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An opinionated wiki
CSS JavaScript Python HTML
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Picky is a wiki implemented with Python and Django. It aims to explore designing a site that encourages thorough, high quality, community-developed content through careful feature choice and UI design.

GPLv2 license.

Build Status Requirements Status Build Status


You will need to install the dependencies:

$ virtualenv ~/.py_envs/picky -p python2.7
$ . ~/.py_envs/picky/bin/activate
$ pip install -r requirements.pip

Running the app is then simply:

$ cd picky
$ python syncdb
$ python migrate
$ python runserver_plus

You will need to remove the Twitter login on login_picker.html, as your local settings won't have the necessary keys.


There's a Fabric file that deploys my personal instance. You'll need to modify this for your own production instance.

$ fab deploy

I run picky with gunicorn as the HTTP server and supervisord monitoring the process. Here's my configuration:

command=/home/picky/.envs/picky/bin/gunicorn_django -b --workers=3

Known bugs

Live preview renders links ftp://foo as anchor tags but server-side does not. Also, in the following table:

|= Header title               |= Another header title     |
| {{{ //not italic text// }}} | {{{ **not bold text** }}} |
| //italic text//             | **  bold text **          |

the live preview does not wrap the escaped content in <code> tags.

Live preview currently does not label nonexistent pages.


This sections sets out the design goals of Picky. Not all these features have been implemented yet.


A wiki should foster high quality content written by a community. It should aid many users getting involved through effortless editing and facilitating building consensus.


The syntax should be lightweight and without gotchas.

A live preview when editing removes the fear of 'messing up'.

Internal links should be particularly easy, as a well interlinked wiki is more valuable.

WikiWords syntax, whilst very easy to write, forces unnatural page names.

Wiki links should have a unintrusive GUI to aid linking to existing pages.

Code snippets should have automatic highlighting, with the option of specifying the language if needs be.

External Links

External links should be highlighted differently to internal links, e.g. vs /page/foo. Absolute paths to internal links (e.g. should be canonicalised and highlighted as internal.

Links to external sites should be fetched and cached when they are first added to the page. A popover should give the user the ability to access the cached version, the link should otherwise still go to the live site. Good wiki content has links to the canonical references; this external information should be preserved.

Internal Links

A page title should be free text, there should be no issues with characters like '#' (Wikipedia had this problem). Page URLs should allow non-ASCII characters. Page titles are more likely to contain hyphens than underscores, so spaces should be replaced by underscores to maximise URL readability.

Links to nonexistent pages should be styled differently to legitimate URLs.


Every edit should be associated with a user, a time, and an optional summary. All old states of a page should be preserved. Deletes should be reversible.

Basic summaries should be auto-generated ('edited section Foo', 'created page', etc).

The age of the page (creation and last edited timestamps) should be prominent to help in the case of poorly maintained content.

When viewing all history, the user should be able to get an overview (e.g. collapse changes by week/month).

It should be possible to see diffs between page revisions, with the changed lines highlighted.

It should be possible to subscribe to page changes, page comments, or changes by a certain user. This should support email notifications. Each of these change categories should also be available as an RSS feed. If a user subscribes to things, he/she should be able to see only subscribed changes on the 'recent changes' page if he/she chooses.

Error pages

The 500 error page should not be scary, nor should the user feel they did something wrong. It should be clear, comprehensible and include a link to the GitHub issue tracker.

The 404 error page should be maximally helpful. It should suggest pages with similar spelling, pages which previously had that name, and make it easy to create a page with that name.

The 403 page should be clear and explicit.


Logging in should be with an email address and password; it's easier to remember. Alternatively, users should be able to simply use a pre-existing account (Twitter, Facebook) etc.

Anonymous editing should also be possible, but may require a CAPTCHA.

Wherever possible, all users should be given the power to change things.

Users (both anonymous and signed-in) need to be able to be banned if necessary.

Anything associated with a user (comments, changes) should prominently display an avatar, to visually group actions by the same user.

Users should be able to have an editable page about themselves.


Clean code and thorough unit tests.

HTML 5, but should work without JS enabled.

JS should be used when beginning / finishing editing a page, to speed up the UI.


The site should be maximally editable: page content, page titles and the site name.

Users should be able to upload attachments (images for pages, and other useful files). These should have the same history model as pages -- undoable, with edit summaries.

Edit conflicts should be detected and the site should try to help fix the situation.


All wikis have discussions, but not all wiki separate the discussion from the content (cf. Ward's Wiki vs MediaWiki).

Users should be able to leave comments. Comments should be threaded. Comment syntax should be the same as pages.

It should be possible to vote up comments, and comments should be displayed ordered by votes. Deep trees should be collapsed according to voting, but collapsing trees should be togglable by the user.


It should be possible to upload files. It should be possible to display uploaded images on articles.

User Interface

The interface should be as simple as possible. A wiki is fundamentally about reading and editing text, so the design should reflect this.

This emphasis on text will require good typographic stylic, with adequately sized fonts and line lengths kept comfortable (code snippets, however should be free to have longer lines).

Editing should be effortless.

The interface should encourage users to make positive contributions, but discourage flamewars and vandalism.

The design should clearly distinguish content (e.g. the text of a page) from metadata (e.g. when a page was last edited) and from UI components (e.g. buttons). There should be a consistent visual design for each of these categories.

The colour scheme should be very simple, with a colour associated with each of the major wiki actions (viewing, editing, history). This colour language should be used consistently and pervasively to provide visual cues (e.g. all edit buttons the same colour).

Whenever a username is shown, an avatar should be alongside to make it easy to skim through to find things from the same user (even anonymous editors).

When showing history, relevant metadata should be shown. Who made each change, how much of the page changed.

It should be possible to see all changes, changes of a specific page or changes by a specific user. It should also be possible to watch users or pages and only see these changes. All this data should be available as RSS feeds.


The wiki should be able to run for ten years without problem. This requires pure dependencies (e.g. pure Python dependencies rather than Python C modules). External dependencies (e.g. database) should be well-established, actively maintained tools. JavaScript should be hosted on the site itself.

In addition to logging in with accounts from social networks, users should be able to create 'native' accounts that don't depend on the availability of other sites.


The wiki design should be based on the principles of traditional hypertext. Early hypertext designs, such as Xanadu, included transclusion (including parts of other pages), strove to avoid broken links, version control, and rights management.

The wiki should therefore combat link rot, show reverse links ('what links to this page?'), allow previewing of links without visiting the page, have an explicit content license, and (of course!) store history of pages. Ideally, it would be possible to link to an arbitrary place in content, with the links surviving edits (cf Emacs markers).

Transclusion is another hypertext feature that hasn't gained much traction in the web at large, although embedded tweets are a good example.

Discovering existing content is very important. Everything2 detects where users go next to calculate related pages. Stack Overflow displays similar question. The wiki should therefore show similar pages to help users discover or merge related pages. For example, most linked to, most edited, most wanted, longest, most viewed.

There are some git features that are desirable: a 'git blame' equivalent would be useful, as would the ability to move content between pages whilst still tracing the original author. GitHub style permalinks would also help: allowing linking to the visible version, rather than just linking to latest version.

Scaling Content

The larger the wiki is, the more tools are needed to help the user find what they want.

The wiki must have a search feature that indexes the full text of pages, preferably including historical versions.

The wiki must allow (automatically generated) tables of contents, to give an overview of larger pages. Note that Wikipedia makes these collapsible, since they can themselves become large. We may want to allow the user to control the depth of the table of contents (e.g. just H1 and H2s, or including H3s and H4s too).

The wiki must allow content to be tagged. These need editable names and descriptions (naturally).


The wiki should be easy to set up, to make it easy for people to set up the wiki for use within their organisation (even skunkworks projects). Therefore the wiki code should be as self-contained as possible, with minimal server dependencies.

Once set up, the wiki should require very little maintenance, so the users are as self-sufficient as possible.

Similar projects

Diigo has been developed with some similar ideas in mind. There's also comprehensive list of wiki features at WikiMatrix.

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