Wiki database
April 25, 2005 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a community-editable database. Philosophically similar to a Wiki, but with some webmail-like features, including the ability to sort and filter various things, show and hide columns when there are too many to fit on screen, and edit a single record by itself, rather than the whole massive body of text.

For an example, look at the HardwareComparison page over at SeattleWireless. It's huge and awkward, but still useful because it has everything you'd want to know.

Ideally, I'm looking for a module that could be added to an existing wiki, as that would be a nice way to surround and give additional detail for records that require it.

Some database-like functionality, including the ability to define "views" for various data and dump specific sets of records, would be great too. The application I'm actually targeting is a loose work group that presently spends a lot of time emailing Excel spreadsheets around, and reconciling changes between them. I want each memeber to be able to filter the items of importance, lock rows they're working on, and sign up for notifications when a specific item changes.
posted by Myself to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I've been looking for the same thing, under different names, for a while. The received wisdom seems to be that you have to do this, perhaps, with php/mysql. Searching google groups for "appgini" will show one windows client/frontend for this project, and lead to projects with similar goals. Selena Sol has some perl/database thingy that might work too, but what I find is that as you move towards finished products, they get too specific to meet your needs, and when you move toward more abstract tools, you find yourself becoming a database designer or scripter.

If you get mysql/php running on a server, you can check out the excellent phpmyadmin, a gui for mysql interfaces. It's ugly and complicated, but very powerful, and when you generate a search of your database (which can be imported from excel using the LOAD INFILE DATA command in mysql) then phpmyadmin will spit out a snippet of php that you can stick in a web page to make a dashboard of sorts for your users.

That said, I hope there is some sort of easier solution out there. I know PMwiki doesn't require mysql and supports tables, but that may be too sloppy of a solution or require too much hand-fiddling data manipulation for your users.

All i really wanted to do, initially, was let a group of people edit a spreadsheet online, but now I feel myself getting dragged into relational database world.
posted by craniac at 5:51 PM on April 25, 2005

On preview, I want/ed the exact same app you're describing. we are editing a schedule of college teachers and the courses they teach.
posted by craniac at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2005

MySQL is not known for being fantastic for having lots of different people writing to a database. You might look into Postgres instead.
posted by grouse at 5:56 PM on April 25, 2005

Assuming you can't find this off-the-shelf, and you're platform agnostic, .NET's ability to data-bind to web controls could do an awful lot of the work for you.

I'm not saying it's the appropriate solution for your problem, it's just where I personally would start looking.

Say - is web-based a hard requirement? Would a desktop app do? A front-end running inside Access connected to SQL Server database would work.

BTW, I think your "alert users when a row changes" requirement has the potential to give you a lot of headaches, especially if you go for a DB without triggers (I'm looking at you, MySQL).
posted by Leon at 6:16 PM on April 25, 2005

Web-based would be a cool feature. I'm really envisioning a wiki plugin here. A lot of wikis have the ability to email a user when a page is edited, and that's where I got the inspiration for that feature from. It's not mandatory, but I think it would be pretty easy for the submit routine to check the row for subscribers and call the notify routine while committing the edit.

I was just pointed to Xerox's Sparrow, which is essentially a Wiki but has some nice editing features, the likes of which MediaWiki is just now beginning to include. It still doesn't have the all-important column hiding commands, and we all know how well browsers and GUIs deal with wide rows in general.
posted by Myself at 6:50 PM on April 25, 2005

QuickBase is Intuit's hosted service that does exactly this, and I think it's pretty cool, though I don't use it myself any longer and it's become a bit more focused on pre-built apps. Jot may be a similar offering.
posted by anildash at 7:50 PM on April 25, 2005

Idle thought: If you have a product that's close, column hiding and sorting could be done in Javascript. Example of sorting. You'd need to add column hiding, and probably some kind of state mechanism (cookie).
posted by Leon at 12:04 AM on April 26, 2005

Sounds like jotspot
This isn't out of beta yet, but watch Jon Udell's jotspot demo.
posted by seanyboy at 12:16 AM on April 26, 2005

In the early daze of the web, there actually was a web app for putting spreadsheets online, but it has since ceased to exist. It, along with the 100 mpg carburetor, was undoubtedly acquired by the MIB.
posted by mecran01 at 5:55 AM on April 26, 2005

I happen to know that SeattleWireless is based on MoinMoin, which is a pretty good wiki engine based on python.

There are more powerful wiki engines with the features you want. See for example TikiWiki, Zwiki or (much slower but lots of features built in) TWiki.

Don't worry about the database, think about what you want to do with it and how it will feel to users.
posted by Araucaria at 11:52 AM on April 26, 2005

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