counter on godaddy
post

JotSpot Born Again as Google Sites, the Wiki-less Wiki.

Three weeks ago I speculated that JotSpot, the user-friendly wiki swallowed by Google a year and a half ago would soon come out of hibernation, and Voila! here it is, rebranded as Google Sites. It is the first service only available as part of Google Apps (including the free version), although I had some difficulty accessing it. Under “Manage this Domain” I could add “Sites” as a new service, but it did not show up on my account as an accessible application. When I typed sites.google.com it wanted me to sign up for Google Apps even though I was already logged in to my account. Of course trying to do so resulted in the error message:

Google Apps for zoliblog.com has already been registered by your domain administrator. Please contact your admin directly to get access to Google Apps services.

Catch 22. But there’s a solution: just type the direct URL (sites.google.com/a/yourdomain.com as default, or customize it to your liking) and you can get into Sites. I’m sure Google will soon add it to the Apps menu. (Sidenote: my old JotSpot account is still alive at name.jot.com).

Google no longer calls this a wiki, which I think is a good move. I previously wrote:

Wikis have arrived when …you don’t even have to know what they are to use one. You don’t have to know you’re using a wiki, just happily type away, creating shareable content on the Web.

I was discussing Wetpaint, the user friendly, wiki-less wiki there, and I think it’s smart of Google to follow that pattern… more later, but first, under the hood it is still a wiki, so let’s examine some of the wiki basics.

The interface is familiar from good old JotSpot (as a sidenote, the old JotSpot accounts are still alive at name.jot.com). There’s a basic wysiwyg editor, the Edit button is large and visible, and so is the New Page button. Good old JotSpot had several more ways of creating new pages, which are gone – perhaps for the best:

  • WikiWords or CamelCase: in old JotSpot anything you typed with embedded capitalization became a link to a page. As a relatively early wiki-user I liked it, as the easiest way to LinkAsYouThink. But in the Web 2.0 age we keep on bastardizing grammar writing EveryThingLikeThis, so more and more WikiWords had to be “unlinked”… too much confusion, especially for the new generation of mainstream users.
  • Linking to a shell-page before it’s created. This was a useful feature, even if we eliminate camelcase, I could use the “Link” icon, and mark up text as a link to a new sub-page, to be filled with content later. Again, this supports flow-thinking, or LinkAsYouThink, which I regret is gone.
  • The “New Page” button. This is the only remaining option in Google Sites, and I think the fact that it offers to pick a parent page (enforced hierarchy) is an improvement. No more orphan pages, yet relatively flexible hierarchy.

For those not too familiar with wiki terms, I discuss some of these concepts in more detail here: technically an article on SocialText 2.0, but I often make comparisons to JotSpot and Atlassian’s Confluence.

I’m glad to see Sites retained breadcrumbs for easier navigation, and they added sitemaps, a tree-style view of all your pages. This could be improved to allow for drag-and-drop style moving of the pages (changing the hierarchy), like Zoho Wiki does.

I’m surprised Sites still does not have inbound links: this is a critical feature for all wikis, whatever we call them. A wiki is all about associating pieces of information with each other, and the inbound link, also referred to as backlink shows you where the information on the current page is used elsewhere. The JotSpot tea half-recognized the importance of backlinks, as they were available as as a downloadable plugin on the Jot Development wiki, but never made it to the standard feature-set, and are apparently lost in the Google reincarnation, at least for now.

Attachment handling is as good as it was in the original JotSpot: it maintains previous versions, allows users to revert to earlier ones…etc. However, Google missed a huge chance here to by not offering to convert the attached documents to its own Google Docs style. This point takes us to the next level: stepping outside the boundaries of a standalone wiki and using it as a facility to pull together data created by other applications.

Last year I said after burying JotSpot for a year, Google can’t just release it as a wiki, instead:

…I hope that means they rethought everything and integrated JotSpot well into a number of offerings.

  • It could provide for much better document management than the current Docs &­ Spreadsheets UI.
  • It overlaps with Page Creator, also with the simplified version found in Google Groups – in fact Groups which is no longer just email lists but a rudimentary collaboration platform and JotSpot could very well be merged / integrated.
  • Finally JotSpot tried to provide primitive applications (spreadsheet, calendar..etc) all of which have a better Google counterpart, so one would hope they will be replaced, too.

Well, what’s the score on that prediction? Google Sites is a better replacement for Page Creator, Google ditched the JotSpot “apps”, replacing them with their own ones – so far 2 scores out of 3. As for document management.. well, I’d say half a score, or less. (Hey, that’s 2.5 out of 3smile_tongue)

You can somewhat integrate Google Docs (which includes documents, spreadsheets and presentations) by embedding them into any Google Sites page. You have to enter the specific URL though – why not just select from a list? Furthermore, your Google docs or spreadsheets have to be first made public and you have to use the public URL to embed them into Sites. Here’s my test site, showing first an error message, then the actual embedded spreadsheet, after I made it public.

The embedded docs appear properly in the saved page, but I can’t click on it, not even in Edit mode to get to the source. In fact in Edit mode all I see is a graphical placeholder for the embedded doc.

How about sharing / collaboration? As expected, your Sites can be:

  • private
  • public
  • shared with individual email id’s
  • shared with everyone within your domain

…and you can set view or edit options for all those levels. However, Google missed a big chance again. As a complete coincidence, it’s only yesterday that I raved about Zoho’s Group level sharing, half-announced in a fairly understated manner – hidden in a list of Zoho Writer enhancements. Well, Google already has a very good group facility: Google Groups, which started it’s life as a group discussion / forum system, but it gradually evolved into a decent collaboration platform. Once I have a “group” defined (i.e. the list of members), why doesn’t it become an entity I can share my wiki (sites) or docs with? When I invite users to share the wiki with, there’s an option to save the list as group, but I don’t know where it disappears, can not pull it up either within the wiki or gmail, or docs.

Finally there are gadgets, but if you read Dennis Howlett at ZDNet, gadgets might the feature you don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. smile_sad

Summary: Nice to have Jot back (even if we did not get GSpot.smile_embaressed ) Google now has a pretty good and easy web-page creator with some wiki features made user-friendly, and a half-hearted attempt at integrating the rest of the Apps empire using Sites. Perhaps they get it right in the next release.

Related posts: TechCrunch, eWeek, Ross Mayfield’s Weblog, Irregular Enterprise, Mashable!, InfoWorld, Between the Lines, Portals and KM, CNet, Webware, GigaOM, Web Worker Daily, Venture Chronicles, Insider Chatter, Learning and Technology, Solo Technology.

post

Is GSpot (Google + JotSpot) Release Imminent?

This is a speculative post.   As it is widely known, JotSpot, a very user-friendly wiki and application-platform-wannabe was acquired by Google in October 2006, only to be closed for new users for a long time. Existing users could continue to access their information free.

There was a lot of speculation as to when it would re-surface and in what shape.  I certainly liked the wiki before they “disappeared”, and was hoping The Goog would take the opportunity to do more than just re-label it and make it more scalable:

I hope that means they rethought everything and integrated JotSpot well into a number of offerings.

  • It could provide for much better document management than the current Docs &­ Spreadsheets UI. 
  • It overlaps with Page Creator, also with the simplified version found in Google Groups – in fact Groups which is no longer just email lists but a rudimentary collaboration platform and JotSpot could very well be merged / integrated.
  • Finally JotSpot tried to provide primitive applications (spreadsheet, calendar..etc) all of which have a better Google counterpart, so one would hope they will be replaced, too.

Perhaps we’re getting close to the re-emergence of JotSpot (yes, I know it won’t be called GSpot, but why not have some fun?). Obviously this is the speculative part, but several users report that JotSpot wikis disappear from the net.  Users are understandably getting excited:

Is it over? Just like this? Without notice?

I just finished a major rework on the site. And 4 hours after it:
boom, it disappeared.

Any help?
Where is all the data gone?

The main jot.com page displays a Network Solutions domain capture page. 

I can still access www.jot.com, which displays the standard notification about the Google transaction, and, more importantly I can get into my jot account using the direct URL:  account.jot.com.  I am using OpenDNS.  Perhaps the difference is a matter of DNS propagation, and they are changing in preparation of the Google Wiki launch?

My previous coverage:

(Hat tip: Isaac Garcia, CEO of Central Desktop)

Update (2/6):  Mashable list 14 of what they call Online Spreadsheet Applications (clearly, not all are) and surprise, surprise, JotSpot is one of them.  That’s a joke. As much as Iiked JotSpot as a wiki, it failed to become an application platform, and it certainly isn’t (hasn’t been) a spreadsheet.  Like I wrote before:

Just because a page looks like an application, it does not mean it really is. Try to import an Excel spreadsheet into a Jot Spreadsheet page, you’ll get a warning that it does not import formulas. Well, I’m sorry, but what else is there in a spreadsheet but formulas? The previous name, Tracker was fair: it’s a table where you track lists, but not a spreadsheet. (more)

But whatever we think of the former JotSpot Tracker capabilities, it’s hard to see it left intact once Google releases what they turned JotSpot into.   Google themselves have a much better online spreadsheet, I certainly hope for their sake that they will integrate their apps with JotSpot, and kill off the overlap.

(FYI: The real online spreadsheets out of Mashable’s 14 are Google , Zoho, EditGrid, ThinkFree.  )

post

Jaikus Hiatus

Now that Jaiku is part of Google, for many observers the question is why Jaiku, not Twitter? Scoble sees it as part of Google’s social networking arsenal, and predicts Orkut 2.0 to be a Facebook killer.

Tim O’ Reilly says:

Jaiku isn’t a “lifestreaming” company per se. They are a mobile company in the business of creating smarter presence applications. Far from being a runner up behind twitter, they are a leader in a category most people haven’t fully grasped yet. Google is clearly thinking a lot about mobile, and so they do grasp it.

Ben Metcalfe and Ross Mayfield also believe Google got themselves one of the best mobility teams.

My only question is why Google had to apply it’s standard process of freezing newly acquired applications, like they did with Writely, JotSpot..etc? (Existing users can continue Jaiku-ing, but new signups are on hold.)

I admit I don’t use Jaiku, or Twitter, for that matter, but even I get the importance of the networking effect. Google can sit on JotSpot all they want, release it in 2010, it will still be a good wiki, new users will come. It’s used by a well-defined, typically small group, and Writely was a personal productivity tool – neither depended on the network effect. But as soon as Jaiku users can not interact with new friends-of-their-friends, they will defect to the service that still accepts new members: Twitter.

Related posts: TechCrunch, mathewingram.com/work, Ross Mayfield’s Weblog, blognation, Search Engine Land, jkOnTheRun, This is going to be BIG., Google Blogoscoped, CenterNetworks, Between the Lines, bub.blicio.us, Innovation Creators.

Update: Dodgeball? Jotspot? Jaiku! by Robert Scoble.

post

Where is Writely?

windowslivewriterwhereiswritely-739fwritely-2.jpg

writely It’s funny how bloggers insist on calling Google’s new presentation app Presently. There’s no trace of using this name on any Google affiliated blogs. It wouldn’t be logical, after killing off the Writely brand.

But if Presently perseveres, could we see Writely back? And what does it mean for Google Spreadsheet? Calcly? How about when Google finally releases JotSpot? Jotly? Or would they pick the more toungue-in-cheek GSpot? :-)

Links galore: Between the Lines, InsideGoogle, Guardian Unlimited, Insider Chatter, WebProNews, Search Engine Roundtable, Read/WriteWeb, Robin Good, Download Squad, Webware.com, Compiler, Search Engine Journal, Squash, michael parekh on IT, The Web Services Report, PaulStamatiou.com, ParisLemon.

post

JotSpot…Gspot … Google Wiki

So they figured Gspot would be too risky a name for Google’s JotSpotTongue out, it’s now (almost) official: the new name will be Google Wiki.

JotSpot was (I assume still is) a good, user-friendly wiki, and if it comes back now, it took Google almost an entire year to release it after the acquisition. I hope that means they rethought everything and integrated JotSpot well into a number of offerings.

  • It could provide for much better document management than the current Docs &­ Spreadsheets UI.
  • It overlaps with Page Creator, also with the simplified version found in Google Groups – in fact Groups which is no longer just email lists but a rudimentary collaboration platform and JotSpot could very well be merged / integrated.
  • Finally JotSpot tried to provide primitive applications (spreadsheet, calendar..etc) all of which have a better Google counterpart, so one would hope they will be replaced, too.

In fact there are so many opportunities to waive the wiki into Google’s current offerings, I can’t even imagine what it would look like… or, perhaps, are we going to see a standalone wiki? Thinking

Related posts: Google Operating System, Google Blogoscoped, Read/WriteWeb, TechCrunch, Download Squad , Mashable!, Insider Chatter, Ben Barren, Squash, Parislemon.

post

Wikis are Not Knowledge Management Tools

No, this is not an anti-wiki pitch, that would be highly unlikely coming from me. But I am continually amazed how we tend to focus on features while missing the people factor. Knowledge Management is a prime example. KM projects typically do not fail due to software issues, but for human reasons: lack of input, or GIGO. Yet here’s an excerpt from a white paper by enterprise wiki vendor MindTouch::

Wikis provide a flexible alternative to the rigidity of conventional

knowledge management software.

Why wikis work for knowledge management

Based on the features described above, wikis are a powerful replacement for conventional

knowledge management software, because they make knowledge easier to

capture, find and consume:

a. Capturing information: The information is there. Somewhere. Maybe on

a PC, maybe in a file attached to an email, maybe in someone’s head

undocumented. With a wiki, all documents are stored in one central

repository, and files are uploaded rather than attached to emails. Therefore

information is more likely to be captured, stored and made available for reuse.

b. Finding information: When a user has to search a network file server,

he or she must know exactly where to look. A wiki lets a user search

contextually. In addition, because the structure is not required to be linear—

as with KM software—cross-linking of pages helps users not only find

information, but find relevant information.

c. Consuming information: In addition to finding information more easily with

a wiki, a user finds that information in context, meaning the information

is in a location that gives the user some background and perspective relative

to the data. That enables the user to more quickly comprehend the meaning,

significance and relevance of that piece of information. “

All of the above is true – yet it misses the Big Picture. The real story is not about a better tool, but being able to work differently. When wikis are truly embraced in the enterprise, they don’t just make KM easier; they put it out of it’s misery. Yes, that’s right, the wiki is the end of Knowledge Management as we know it: the after-the-fact collection, organization and redistribution of knowledge objects.

The wiki becomes the primary platform to conduct work, the fabric of everyday business, where people create, collaborate, and in the process capture information. While not a Knowledge Management tool, the wiki resolves the KM-problem as a by-product.

Update (6/15/08): Now we have pretty good terms to describe the above, instead of my clumsy explanation. See the discussion on In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow wikis by Michael Idinopulos and Ross Mayfield.

Ross Mayfield talks about similar ideas in Manage Knowledgement (MK):

“Turns out, users resisted and the algorithms didn’t match reality. With MK, through blogs and wikis, the principle activity is sharing, driven by social incentives. Contribution is simple and unstructured, isn’t a side activity and there is permission to participate. Intelligence is provided by participants, both through the act of sharing and simply leaving behind breadcrumbs of attention.”

Update (5/1): What Happened to Knowledge Management? – by Stewart Mader

post

Read/Write Intranet 2007

Rod Boothby is running a Read/Write Intranet Idol – it’s a poll I invite you to participate in, so I am attaching it at the bottom. But first, it gives me a chance to share some of my (wiki)-thoughts.

The list is a mix of industry behemoths (Microsoft, IBM Lotus), emerging but established brands (Atlassian‘s Confluence, Socialtext, WordPress), relatively known startups and quite a few obscure names. The latter probably not by pure chance: both Rod and I are on the Selection Committee for the next Under the Radar Conference on Office 2.0, and scouting for candidates we have made quite a few new discoveries, including some of these “obscure” names, that likely won’t remain obscure for long.

Perhaps the biggest “discovery” for me was Brainkeeper, a user-friendly enterprise wiki startup that officially launches today. Totally out of left field, they aim to be like market-leader Confluence in functionality yet have a friendly UI like Wetpaint. Oh, and add niceties like Workflow (Itensil?) and an API. Like I said before sometimes it pays to *not* be first on the market …

It was really interesting to watch the poll dynamics change yesterday and this morning. First, with only a handful votes cast unknown little Brainkeeper was leading the chart. Another leader was Koral, a content collaboration startup I’ve been planning to write about way too long now (until I pull my act together, see two reviews by Ismael and John Wilson). What’s content collaboration? It’s content management without the pain of “management”. As much as I am a fan of wikis, not all companies will embrace them: Koral helps those who mostly work with desktop documents (MS Office) share, update, collaborate painlessly.

Back to the poll: as more voters came in, predictably the “brand names” strengthened their position and the “obscure” ones fell somewhat behind. Still with 117 votes cast, I believe it’s mostly InnovationCreators’s primary reader-base, where Microsoft Sharepoint or Lotus Notes Blogsphere are not exactly popular. Like it or not those products will make a killing on the corporate market. So “brand name” here means the likes of Confluence by Atlassian, Socialtext, WordPress, Movable Type…etc.

Confluence’s #1 position on the list reflects it’s real-life market position: absolute leader in market share, revenue, functionality. Of course to maintain that position they can’t just sit on their laurels and they know that. At a really productive meeting with the San Francisco team recently we discussed their development plans, most of which I cannot share for now. However, I am happy to share that in the not-so-distant future Confluence will offer a hosted version – something I’ve repeatedly asked for:-).

As for competitor Socialtext, they revamped the product a few months ago: while I was fairly critical of some of the functional misses, the single biggest improvement was the UI: they went from an outright ugly product to a pleasant-looking, clean, friendly one. In fact this, along with other players (JotSpot, Wetpaint, Zoho, Brainkeeper) has turned the table: formerly good-looking Confluence now feels a bit … well, 2005-ish (?) Still the best, but somewhat boring. They are keenly aware of this and improving the UI is one of Atlassian’s key priorities.

JotSpot is in hibernation in the meantime, although TechCrunch speculates it may open up soon. Zoho is a newcomer to the wiki space, but not one to underestimate: they may just leapfrog all other players when they tightly integrate their full Suite (Write, Show, Sheet, Create) thus creating a truly powerful read/write/collaborate platform online.

Last, but not least two smaller wiki-players from the list: Itensil combines workflow with a wiki (now, religious wiki-fans deny the need for any structure or workflow, which is probably OK for a small group, but workflow is the way large corporations work), and System One combines a wiki with relevant enterprise search.

Without further ado (wasn’t this enough?) here’s the poll, please cast your vote:

You can click “view results” after you cast your vote, then “Complete results” to se more stats on the Zoho Polls site. Once there, click the “Rating” header to sort the list in ranking order – right now, with 117 votes cast Confluence is #1 with an average of 3.54, closely followed by Brainkeeper’s 3.50.

post

Wetpaint Attracts More Funding

(Updated)

Wetpaint, the “wiki-less wiki” received a $9.5 million Series B round in addition to its $5.25 million Series A in October 2005.

TechCrunch compares it to other wikis, especially key competitor Wikia:

“Wetpaint has a much more newbie-friendly user interface than Wikia, and is targeting a different audience. Frankly, it’s just a lot more pleasant to look at a typical Wetpaint site than a Wikia one, although the content on Wikia is often much deeper than the equivalent on Wetpaint.”

I’d take this one step further: Wetpaint isn’t really just a wiki, it’s a wiki – blog – forum hybrid. Even novice users can just happily type away and create attractive pages with photos, videos, tagging …etc. without the usual learning curve. These pages can be shared, other users can contribute, entire communities can grow and thrive – in fact that’s what it’s all about: online community creation.

Last August I issued a challenge to find another wiki just as easy to use with a comparably rich feature-set – the challenge still stands.

My only concern is that they appear to burn money faster than the other wiki-companies – but I guess if the investors are not worried, it’s really not my business

smile_wink (And in fairness they have a different business model)

Update (1/9): VentureBeat comments:

“With Jotspot gone for now (presumably, Google will relaunch it in some fashion), and players like Socialtext increasingly focused on selling its wiki software to company users, Wetpaint is among the more convenient Wiki softwares for individual projects.”

As much as I like Wetpaint, I have to disagree. I’ve never considered it a project-oriented collaboration tool. It’s clearly geared towards community creation, and like I’ve hinted above, for that purpose it’s the friendliest platform avaialable today. Business -even small projects – requires a few additional features like document handling (attachments, version control..etc), email integration ..etc.

JotSpot was quite good for that, too bad it’s gone. Socialtext used to be quite ugly, but the new UI is quite nice – it misses a few features though. The new kid on the block is Zoho’s Wiki , (bias alert: I’m and advisor to Zoho) with quite a few features for an initial beta release. It already supports embedding documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos..etc, and with improved integration to the full Zoho suite later this year it will be a killer combination.

Update (5/13/08):  TechCrunch article on Wetpaint’s traction.

post

Losers of the Google / JotSpot Deal

(Updated)
In my longer analysis of the JotSpot sale to Google I listed a group of JotSpot customers who may feel disadvantaged by the deal: those who’d rather pay to have their data at a company whose pure business model is charging for services than enjoy free service by Google whose primary business model requires dissecting/analyzing their data left and right.

I also pointed out that several competitors are offering deals to migrate these customers to their platform free or at a discount. Socialtext and Atlassian were the first to come forward with their offers, but since the previous post I heard about Central Desktop, (update: see correction in this comment by Central Desktop’s CEO), ProjectForum and I’m sure there are others. (Clearly, the wiki market is growing and sadly, I don’t know all the players). Jerry Bowles and Tom Raftery wrote more on the subject.

We all seem to have missed a point here: there is a group of customers for whom migration is not optional but a necessity: participants in the JotSpot Wiki Server beta program. Like I’ve said before, as much as I am a SaaS believer, it is not a religion, apparently the feedback from most customers is that they want their wiki behind the firewall – JotSpot’s response was the Wiki Server edition. These customers now have a rude awakening: JotSpot notified them that they would discontinue the beta program. Current customers have the right to continue using the product for the remainder of the 90-day beta period (what’s the point? smile_omg) but there is no support, no migration plan – game over, bad luck. smile_angry Of course JotSpot had the right to do this, these were not paying customers (yet), and a beta is a beta, after all. But a beta program is a mutual effort, and especially early on requires a lot of time and effort from the customers, so it’s clear that these customers may feel let down. While most competitive migration offers are hosted solutions, it’s this specific “betrayed” group that Atlassian goes after: they offer migration help and discounted rates on Confluence, their behind-the-firewall enterprise wiki. So let down or not, these customers may eventually be better off on a more mature, robust enterprise platform.

As a sidenote, this is the second time that JotSpot drops a product benefiting a competitor: when they discontinued JotBox, Socialtext reaped the benefits by moving those customers to their Appliance. Update: Please read the comment exchange below for correction by JotSpot.

Update (11/29): two post on how the deal affected JotSpot partners and customers:
JotSpot Got the Goldmine. Its Partners and Customers Got the Shaft.
The JotSpot Google Merger

Update (11/30) the above post, The JotSpot Google Merger is now deleted, supposedly under pressure by … (?) Read the story on TechCrunch.

post

JotSpot Google Deal – Who Wins, Why it’s Big:First Thoughts

A few weeks ago the “wikirati” was having dinner with the Enterprise Irregulars in San Francisco, on occasion of the Office 2.0 Conference. Our gracious sponsor was Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes, and JotSpot’s Joe Kraus showed up, too. Missing from the photo is Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield, who was there for the first part, a briefing for Forrester‘s Charlene Li, but left before dinner. (Hm, did Joe eat Ross’s dinner?smile_tongue )

(photo credit: Dan Farber)

I heard a rumor that one of us in the group had likely gotten a few million dollars richer – and it wasn’t me smile_sad… but Joe Kraus, having sold Jot$pot to Google. The source was credible but of course we had already heard about a Yahoo acquisition, then eBay .. so who knows, after all.

I found the timing ironic, just having come back from a Google briefing where they announced Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which left me largely unimpressed. This is what they were missing, I thought.

Today we know it’s a fact: JotSpot is part of Google. After the quick post, here are my first thoughts around who wins, and what it may mean from a user prospective.

Who Wins:

  • Joe, Graham and team for obviou$ rea$ons.
  • Google, for now they have all the pieces for a small business collaboration suite, if they are smart enough to get rid of the junk and integrate the good pieces together – something they have not done before. I’ll talk about this more a few paragraphs below.
  • Some paying JotSpot customers: Jot has had a funny pricing model, where you can start free, but if you exceed a page limit (10?) you have to upgrade. Most users probably don’t realize that because in Jot everything is a page (i.e. add an event to the Calendar, it’s a new page), 10 pages are essentially nothing, if you wanted to do anything but testing, you’d have to upgrade – until now, that is. From now on paying customers will enjoy their current level of service for free.
  • Competitors: JotSpot’s market direction has never been entirely clear; they focused on consumers and small businesses, but were present on the enterprise market, too. I think it’s fair to assume that they are out of the enterprise market at least for a while, leaving only Atlassian and Socialtext as the two serious players.

Who Loses:

  • Some JotSpot customers who’d rather pay but have their data at a company whose business model is charging for services than enjoy free service by Google whose primary business model is to know everything about you. Clearly there will be some migration from JotSpot to other wiki platforms. Update: the competition isn’t sleeping, see migration offers by Socialtext and Atlassian.
  • Me, for having half-written a post about the merits of pure wikis, Office suites and hybrids, which I can scrap now.

Who Needs to Move:

  • Some of the Office 2.0 Suites, including my friends at Zoho. This may be a surprising conclusion, but bear with me for a while, it will all be clear.

So far the balance is good, we have more winners than loserssmile_regular – now let’s look at what Google should do with JotSpot.

They have (almost) all the right pieces/features fragmented in different products, some of them overlapping though. They should kill off the weak ones and integrate the best – a gargantuan task for Google that so far hasn’t pulled off anything similar. Here’s just some of what I mean:

Google Docs & Spreadsheets:
One of the reasons I found the announcement underwhelming was that there really wasn’t a lot of innovation: two apps (Writely and Google Spreadsheets) put together in a uniform look and a file management system. It’s this very file management system that I found weak: how on earth can I work online and manage a jungle of thousands of documents in a flat, alphabetical list? JotSpot may just be the right solution.

Google Groups:
It’s rare for a mature product to go back to beta, but when Google recently did it, it was for good reason: the Groups which so far has been just a group email mechanism, became a mini community/collaborative platform, offering functionality found in collaborative editors like Writely, Zoho Writers, page cross-linking a’la wikis, file management..etc, combining all this with group email and the ability to share with a predefined group. I seriously considered it a major step forward, likely attracting previously “email-only” users to the native web-interface – and we all know why Google loves that.

JotSpot, the “hybrid” wiki:
This will be the somewhat controversial part. First of all, JotSpot is an attractive, easy-to-use wiki, and I believe that’s the value Google should keep.

Second, they’ve been playing around with the concept of being an application platform, which just never took off. The “applications” available in JotSpot are all in-house developed, despite their expectations the world has not come to develop apps on their platform. (Will this change in Google’s hands?). In JotSpot 2.0 they integrated some of the previously existing applications into user-friendly page types: Calendar, Spreadsheet, Photo ..etc, along with regular (text) wiki pages. This is what I considered Jot’s weak part. Just because a page looks like an application, it does not mean it really is:

  • Try to import an Excel spreadsheet into a Jot Spreadsheet page, you’ll get a warning that it does not import formulas. Well, I’m sorry, but what else is there in a spreadsheet but formulas? The previous name, Tracker was fair: it’s a table where you track lists, but not a spreadsheet.
  • Look at a Calendar page: it does not have any functionality. You cannot do group schedules, can’t even differentiate between personal and group events. It’s just a table that looks like a Calendar – reminding me the “electronic” calendars of corporate executives in the 90′s: the Word template that your secretary maintained for you and printed daily…

I guess it’s clear that I am unhappy with Jot’s “application” functionality, but I like it as a wiki. In this respect I tend to agree with Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield, who believes in best-of-breed (whether that’s Socialtext is another question…). Best-of-breed of everything, be it a wiki or other productivity tools. I’ve also stated that my ‘dream setup’ for corporate collaboration: is a wiki with an integrated Office 2.0 Suite. Why?
Other than its collaborative features, a wiki is a map of our logical thinking process: the cross-linked pages provide structure and narrative to our documents, one could think of it as a textual / visual extension of a directory system, resolving the problem of the flat listing of online files that represent fragments of our knowledge. Of course I am not implying that a wiki is just a fancy directory system… au contraire, the wiki is the primary work and collaboration platform, from which users occasionally invoke point applications for number crunching, presentation..etc.

Now Google has it all: they should kill the crap, and combine the JotSpot wiki, their own Office apps ( a good opportunity to dump the lousy Docs & Spreadsheets name), Calendar, Gmail, the Group email from Google Groups and have the Rolls -Royce of small business collaboration.
(Update: Dan Farber over at ZDNet is pondering the same: Is JotSpot the new foundation for Google Office?)

By now it’s probably obvious what I meant by Zoho having to make their move soon: they either need to come up with their own wiki, or team up with a wiki company. Best-of-breed is a great concept and enterprise customers can pick and match their tools on their own. For the SMB market it makes sense to be able to offer a hosted,integrated Wiki/Office solution though. So far Zoho is ahead of Google in Office 2.0, if they want to maintain that leadership, they will need a wiki one way or another.

Of course I could be way off in my speculation and Google may just have bought the team.. either way, congratulations to Joe, Graham and the JotSpot team. thumbs_up

Related posts: