Houston: We Have a MediaWiki Docs Problem

MediaWiki – love the app, hate the documentation, a term used loosely.

Here is a normal set of steps it took to find the answer. What I was looking for was that special MediaWiki URl you need to use to edit the sidebar links of your site.

  1. Go to the bookmark I had for MediaWiki Handbook
  2. Type in the search box navigation links
  3. I get some results but there’s a big red border box warning at the top:

    Important note: the instructions on this page may be out of date, incorrect, or unnecessary; for most requirements, the FAQ contains the necessary instructions. This page, however, explains some tasks not covered in the FAQ!

  4. Follow the link above for FAQ which looks like I am close, a heading of How do I change the contents of the navigation toolbar?
  5. But no, there is a fork in the docs, one for MediaWiki 1.5 and newer, which I take.
  6. But this is no answer, it’s the big old “This Page Has Moved”:
  7. Finally, many clicks later, I arrive at the correct area!

Basically it is a Special page you have to request off the root URl of your own wiki, MediaWiki:Sidebar, which you can edit to make the left side links your own.

I know MediaWiki is complex software, but the documents done by wiki are a sprawling mess (at least here there are forward links set up).

But perhaps it’s more of a user error, as I started form an old page. I will see what happens when I start using this newer URl for a MediaWiki documents bookmark http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Manual:Contents

But the experience highlights what happens when Wikis Get Big. They Get Messy. It goes with the territory. I can deal with it, but the average user….?

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Finding documentation for MediaWIki got so bad for me that once I found the info, I harvested into my own wiki so that I could create my own ad-hoc memory/tutorial for customizing MediaWiki.

  2. I agree, mediawiki documentation is horrendous. I had the exact same inquiry (editing the sidebar) and it took what seemed like hours to find the answer. That’s one of the major reasons why I decided to encourage my institution to switch to Confluence.

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