JLiki: Sharing Your Genealogy Wiki

by JL Beeken on 1-23-2008

Back at that favorite topic: how to share family history. Or as I prefer, how to share family history that your family will actually read and enjoy.

Now, that I’ve got a good start on my personal JLiki, I’m looking at ways to share it.

You’ve got to admit, Descendants Book reports are just a little on the dull side. Who could follow one besides another genealogist? The wall charts coming out in Legacy 7.0 (or as a stand-alone product) will make many people happy. Even the most anti-social family member can appreciate one of those. It’s a good reference point for what else you’ve got in the way of stories and photos. They can pull a favorite chair up in front of the wall and look back and forth between the chart and the Descendants Book report, seeing how it all fits together.

Or you can send them a wiki. Learning some wiki basics is very quick.. It’ll take you 10 minutes to get started. Learning some basic text formatting will take you another 10 minutes. There’s some simple guides over at JLiki.

Then it comes to the interesting part: linking up files such as images, charts and other documents that, of course, will be part of your story. As you’ll learn, the way to do that in a wiki is by linking to an external location. The choices are a website of your own or a file-hosting service.


As I’ve started to work with this, a question has crossed my mind in regards to these linked files. Specifically, what happens later? Later, such as when the file-hosting service where I’ve uploaded the files to no longer exists? Or later, as in when I’d like to move all those files to another location? If I only have 5 or 10 files linked up this is not a problem. If I’ve been merrily working away on my wiki for months and I’ve got hundreds of files linked up I’ve now got a big problem. Every single one of them would have to have their file-path changed.

Someone’s already been down this line of thinking and decided to design the Passage Express software. You can throw everything you’ve got into one place, burn it to a disk and mail it off. It’s true. It works.

Now that I’ve decided the non-linear approach to story-telling makes more sense I’ve moved to TiddlyWiki. But it’s possible to work with TiddlyWiki inside Passage Express! So you have the benefits of a wiki for your story-telling but a convenient medium to put it all together with.

Your wiki-in-Passage Express project would involve only two folders. One folder with the TiddlyWiki where you’re telling your story, and another folder for all the files that you’re going to link into your story.

Passage Express

Passage Express

All you need to know is the file-path to that folder. Once you’ve started a new project with the two folders you’ll be able to find it. The folders will exist inside Passage Express under Program Files on your C-drive. In XP, follow this path using Windows Explorer:

C-drive - Program Files - Passage Express - Projects - FPH0000xx - Files - FILES000000zz

On my computer the file-path to the folder used for linked files looks like this:

file:\\\C:\Program Files\Passage%20Express\Projects\FHP00012\Files\FILES00000172\

To that I would add “florence1900.jpg”

file:\\\C:\Program Files\Passage%20Express\Projects\FHP00012\Files\FILES00000172\florence1900.jpg

or whatever else the file-name is that I’m linking. Since the linked files are all going to be in the same location you only have to find that path once. It will be the same for every file except for the individual file names. And it’s very easy to remember what the file names are because once you’ve imported them the files are in a folder right under your nose in Passage Express. See JLiki for more precise instruction on how to create links in your TiddlyWiki.

When you’re ready to send your project, burn it to a disk as you usually would. Or what you can do instead is save the project to a New Folder location on your hard-drive, zip it and mail it online by Hightail. Give your recipient instructions to open the folder and double-click on the “Run Me” button. It will act just like the disk would.

Back to the problem of linking files externally through websites or file-hosting services. Option 2. Imagine this: what if I linked the files on my own computer and my select group of readers could get onto my computer to view the wiki (or any other format I want to use) where it is? I don’t have to send files anywhere. It’s easier to edit and update my history as I wish. And there’s no file-size limits.

Let’s say that sounds like a good idea.

Unless there’s some other way (and if there is, please tell me) what you need is a secure FTP server. FileZilla Server will do. (Windows only.) You install this, set up user-names and passwords for the people you’re inviting in, set the folder they’re allowed to view and send them your address.

FileZilla Server

About the address: Most of us have a dynamic IP address which means it changes every time we re-start our computers. Sending someone a different address every time they want to log on would be insane. So, what you can do instead is get an address that stays consistent no matter what your IP is doing. You can set one up for free through No-IP. They tell you over there how to do it. You sign up for a free account and then there’s 2 or 3 other steps.

FileZilla Server I’m still trying to figure out. It’s easy enough to install but you have to customize the security settings. At this point, I’m still looking for some help. Generally, the idea of turning your computer into a server involves uploading and downloading files between various computers. In this usage people are just dropping in to view files. I think the security issues would be similar but perhaps not.

Also, your readers need a way to log on to your computer. They can do this using FileZilla Client. It’s an easy thing to install and work with.

FileZilla Client

If anyone is onto what I’m envisioning and can illuminate me about FileZilla Server & firewall security settings for this, please send me an email and I’ll post your answers. This is the most complex way to go but it’s interesting.

There’s yet another way around this. Now with the price of a 1GB USB flash-drive being under $20 it would be possible to build your wiki with the related files on one and mail the whole thing. File-paths would be something like this:

file:fh/photo.jpg

where “K” is the name of the drive and ‘fh’ is the folder with all the linked files. You can create this on your hard-drive and transfer it over. Or just burn it to a disk.

This does assume, however, that you’re sending a finished product. If you use the server idea instead, your family can follow along as you’re working and communicate with you as you’re adding and changing things.

On the other hand, you could send the wiki and then updates of the wiki and other files via something like Hightail and they can buy their own flash-drive. Hightail is free up to a maximum zip file size of 250 MB. After that, you pay a small amount for larger files. If you’re sending the file to various addresses at the same time you still only pay for the one file.

The biggest problem I have with my computer-illiterate family is convincing them to do anything. They’re afraid if they step beyond email their machines are going to blow up.

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