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A tour of Michelle's Wiki Laboratory

I use a separate wiki space to prototype and pressure-test features before implementing them in other spaces.

As a new wiki space admin, I went through a clumsy phase, leaving a trail of broken pages, clunky CSS and missing search boxes behind me. I tried to control the chaos by using the “Wiki Admin” page as a sandbox…bad idea, promptly broke it…then corralled it under the “Wiki Admin Working Page”….then swept the whole mess under the “Wiki Admin Tasks GOOD PAGE.” (Ahem.) I realized I’d outgrown my sandbox and needed an entire space to thrash around in, especially since I had some space-wide changes in mind.

I could have requested a shiny, fresh new space, but I discovered an empty space from an R&D project that had been superseded by another. “Can I have your space?” I asked the admins. “Sure,” they said. So I moved in.

michelle_wiki_lab.png

The home page includes most recent updates and the pages in the two most active sections, as well as a cautionary note that some pages aren’t working right (yet). (And the drawing looks like me, a little.)

Almost all of the tests and experiments come from actual use cases: things people want to do in the regular lab space, often involving listing, organizing, navigation or formatting. Some are more like a “learning lab” where I master some code or add-on anticipating a future use or improvement.

The Wiki Laboratory has more uses than I expected:

  • Sandboxing add-ons and macros

  • Experimenting with space-wide appearance changes such as colors, header, footer and sidebar elements

  • Testing anything that could confuse or irritate users (like drop-down menus at the top of the page, scrolling marquee text, garish colors, etc.)

  • Experimenting with CSS which can affect the appearance of more things than I expected

  • Demo pages for training and coaching

  • Example pages for specific macros (when finished, these are moved to a separate help space for everyone’s reference)

  • Backup copies of pages from other spaces I want to continue dissecting, tinkering with and learning from

  • Various tests and experiments (this is the most active section)

  • MS Word import tests (which create new pages and thus notifications)

  • Some knowledge management pages that don’t have a home yet

  • Any page I know I’m going to edit the snot out of, so people can’t hear it scream for mercy.

Any Confluence user can view the pages in the space, but only some people can edit them. I’ve granted admin access to a few trusted system admins and superusers. If someone wants to know “how the sausage gets made,” they can copy any page to their own space and take it from there.

There are a few rules I follow in the Wiki Laboratory, for everyone’s safety.

  • Every page has a descriptive title (not just gjslkdfjkjlskjflksdfj) and an excerpt, so I can remember what I was trying to do at the time. Macro names must appear in the title.

  • Related pages are kept together in the page tree. All my UML diagrams are in the same area since I copy back and forth.

  • Limit the number of macro test / example pages in play. Learn what you’re gonna learn, push the example page to the help wiki, and call it done.

  • Use placeholder text not actual project names, in case someone searches the entire wiki and finds pages in my space. (There are a lot of cheese, snack and fish pages in the Laboratory.)

  • Do not leave open flames unattended and never leave the Laboratory while the Bunsen burner is on.

Some of the things I’ve tested in the Wiki Laboratory:

  • A search box that appears on every page

  • Text in the header bar to point out the “page from template” button

  • Panels and buttons with shading, gradients, etc.
    button_examples.png

  • Displaying page listings in multiple columns

  • Putting emojis in page titles (too distracting)

  • Prototypes of page properties and page properties reports combinations

  • “Discussion forum” built with Reporting

  • Horrifyingly ugly orange and magenta drop-down menus

  • A super-annoying (but extremely effective) notification box featuring the “marching ants” CSS effect and a kitten
    marching_ants_kitten.png

  • Various flavors of pop-ups and tooltips.

The Wiki Laboratory frees me up to make stupid mistakes, build ugly or messy things, pound on pages without worrying about who gets notifications, and use the color pink whenever I want. I can experiment with any available feature in a production environment without confusing, distracting or alarming anyone, and with a result that any other user can leverage. Sticking to the rules has kept me organized and sane! It saves time to deliver pages close to “done,” without having to clean up a huge pile of sawdust, or mess with view restrictions.

If you have a space like my Lab I would love to hear what you use it for!

1 comment

Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Feb 06, 2021

This is really cool!  Thank you for sharing @Michelle Rau!

Like Michelle Rau likes this

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