm

Simple Farm is an extension for the website software MediaWiki, used to run Wikipedia, that allows multiple wikis to be run from the same set of MediaWiki files.  It is ideal for anyone looking to start a website based on a series of wikis.   It is also a useful for creating multiple websites that utilize MediaWiki as a content management system.  You could create several small websites about various topics.  The benefit of MediaWiki is that anyone else can come and contribute to the websites.

I asked Jasper Deng and MediaWiki.org, a user of CentralAuth, the extension Wikipedia uses for combining accounts across wikis, if Simple Farm would work with CentralAuth and he did not think so.  It should still be possible to use shared user tables from the database of a main wiki, though you will need to be sure to always have this wiki open so that the user accounts can be used across the wikis.

This extension requires separate databases for wikis and does not have support for prefixed tables.  It might be necessary to use a VPS for hosting the wiki farm, since many shared web hosts charge for different numbers of databases.  It may also be necessary to ensure that all databases have the same hostname and user.  It might work to have a different database user and hostname for every wiki, since the farm extension processes before the database connection is made.

Useful features:

  • Any configuration settings can be changed or set per wiki.
  • The extension includes a script for running maintenance scripts on all, one, or groups of wikis.
  • Wikis can use completely different domain names and can have multiple domain names.
  • You don’t need to manually remove configuration settings that get overwritten by the farm.  You can just install the extension on a wiki and be ready to go.

Advice:

  • You can create a shell script to simplify the process of creating new wikis.
  • When creating a new wiki, the LocalSettings file must be moved, the new one deleted, and then the old one moved back.
  • If extensions that make database changes are added to the wiki farm, don’t forget to run the update script for any new wikis after creating them.
  • You can use a DNS wildcard to quickly create new wikis without needing to add domain entries or wait for DNS to update.
  • Manually installing the first wiki is recommended so that the LocalSettings file is completely set up.  Then you can install all new wikis from the command line.
  • Custom configuration settings need to be registered with the extension.  Otherwise, wikis can be fully customized as normal.
  • Set a database user to have access to all databases that start with a prefix to be used for the farm, to simplify wiki creation.

Author

Sasha Pavelovich

Assistant sysadmin for Lexipedium

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