Archive | January, 2007

Tip of the Week #5: Simple Styles for Everyone!

31 Jan


Because the last tip was only really useful to Classic wiki users, I’ve pushed up the next tip on CSS styles to this week. Enjoy!

A lot of gibberish gets thrown around by some of the advanced PBwiki users, particularly those with experience in web design, including HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the code that makes up every webpage on the Internet and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the current standard for formatting and styling HTML. Today, we’re going to focus on CSS as a way to format parts of your wiki the way you want, using specific examples. Although I plan on explaining CSS more thoroughly in a future post, I won’t go into the details for now, focusing on getting you real results. Continue reading

PBwiki upgrades its Point-and-click editor

30 Jan

We just launched the newest version of our Point-and-Click editor (formerly, our WYSIWYG editor) tonight. There are quite a few specific changes listed below, but there are also a number of other subtle changes which may lead you to think the editor “just works better� now.

  • Due to popular demand, we’ve added a strikethrough button on the toolbar
  • Line spacing should be more consistent – no more misbehaving ‘enter’ keys
  • For those conscious about the HTML that is generated, you will be happy to learn that the editor will produce leaner, cleaner, code, especially with attachments

The best part is we aren’t stopping the improvements any time soon. We’ll be improving the speed of the new editor and improving the usability even more over the next few weeks.

Tip of the Week #4: More Plugins

30 Jan


Last week, we took an indepth look at the new plugins used by the Point-and-Click editor and how you could incorporate that same functionality if you wanted to stick with the WikiStyle editor. We saw that by adapting the code that was generated by the Point-and-Click editor, we could borrow many of the available plugins. This week, I’ve added a few more surprises to the mix, aiding your editing even more than before. Continue reading

Hot and heavy – rackmount servers and thermal management

25 Jan

We’ve been bringing up a number of new servers at the San Francisco data center. We’ve got some great Core2Duo machines which draw between 0.75A and 1.10A but have pretty substantial horsepower. So far so good, and almost all of the machines went in happy and stayed that way.

An interesting aspect of hosting servers at a data center on the west coast is that there’s plenty of space and lots of connectivity, but fairly scarce power. This is important for two reasons; first you need to be careful not to put too many servers in one cabinet or you’ll blow your 20A fuse all at once and all the servers shut off simultaneously. Second and nearly as scary is that you don’t get enough cooling from the building’s overtaxed and potentially under-sized air conditioners, and slowly cook your servers to an early death.

[We use a great system called syslog which collects all kinds of system stats and logs in one place for all of our servers – it makes it simple to collect and plot data like ‘fan speed, cpu temperature, and cpu workload of all machines for the last few days, data points every 15 minutes’.]

You can see on the plot below that on first power-up, “sf3” was running hot.

This is one of two machines where the factory hard drives were flaky and I replaced them with drives from another vendor. Because the new drives are full-on SATA and our cases only supply standard ATX-style 4-pin drive power, I needed a jumper cable. This just a few inches of 4 wires, plus connectors on the ends. Turns out I’d done two dumb things.

I left these jumper cables hanging down a little near the motherboard, an inch away from a fan exhaust. I’d also stashed the folded-up spare IDE cable in an evidently unused space within the case.

On power-up we find, as shown in the graph below, the CPU is running 30F too hot. Once I was home from the data center and had time to build the thermal report for all the servers the two machines with SATA jumpers stood out, sf3 was the extreme example but sf9 was running 20F too hot. A half hour drive each way plus a few minutes of fiddling with the cables and baffles and the cpu temp was back under control.

24 hours of temperature plots

PDF export improvements coming along

25 Jan

Lots of people have requested an enhanced PDF export capability — our new team member Igor has been doing some great work adding features to this little gem of a feature. Top priorities for us are:

1) proper unicode support (for all those wacky citizens of the world)
2) proper handling of lists, especially nested lists
3) inlined images

I’ve done a first-pass integration of Igor’s improved code on our development servers, and have a screenshot to share. Expect to see more tweaking of the vertical spacing and formatting, with general availability in the next few weeks.

Screenshot of PDF improvements

Why I'm Glad We Ship Bits

22 Jan


There are certainly have challenges involved in sending millions of pages to hundreds of thousands of regular users. Mainland China blocked us, sometimes there are net hiccups, servers crash, etc. But at least we don’t need to deal with having to close up shop because the ship carrying all of our inventory ran aground off of Alaska’s coast.

Tip of the Week #3: Plugins for your "classic" WikiStyle wiki

22 Jan


PBwiki has now unveiled the new Point-And-Click editor, and it’s coming along nicely. Although there are still a few formatting snags, I have yet to see a web-based rich-text editor not go through a few growing pains (I’m still mad enough at WordPress’s editor for eating up my code last time that I wrote this entire post in HTML).

But rich-text has its place, and the new editor has many innovative things going for it, like the ease with which you can insert media and files. But of all these innovations, probably the most powerful is the plugin system, which allows you to extend your wiki in all kinds of fun ways. Continue reading

Case study:

18 Jan

I interviewed Chih-Chao Lam, who runs, to understand how his team uses the wiki — and how they got it to look so beautiful.

clipclip How do you use
Initially, we wanted to get user feedback. But mostly, it’s for internal use now to get everyone on the same page, to get product plans, to compile lists of things we want to do. Ad hoc collaboration. The product we’re working on is a few things: is a web2.0 service, and the primary feature of it allows you to clip things off any page. is a social metasearch engine that we just launched.
Why’d you choose PBwiki?
Primarily because I met David Weekly at SHDH and heard about it. We tried several others including the Track Wiki, and we liked it best because it was simple to use and things worked. The simplicity of it meshes well with HTML. What has been the biggest surprise for you in using PBwiki?
Good clip of features that you’ve been gently been introducing over the last year. For example, intermingling HTML and Wiki syntax together, and both working seamlessly was a nice surprise. Would you recommend PBwiki to others?
Yeah, and I have! I tell them that it’s really easy to set up if they need something lightweight collaboration, it’s a good tool.

Your wiki is gorgeous. How’d you do that?
We wanted it to be community-focused, and we wanted to mesh it with our own web site (, so we wanted to make it look consistent. It took our designer maybe a day’s effort.

How do you think has PBwiki helped you succeed?
Because we’re so distributed and we work in such an ad hoc fashion, it’s a great collaboration tool. It’s a great communication tool. It’s a great way to get everyone on the same page.

Sachiko Kwan

Sachiko Kwan, the wiki designer

To be a featured case study on PBwiki, email

-Ramit Sethi, PBwiki co-founder

Tip of the Week #2: Wikilet Tips from the Masters!

15 Jan


Addition: 9:44pm, January 9, 2007
I address some of the changes to the wikilets below (click here).

Wikilets, or PBwiki pages embedded in other webpages (PBwiki or otherwise), have been around for a while, and although the feature has yet to go past the “alpha� phase, it’s become a pretty ingrained part of PBwiki editing. It’s often useful for including wiki pages in non-wiki sites, or to have content from one page in another without reproducing it manually. Continue reading

Tip of the Week #1: Five Ways to Manage Your Wiki Better

12 Jan


(This is it folks, the inaugural edition of my PBwiki Tip of the Week. Most people know me better as “vietmusic” of the PBwiki Forums, where I offer advice on WikiStyle syntax, CSS, Javascript, and how to pick up hot dates. After today, expect regular updates every Monday!)

Wikis are about collaboration, which doesn’t work so well when your work is scattered and messy. The following tips are designed to fix that problem, tightening up the process from multiple angles. Without further ado…

Continue reading