One of the most fun things about using MediaWiki to build your site is all the cool extensions that people have created to make your site better. When you look at your site and say “Wouldn’t it be great if…”, someone has probably already thought the same thing and has created an extension that you can use. I won’t say that the extensions are always a perfect fit, but they are there, and can be modified to do what ever you want them to.
Here’s an example from The Pet Wiki: I’m a social kind of gal, and I really like to share and allow others to share what they read. What better way to do this than add social bookmarking to my site. The first thing that I did was go to MediaWiki.org and search for “extension social share.” (Using Google also works.) Viola! I got “Extension:ShareThis” in the search results.
Each extension page has instructions on how to install it. For most extensions, all you’ll need to do is ftp files to the extensions directory and modify your LocalSettings.php file to get it up and running. Some are a bit more complicated, but only a bit.
Since you already set up a MediaWiki development environment, you should check to make sure that the extension works in your dev environment. This is very important. You can crash your whole site by turning on an extension that doesn’t work with your site.
Even if it does seem like you’ve done damage, it’s very easy to remove the extension by removing the offending line from your LocalSettings.php file. Always make sure to move the extension files before you make your modifications to LocalSettings.php. Updating LocalSettings.php turns the extension on. Depending on the extension, it is also used to set properties for the extension.
One thing that is particularly amazing about using extensions is that it lets you upgrade your MediaWiki wiki to new versions without needing to worry about losing all the work that you’ve put into adding funtionality. I personally can’t wait for MediaWiki version 1.16 to come out. A lot of incredible work has been done to enhance usability. As soon as it’s out, I’ll be able to upgrade and not lose the look and feel of what I’ve put together. Man, those people at MediaWiki.org are a bright bunch!