The Internet was originally conceived to improve communication between far-flung researchers. Today, of course, the Internet can be used by anyone, virtually anywhere, to send and receive information of all kinds. Email, newsgroups, web sites, and more recently, blogs, and RSS feeds are all methods to share information.


The Internet was originally conceived to improve communication between far-flung researchers. Today, of course, the Internet can be used by anyone, virtually anywhere, to send and receive information of all kinds. Email, newsgroups, web sites, and more recently, blogs, and RSS feeds are all methods to share information.

While all of those forms of communication are popular and effective, they’re also implicitly static: an article in a newsgroup can’t be changed once it’s posted, and the content of a web page is typically maintained and controlled by the page’s owner. Certainly, people can post replies to groups and submit comments to a web site’s forums, but even that new material remains as standalone, static amendments to the original content.

Wikis, on the other hand, are implicitly collaborative. Content — any content — in the wiki can be changed, extended, or created anew at any time by any user (although some access controls are typically available). In fact, a wiki is largely a content management system, where the wiki itself is just one way to organize and present the information.

And that’s the kernel of the idea behind TikiWiki, or just Tiki, an expansive wiki that also provides for articles, file and image galleries, forums, weblogs, and many other forms of sharing information. At more than 250,000 lines of code, and more than 375 different features, the Tiki developers describe their work as “A catch-all PHP application, so you don’t have to install so many!”

This month, iki project leaders Luis Argerich and Garland Foster invite us in to their hut to discuss their ambitious project.

What is Tiki?

Luis Argerich: Tiki is a general-purpose content management system that can be used for intranets, online communities, portals, forums, and many other kinds of applications. It’s not unique, but it has many, many features, a very active development rhythm, and very detailed documentation.

Garland Foster: Tiki is a full-featured content management (CMS) system. It has a lot of tiny and not so tiny details, making it unique. We have a workflow engine, graphic creation using jGraphPad, an XML-RPC interface to edit blogs using desktop tools, PDF generation, wiki structures, quizzes, configurable trackers, a caching system to cache external links in any object, categories, themes that can be changed for individual sections, etc., etc. And the “et ceteras” are not trivial at all! We like to say, “You can do * using Tiki.”

Why “yet another” content management system?

Argerich: While there were a lot of open source content management systems at the time Tiki was started, no one package fulfilled the list of features we wanted. There were also a lot of problems with licensing and the way the projects were handled. For example, some started as free products and then switched to paid releases. We wanted a 100%-free CMS, a huge list of features, and no license restrictions. Tiki was born.

Foster: When we started there were some very nice pieces of software in PHP, some good content management systems, nice forums, blogs, and even nice wikis. But what if we wanted everything in a single package so users, permissions, and administration can be shared? That’s how Tiki was started, and now we can’t stop the gigantic snowball.

Tiki sounds a little daunting. Does it feel “monolithic?”

Argerich: Tiki does have a zillion features, yet it’s simple and friendly. It’s easy to install, easy to use, and has very complete documentation. You can turn off all the features but one and have a nice wiki, a blog, or forum software. If you need to add a feature to your site you don’t need to download another PHP product — just enable the feature and roll. Another key aspect is the use of Smarty and templates so you can easily customize Tiki to look like anything you want without touching a single line of PHP code.

Your project is very ambitious. What’s been your biggest challenge?

Foster: Keeping the balance between the number of features and the quality of features. We decided to start adding as many features as we could as fast as possible, so more and more users could help us refine the features. In general, in the near future, we’d like to focus on making features better and better more often than adding new features. But so far, it’s been “Expand first. Conquer later.” Maintaining the documentation and the translations to different languages has also been a big challenge.


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Tiki is the second most-active project on SourceForge.net. What do you attribute that ranking to?

Foster: We have a very friendly and open-minded approach to open-source development: we welcome everybody to help us and discuss Tiki features and implementation. I’ve found that elitism is a very common disease in open source communities and we want to avoid that by all means.

Argerich: We’re really surprised that Tiki has remained in the top three most-active projects for such a long time. Somehow, we were lucky to find a group of very intelligent and nice people interested in Tiki. The Tiki online community is just great. We are constantly getting ideas, feedback, and suggestions from the mailing lists and forums.

How many people use Tiki?

Argerich: We don’t track Tiki’s usage. My guess is that Tiki is not a very famous piece of software — but that’s surely going to change after this interview!

Foster: It’s almost impossible to measure. Tiki is an application that can rule the world of intranets. Speaking honestly, as long as Tiki can be useful to at least a single user, it’s a success.

How do you coordinate such a large project?

Argerich: Developers are free to do whatever they want as long as they don’t dramatically change an existing feature. They also have to make whatever feature they add optional. So, they can fix bugs or develop planned features as they see fit. We have a task list of things to do for each new version, and developers can pick things they would like to implement. We have ordered chaos.

Foster: I fly around the whole project, planning releases, planning tasks and to-dos for each release, and writing documentation.

How much time do you spend on Tiki?

Argerich: For some reason, I need money to survive, so I do have a full-time, salaried job. Tiki is a part-time occupation. The time I spend on Tiki varies, depending on subtle factors such as hunger, the caffeine level in my blood, sleepiness. I spend maybe a half hour per day and more on the weekends.

Foster: I have a job, too. Tiki is a part-time pastime.

What’s next for Tiki?

Foster: Our next version, 1.7, dubbed “Eta Carinae” is scheduled for mid-July 2003. It’ll add some new features and dramatically improve others, as well as enhance usability. It will be a bigger release, but much more usable and nice to the user.

Then for 1.8 we want to target the enterprise and education areas, so we’ll be adding features and improving others to make Tiki attractive for companies, schools, and universities. The workflow engine, quizzes, and other important areas will be extensively surveyed to improve them.

1.9 will focus on performance and scalability to make Tiki very attractive to hosting companies and big websites, as well as hobbyists that have a large user base.

The 2.0 version will be the result of testing, fixing, and improving the 1.6-1.9 releases. We may not add any features to 2.0, but instead concentrate on making it very fast, stable, and usable. Then we’ll start to survey the extensive list of requests for enhancements (RFEs) and plan new features for 2.1

And what’s on your wish list?

Argerich: I’d really like to have a developer or a group of developers in charge of different Tiki features so they can make each Tiki feature as good as any ad-hoc PHP application in the field. It would be really nice to make Tiki the application you use instead of a lot of different PHP applications. Some artists contributing to make a better user interface are also needed.

How can people contribute?

Foster: If you like Tiki, you can contribute. If you don’t like it, then you can help us to make it better. We badly need PHP coders and artists, as well as testers and translators. Feel free to contact us, and you will be on board in a breeze.


PURPOSE: TikiWiki, or just Tiki, is an open source, web application that provides a full wiki, as well as articles, sections, user and group management (including optional LDAP interaction), polls, and quizzes, file and image galleries, weblogs, and much more.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Tiki is based on PHP, MySQL, and Smarty and can run on any platform that supports those software systems.

LICENSE: Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL)

FOUNDED: Tiki 1.0 was released October 2002

PROJECT LEADERS: Luis Argerich, Garland Foster, Eduardo Polidor


Martin Streicher is the Editor of Linux Magazine. You can reach Martin at mstreicher@linux-mag.com.


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