The Oddmuse Wiki Engine

Wikis are fun and useful. Try one on for size by installing Alex Schroeder's Oddmuse.

Now that your Oddmuse wiki is up and running, you can customize it as much as you like. Some configuration is accomplished through the wiki itself, such as locking pages or the entire site if you don't want an open wiki.

In order to perform configuration changes and other administrative functions by way of the wiki, you need to authenticate yourself as an administrator. To do so, you must visit the password page. There's no link to the password page by default, so you must go to the following URL manually: You must substitute your own hostname and path, of course. Also, the Oddmuse CGI program in the above example URL is called current.cgi per the Oddmuse wrapper script installation instructions. Once you're authenticated, you can use the special menu items that appear in the footer of every page to make the configuration changes you desire.

Other changes are implemented by editing the script itself. A number of configuration variables can be changed to suit your preferences. If you elected to use an external configuration file, you can change configuration variables there instead.

The Web site provides detailed explanations of all configuration variables. Some examples of what they control include the name of the wiki, which stylesheet to use, the URL of your logo, what's displayed in the footer of every page and so on.

I'm glad Schroeder included CSS support in Oddmuse, because it makes altering the layout and appearance of a wiki much easier than it otherwise would have been. Once the wiki was up and running, I spent a few minutes experimenting with changes to the stylesheet until the wiki looked the way I wanted.

Beyond that, you can make significant additional changes to the wiki by using the available modules and extensions or even by writing your own. See the Oddmuse Web site for a full list of modules and extensions. If you want to, you even can make Oddmuse behave like a blogging system.

Bringing the Wiki to Life

Once you're satisfied with your wiki installation and configuration, you can begin creating pages. But before you do, I strongly recommend that you read the Text Formatting Rules section of the Oddmuse Web site. Once you know the rules, creating and editing pages is easy to do, but it's invaluable to know what you can accomplish by using those rules.

As founder of a new wiki, you need to know more than only the details of the technology. A successful wiki depends on the participation of contributors, and the social component needs to be cared for as much as any of the technical components. This complicates things significantly. After all, social communities don't come in tarballs with makefiles! You need to encourage and entice people to participate, and you need to nurture the community that grows around the wiki. This takes time and is hardly a precise science.

Fortunately, founders of other wikis have taken the time to write about their experiences. One excellent resource is the WikiLifeCycle page on the MeatballWiki (see the on-line Resources). In it you can learn about best practices for attracting contributors, choosing a name, establishing effective boundaries, defining the mission or goal of the wiki, shaping behavioral norms, preventing stagnation and so on. Now, armed with a well-configured wiki and a grasp of the nontechnical, social issues, the road to a thriving wiki lies open before you.

Resources for this article:

Brian Tanaka has been a UNIX system administrator since 1994 and has worked for companies such as The Well, SGI, Intuit and RealNetworks. He can be reached at



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Spam blocking in OddMuse

Bayle Shanks's picture

OddMuse also has an excellent spam-blocking system, including a list of "blacklisted content" (lists of regular expressions which cannot appear in posts), and a way to back out recent changes which weren't blacklisted at the time but which now are (because you just updated the blacklist). There is also a script which can be run as a cronjob to automatically merge in someone else's content blacklist, allowing the creation of federated/network blacklists -- for instance, you can keep up-to-date by merging in the OddMuse documentation wiki's blacklist.

(for technical reasons I only update the blacklist manually on my personal website, but on other sites I administer I use the cronjob, and it's amazing how little spam gets through -- spam that does get through is easily taken care of by updating the blacklist and running the de-spammer)

wiki problem

Anonymous's picture

Anybody who can tell me how to make a wiki page