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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 13th 2009

    Jacques is great, but he has to program Instiki for everybody, not just for us. Ultimately, the decisions on how it works are taken by him, not by us[*], on the basis of general needs, not our needs. Should we learn how to hack Instiki for ourselves?

    [*] Of course, he is one of us, but he comprises a very small portion of us.

    Certainly it is possible to run a branch of Instiki for one's own work and keep it updated with bug fixes from the main branch. As I understand it, Jacques himself did just this to add iTeX, before this was incorporated into the main branch and Jacques became the main person working on the main branch. (See the introductory comments here.)

    Who is interested in and capable of doing this? I think that I am, but only if I make a large commitment of time, and I'd rather do math ….

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorEric
    • CommentTimeJul 13th 2009

    I am interested and believe I'm capable, but like you, I could not commit myself. It would have to be on an ad hoc basis.

    You may be surprised to know that in real life, I am a professional (executive even) "quant" and spend my days researching and developing numerical models (which obviously involves writing lots of code).

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 13th 2009

    I know you're a quant, but for all I know that involves coding only in high-level specialised languages that behave very differently from Ruby on Rails. (But I'll take your word for it on what you can do, of course.)

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorEric
    • CommentTimeJul 13th 2009

    I don't mean to over-exaggerate my coding ability. I've never touched Ruby on Rails, but unless it is some wildly unique language with some specialized keys (like APL), it shouldn't be that hard to perform the minor tweaks we talk about here. It's not like we're going to rebuild Instiki from scratch.

    I'm definitely not a developer per se, but for the record, I've done my share of coding in C#, Java, C++, C and some scripting in Perl and a little Python. The PHP I looked at in Mediawiki seemed pretty straightforward too.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 13th 2009

    You've probably done more coding than I have, then. (^_^)

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeJul 14th 2009

    Let me say at the outset that I'm certainly not able to hack Instiki. I have no experience of ruby or ruby-on-rails and, outside Instiki, little incentive to learn them. I'm an amateur hacker - "script kiddie" is probably most accurate - and have little experience in program design or implementation.

    I'm also a bit dubious about branching Instiki. Whilst it can be tempting to modify a program to suit ones own specific needs, it also makes it less likely to suit someone else's. There's a definite trade-off here and I'd like to keep us from going too far one way. Ultimately, I'd like us to have a whole "package" of lots of different bits that fit together robustly and provide a suite for "doing mathematics on the web". At the moment we have Instiki, whatever-is-behind-the-cafe (what is that, by the way?), a couple of primitively math-enabled forums (this one and bbpress, but ideally I'd like them mathml'd), reference databases, and a couple of other odds and ends (xournal, gobby, jarnal). I'm more interested in getting these things to work together than in tweaking any particular one to do everything I want. So, for example, I think that getting RefBase to filter out the periods is a "better" solution that getting Instiki to do it.

    That's not to say that there isn't something to be gained from some of us being more familiar with the workings of Instiki. Jacques would surely welcome help in hacking it (indeed, I think he says as such in the documentation). But I'd rather that our efforts went into improving the main branch than our own off-shoot. Of course, that means that we would have to compromise but that will probably lead to better decisions about what to implement and what not to.

    After all, if we three knew how to hack Instiki then we'd have had a hilarious time recently with switching round the behaviour of redirects back and forth. Whilst we may have thought that we were trying out different systems to see what worked, the poor lusers of the n-lab wouldn't have known which way was up and would have ended up leaving en masse for Wikipedia.

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2009

    I have another argument against hacking Instiki. There are plenty of other things that those with a little skill in hackery can devote their time to, and I suspect that there are only a few of us willing to hack.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeAug 28th 2009

    FWIW, I'd also certainly be capable of hacking instiki, if I put a bit of time into learning ruby and rails, but like the rest of you I have lots of other demands on my time. I agree that if we do any hacking, improving the main instiki codebase is better than branching it, unless there is some specific reason to branch (e.g. a feature we've just got to have that Jacques has some reason not to want in the main codebase).