A Look At SourceLabs’ SWiK

SourceLabs has launched an interesting project called SWiK that combines the best of a Wiki, database, social bookmarks and search engine for open source projects. The front page interface is deceptively sparse, a simple search box with a bit of descriptive text and the SWiK logo, links for random projects and recent edits. However, SWiK is a lot more than a mere search engine or directory. SWiK is part-Wiki, which means that users can add entries for projects or update existing entries with new information, tips, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), comments or whatnot.

SWiK also does a lot of the work for you. To test SWiK out, I did a search for cpan2rpm. At the time, SWiK didn’t have an entry for cpan2rpm, so it asked if I’d like to let SWiK attempt to determine information about cpan2rpm. Of course I did! So, I let SWiK do its thing and about ten seconds later, I had a bare-bones page about cpan2rpm. It generated the page automagically — complete with a description, download links, news feeds, and links to the mailing list on SourceForge. I did the same with Cfengine, and SWiK created a page for that project as well. I noticed that SWiK was a little less successful in gathering information for Cfengine, perhaps because the Cfengine website is a bit more complex and harder to pull data from.

It’s not perfect — the SWiK-generated description stopped mid-sentence in the description of cpan2rpm. However, it’s dead easy to get in and edit the page, and SWiK does a pretty good job of generating the bare-bones project page for interested users to update. It also provides a community platform to talk about projects, rather than just the project owner’s websites. Sometimes, project owners don’t do a very good job at updating their website. I won’t point any projects out specifically, but there are a number of great utilities that have lousy websites and very little information on the website where they’re found. SWiK provides an opportunity for users to create a resource about the project for other users. The SWiK tips feature could be very useful.

Like del.icio.us and de.lirio.us, SWiK sports tags like network or LAMP. Users can also subscribe to feeds for projects. So, if you want the latest on Linux, subscribe to the Linux tag’s feed and keep a keen eye on your favorite newsreader for new goodies.

I asked SourceLabs’ Cornelius Willis whether SWiK’s source code would be made public — an obvious question, since SWiK is all about open source — and found that SourceLabs hasn’t yet decided whether they’ll put out the source code. No pressure guys, but think about all the other topic areas that could use a SWiK. While I see SWiK becoming an invaluable resource to look for open source projects it would also be a spiffy tool for a site about music, movies, books, knitting, pictures of kittens — basically, whatever people are interested in sharing information about. Obviously, those things don’t belong on SWiK, but the software behind SWiK would make a great foundation for projects that even the SourceLabs folks probably haven’t even thought of.

If you have a little free time, take a few minutes to poke around SWiK and see what it has to offer. I think you’ll be glad you did.

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