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by Zen
Rated: E · Article · How-To/Advice · #2184321
Why I switched from using standard blog software to using a wiki as a blog
I've owned many websites over the years. Up until 2017, I wrote my own site software - sometimes in the perl programming language, sometimes in php. In 2017 I switched to wordpress. Here are my reasons fo doing so:

1. It is robust and has regular bug and security fix updates. Better still, they are automatic, requiring no effort from me.

2. It is easy and convenient to use.

3. It is fairly standard blogging software.

4. It works on all device sizes: desktop, tablet and phone.

One thing I noticed about this and most other blogs, is that older posts slide out of sight and rarely get viewed again, if ever. This seemed such a terrible waste to me. Having put a great deal of effort to write interesting posts, I became the force by which they slide into obscurity and the oblivion of the blogging pit, simply by adding newer posts.

What I needed was site transparency, so visitors could see every article and post I ever placed on the blog. This is turn would encourage them to browse around, and the older posts would still get hits.

I was writing an article for a magazine about using using wiki-like notepad programs for storing story development notes in an ordered and structured manner, and decided to investigate the advantages a full-blown wiki might offer (and there are many). I was suprised to discover that you can use a wiki as a blogging system.

It would probably help if you took a look at my site before reading on, so you can understand what I'm describing. http://philip-p-ide.uk

The home page is the blog feed. On the left is a treeview which breaks the blog into sections, so articles are broken down into science articles, articles on writing and so on. There is a section for book reviews, broken down by genre, then further broken down by author. I can create a new article anywhere in this tree (to keep it nice and ordered) and it will appear at the top of the feed page, like in any blog.

This layout really encourages visitors to browse around, and older articles are still read. Another advantage of this software is I know exactly what cookies it uses and how they are used, so was able to make the site fully GDPR compliant whilst assuring visitors that their visits weren't being tracked by third-parties.

I was able to add a comments section to any page - and just as importantly, choose which pages had that section. At any time, I can turn off commenting on any specific page.

With the structural capability of the site, new possibilities opened up. I could, for example, serialise a story, and visitors could easily go back to the beginning of the story to start where they should.

Did this work as expected? Did it gather more traffic and did it encourage visitors to return? Yes it did. Visitors can register on the site, and whenever I add a new page, they get an automatic email. They can subscibe to individual pages to get notified when new comments are added. As with all wiki's, it has full-text search capabilities, so if they don't immediately see what they are looking for in the treeview, they can still find it. They lapped it up.

The old wordpress site reached a peak when I had a staggering 29 visitors in one day. Over the year, I had a total of about 200 unique visitors. In a whole year. That's demoralising.

The new, wiki-powered site gained 380 unique visitors in just two and half weeks, with a daily visitor count that was extremely encouraging - many of them were returning. In that same period, the site garnered over 6,000 hits, proving they were browsing the whole site and not just looking at the five articles on the home page.

The book rewview section is also gathering momentum. I offer to review new and up-and-coming authors. They send me their novels, I write a review and repost it on facebook and Amazon. I have a backlog of books to read now. Readers are taking an interest too, because readers are always looking for something new. Having a site where they can easily browse reviews is of great interest to them.

The software I used was DokuWiki, which has several advantages. It evolved from MediaWiki, which was developed for Wikipedia, so it has a good pedigree. It also has hundreds of plugins, some of which are necessary to turn it into a wiki. It also stores the pages in plain text files rather than a database which makes it really easy to backup (and restore).

Another feature is that only one part of the wiki is a blog. The other parts of it are invisible to everyone else unless I grant them access. This makes it a great tool for collaborating on a project. It even stores previous versions of pages that have been edited, so nothing is ever lost. That, to me, is priceless.

Setting up a wiki is for blogging is not for the faint-hearted. It's best to setup a wiki on your own machine and experimenting before uploading to your website. Now it's up and running, my website is easy to maintain, which I love. Visitors like it for its simplicity and transparency, and that has resulted (in conjunction with good content) in growing visitor numbers and frequent return visits.

All in all, switching to a wiki was one of the best decsions I ever made. Incidentally, I also have a wiki running on my desktop, which I now use for story development, and for pre-writing articles ready for upload to the website.
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