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US Army Wikified

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WetPaint is one of my early “discoveries”, three years ago I called them the “wiki-less” wiki, as it blended wiki-like, forum-like and blog-like features long before it became fashionable.   I haven’t followed them closely, but apparently they’ve been growing nicely, and today I saw this post:

The US Army on Wetpaint! – hm .. let’s see.  The PE350 Wiki is a Virtual Classroom, set up by Major Mark Rea, who put his Cadets’ physical education plan online.  This is cool on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin…

First of all, it’s a truly professionally maintained wiki, with a Wiki 101 for new users, then details of the Syllabus, Lessons and Assignements, Cadet Fitness Challenge..etc.  They use text, photos, videos, podcasts – you name it, this is a fully featured interactive social site.

Second, I grew up in a country where anything even remotely related to the Army was surrounded with utmost secrecy, and I am still somewhat amazed at the level on information publicly available about the US military.  Granted, there are no strategic plans or weapons specs in this wiki, but still … smile_wink

Third… quick IM reaction from the first person I shared this news with:

Cool. Why is US Army resorting to free sites? Credit crunch

What a perfect fit for the Power of Less theme I just wrote about earlier today, in my Web 2.0 Expo post.  Major Rea and his cadets are using Wetpaint instead of Blackboard, the market leader commercial software for Education.   No, the US Army as a whole did not replace Blackboard with Wetpaint – but this particular unit did.  It’s a good start – just like corporations using Google Apps or Zoho Business services here and there … usage grows, initially it may just be leverage in licence negotiations with Blackboard, Microsoft and the like… but one day, who knows…smile_tongue.  It’s nice to see the US Army SaaS-ified. 

Oh, and for that Power of Less: it’s certainly less when it comes to what hey have to spend on software – but I’m not even sure it’s less when it comes to usability, participation.  Could this also become the case of Less is More?

(from the PE350 video page)

 

(Cross-posted from CloudAve.  To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)

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Wiki Review or Rant?

I am deeply interested in wikis, and business oriented ones in particular, in fact was considering doing a fairly detailed comparative study, so I got really excited seeing on twitter that Tom Raftery posted an Enterprise wiki review. Too bad it’s not a review; it’s a rant that lacks any methodology or real comparison.

He goes at length describing the installation nightmare:

The setup of the Confluence wiki was far from straightforward. It took two of us the best part of a day to simply install it. Remember that as I was doing this for it@cork, this was not billable time. I was installing it on my own server and because Confluence requires TomCat as its webserver it had to run on a separate port to Apache. This meant several people couldn’t view it in their organisations.

Sounds to me like a case of bad platform choice. Now, I am by far not as technically inclined as Tom is, and am biased: I won’t touch anything that needs to be installed. That’s what Software as a Service is for. Which, incidentally is an available option for Confluence, so how Tom got into comparing “hard-to-install” Confluence with hosted PBwiki and Socialtext is beyond me – it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. And there’s not much of a comparison either… here’s all he has to say about two other products:

By the way, I did also try out DekiWiki and Twiki but I ruled them out quite early on.

That’s not a very detailed review, if you ask me. DekiWiki is downloaded about 3000 times a day (!), so some people must like it… even though their acquisition of SocialText was just an April 1 joke. smile_regular

Joke apart, a word on picking the right tool for the right job: perhaps you don’t even need an “enterprise class” wiki for a conference. The official Oracle Wiki is based on Wetpaint, a decidedly consumer and community-focused platform.

My personal takeaway from this to me is to look at PBWiki: when I last checked it out, it was a baby-wiki for some reason popular in geek circles; apparently it has grown up. I’m not sure I will get to do the wiki review I’ve been planning, but in the meantime if Tom decides to write a real one, I am looking forward to reading it.

Update: Tom responded in a comment below. The hosted version of Confluence is NOT available under the community license. He ruled out DekiWiki as when he figured he could not to create Groups. There’s more, please read his comment.

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Wiki: the Beauty & the Beast. Usability & Functionality (Event)

Silicon Valley Web Builder will host a wiki-focused event tomorrow, Wednesday. While their first wiki event almost a year ago with JotSpot, Socialtext , Atlassian and WetPaint was more introductory, this time the focus will be on – surprise! – the contrast or harmony of Beauty- i.e. attractive UI, vs. the Beast – functional robustness.

The Moderator for tomorrow is Luke Wroblewski, Yahoo’s design guru who has authored a book on Web interface design principles titled “Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability” and is working on thee next one: “Web Form Design Best Practices”.

The Panelists are:

It’s definitely an interesting mix. Playing a bit with the metaphor, I’d say market leader Atlassian is known as the “beast”: whatever enterprise wiki functionality you can think of, their Confluence will likely have it.

Wetpaint got popular for the “beauty” – that’s why I called it the wiki-less wiki. It’s a most user-friendly self-publishing tool that allows anyone to create a site and transform it into an online community. Incidentally, the SV Web Builder site is built on Wetpaint.

Brainkeeper, a user-friendly enterprise wiki startup took me by surprise when they launched in January. Totally out of left field, they aim to be the beast like Confluence and the beauty like Wetpaint, with twists not seen in wikis, like workflow. I’m really looking forward to seeing how far they’ve got since launch.

MindTouch is transforming the Wiki from the Web’s best collaborative authoring tool into an open source service platform with a Wiki heart. Their Deki Wiki Hayes release is perhaps the most extendable Wiki tool available today.” I had to steal that line from Read/WriteWeb, I couldn’t have said it any bettr – oh, and congrat’s on reaching the 100,000 user mark!

Zoho is not a pure-play wiki player. Their wiki is just a part of a productivity/collaboration suite, and it shows. Beauty? The UI needs improvement, but this is the only wiki with not just simple a WYSIWYG editor, but a full word processor that writes true html, not wiki syntax. Beast? I think the emphasis here will not be on the standalone product, but how well it integrates with other Zoho offerings, supporting a flow-oriented world that matches how we think.

It will no doubt be an interesting event, so please check out the site details, and remember, admission is free if you register online, but $10 at the door. See you tomorrow.

Related posts: Laughing Squid, Lunch 2.0, Functioning Form, Mindtouch, Brainkeeper, Wetpaint, Zoho blogs, Centernetworks.

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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.

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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.

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Socialtext 2.0: Usability vs. Usefulness

Socialtext recently announced version 2.0 of it’s enterprise wiki. The two big news are a completely revamped user interface, aiming to make Socialtext a lot easier to use, and the publication of the REST APIs to support integration and mashup development. For more information watch this screencast by CEO Ross Mayfield, and see this review at TechCrunch.

The revamped UI is a huge deal, and it’s been long overdue. For some background check out Jeff Nolan on the “UI sucks” issue. One may agree or disagree, but as long as there are reviews like this:

I have tried on at least four separate occasions to use and like Socialtext but I can’t…I just can’t use this application.” – well, you definitely know you have a problem.

Interestingly enough Socialtext, the company realizes how important ease of use is, and they are contributing resources to bringing WYSIWYG Wikiwyg editing to Wikipedia. But let’s focus on Socialtext, the product for now.

The new UI is aesthetically pleasing, has nice colors (somewhat reminds me of JotSpot’s blue), but most importantly it’s clean, simple, in short it passes the “blink test“.

thumbs_up The Home Page is of key importance in the new release: a Dashboard gives users a quick glance of a shared whiteboard, personal notepad, customizable watchlist, a listing of what’s new (i.e. recently changed pages) as well as the users active workspaces (i.e. wikis). The Home page has become the central place where you can access all extended features, like a listing of all pages, files, tags, or change settings. You can start adding information using the New Page button, which, just like the Edit and Comment buttons on all subsequent pages clearly stands out, again, passing the “blink test”. I love the new colored side-boxes for tags, inbound links and attachments.

I can’t emphasize enough how important inbound links (backlinks in the previous releases) are – a wiki is all about associating pieces of information with each other, and the inbound link shows you where the information on the current page is used elsewhere. In wiki systems without this feature on would manually have to create them, a task most often forgotten (as it does not fit the natural flow of creating new pages), thus those systems don’t offer the full potential of a wiki. I can’t for the life of me understand why inbound links haven’t yet made it into the standard feature-set in JotSpot 2.0, when it’s been long (for more than a year) available as a downloadable plugin on the Jot Development wiki – but how many users search the development wiki? In contrast, Atlassian’s Confluence has long supported incoming links.

We know from Ross and others that in creating the new design the primary objective was to increase ease of use, and in doing so Socialtext conducted customer usability studies. The number one customer request was to reduce clutter, which was quite abundant in Socialtext 1.x. They certainly achieved this objective – perhaps too much. Playing around with the beta I run into trouble trying to create a page from an already existing page – I simply did not find the New Page button. “This is something too obvious to be a bug”, I thought, and Ross proved me right: It’s all part of “getting rid of the clutter” and doing what customers had requested.

Socialtext believes this helps eliminate a frequent problem: the existence of orphan pages in wikis. (Orphan pages are valid, existing pages that no inbound hyperlinks point to; thus it’s difficult to find them, other than by searching or listing all pages).

I am not sure binding users to the Home page is a good idea (it’s not just the “new page”button, all other extended features/tools are anchored here). To me the natural flow is typically top-down: one would create a subpage from the parent where the summary level thought flows, thus creating a parent-child relationship. In a business wiki, where after a while you’ll end up having a large number of pages, the further away you are from the right place (the parent), the more likely you will forget to create a link to the new page, thus may end up with a proliferation of orphan pages.

Interestingly enough, the most elegant solution to the orphan problem comes from two products at the opposite end of the spectrum: Wetpaint, the friendliest consumer/community focused wiki (actually a blend of wiki-forum-blog features) and Atlassian’s Confluence, the market-leading enterprise wiki. Other than the standard user-created links within the flow of text, these products also offer an automatic index of subpages along with each page. JotSpot‘s 2.0 release offers a less foolproof but reasonable solution: when you create a page by using the “new page” button, technically it becomes an orphan, however when you hit “save”, you’ll find yourself at the parent level where a quick alert pops up proposing to create a link to the child page you just set up.

There’s a fool-proof way of creating new pages that can’t become orphans: create a link before the page, and forget the “new page” button. While typing, wherever you want to branch out to a new page, insert a link to the page about to be created, typically by highlighting text and using the “link” icon, or in JotSpot you have the option of simply typing a WikiWord (also referred to as CamelCase), it becomes a link automatically. This “trick” creates a shell, essentially a placeholder for your new page: you can add content later, but since it’s already linked to, it can’t become orphan. All the wikis I’ve talked about allow this method, but Wetpaint and Confluence don’t really need it, since they provide navigation based on the auto-index of child pages. (Update [2/17/07]: I’ve just discivered a perfect existing term for what I am trying to epxlain here: LinkAsYouThink.)

Back to Socialtext, perhaps there is more to the new design than the desire to create a very simple, clutter-free user experience: the underlying philosophical difference between hierarchical structures, parent-child data relationship vs. everything being flat (created at the home page ) and only associated through links embedded in page text. But hierarchy, structure are not necessarily evil; only pre-existing ones are.

smile_wink We tend to think in structures, need organizing principles – there is a reason why books have a table of contents. Wikis, as unstructured as they are in “virgin state” are a good tool to create structure – our own one. The assumption of a parent-child relationship mimics our usual workflow, and it does not impose a rigid structure, since through through cross-linking we can still have alternate structures, no matter where we create a page.

Perhaps that’s the fundamental difference between Socialtext and the other wikis I’ve mentioned – which would explain why it doesn’t have breadcrumbs (navigational line at the top): this standard feature of all the other three products (Confluence, Wetpaint, Jot) does not really fit in Socialtext’s flat world.

My other issue about with Socialtext 2.0: I really would have expected to see document versioning by now: when you upload an attachment (typically doc, ppt or xls file), Jot and Confluence shows the current version, indicating the most recent version number and the user who changed the document last. Click for details, and you get all previous versions and details. Confluence even allows you to label every instance of the attachment with a comment. Socialtext simply lists all documents with the same title (or not), not recognizing them as version of the same file.

smile_sad

Finally, a minor gripe: it would be nice to see threaded commenting, like Wetpaint and Confluence does, allowing users to enter comments to a page itself or to a previous comment. Socialtext, just like Jot, only has a flat list of comments.

Summing up, the new Socialtext 2.0 Beta is really good-looking, but in my view limits functionality for (perceived) ease of use. That said, it’s a beta, and Ross conformed repeatedly that they are seriously evaluating test user comments and it’s possible that the final 2.0 release will have a better solution for the edit/navigation/orphan problem.

fingerscrossed

Last, but not least, let’s revisit document versioning. It’s very-very important. In my “prior life” where as corporate VP I introduced a wiki-based intranet to the company, we used it for document management first, before exploring more of the native wiki functions. But here’s the catch: document versioning in wikis solves a very old problem, but solves it on the bases on yesterday’s (OK, today’s ) technology. Even with proper versioning one has to download documents, locally update them, then upload them back up to the wiki. The process is a lot easier using Office 2.0 applications, be it an editor, spreadsheet or presentation. There is no uploading/downloading, all updates happen online, if need be by multiple users at the same time, and instead of attaching them, one would simply link to, say a Zoho Sheet or Presentation from the wiki.

My ‘dream setup’ for corporate collaboration: a wiki with an integrated Office 2.0 Suite. The next step will be the wiki integration with ‘traditional’ , transactional enterprise systems – that’s a little further away (although … reading this, who knows?

smile_wink ) I hope to discuss many of these concepts with my readers next week in San Francisco, at the Office 2.0 Conference.

Update (9/5): For more insight read Socialtext 2 Design.

Update (11/1): Usability review on InfoSpaces.

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Lessons from the TechCrunch Wiki War

Mike Arrington’s TechCrunch Parties have become “THE EVENTS TO ATTEND” in the Valley – in fact not just in the Valley: last time around I remember participants driving up all the way from San Diego, and this time people will fly in just to be there. The last party as well as the next one this Friday both sold out within hours after the announcement, and a lot of readers felt frustrated:

  • Some felt that first-come-first-served is not fair enough with such a short notice (an hour or so)
  • Some publicly asked for special consideration to get in
  • Some proposed to pay for “tickets”
  • Just about everyone complained for the lockups in the registration wiki.

I don’t envy Mike in this situation. It’s his party, his house (well, at least for the previous events), it would be perfectly OK for him to have an invitation-only party. Yet he obviously wants to see new faces, so he opens it up to anyone, but then of course he can’t please all… This time around, for the seventh TechCrunch Party hosted by August Capital there was more than the usual rush: the registration wiki has become constantly locked up and Mike was forced to move RSVPs to comments on his blog, closing the wiki.

Mike received ample feedback on why the wiki was not the right platform to handle hundreds of almost simultaneous registrations, and several entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to announce new offerings. Central Desktop announced a free public event wiki, and since it’s a hybrid not-just-a-wiki solution, Founder and CEO Isaac Garcia claims they do not have lockup issues (they use a form with a database in the background). Zoho Creator would have been another elegant solution.

However, what almost no-one talks about is that this was not simply a technical glitch. Having been lucky enough (?) to wake up 4am the day the wiki opened I managed to register myself at exactly position #100 in the wiki, then observe the wiki-war that soon ensued. The major “sins” I witnessed were:

  • Individual users registering entire blocks (dozen or more) names
  • The same users sitting on the wiki (blocking), probably while coordinating with their buddies who else to sign up
  • Previously registered names getting deleted

One can perhaps justify registering others, although I don’t know where the reasonable limit is ( I only signed up myself), but deleting others is the absolute cardinal sin. Apparently fair play is a strange concept to some.

This raises another issue though: are these people not aware that wikis provide a perfect audit trail and what they did can easily become public? Or do they simply not care? Is getting in on the TechCrunch party worth being displayed on a virtual “hall of shame”?

This particular incident aside, I think the major learning here is the overall lack of awareness of a typical wiki’s capabilities and how to “behave” while using it. I know many who’d like the collaborative capabilities but are afraid of “chaos” and the potential lack of civility… in short a major ‘wiki war’ if they open up editing to anyone. Most wiki platforms offer technical controls to limit chaos: even consumer /community focused WetPaint introduced several security schemes in their latest updates, and enterprise wikis like Socialtext and Atlassian’s Confluence have for long had elaborate security schemes – heck, that’s why they are “enterprise”.

Just as important as the permissioning is the role of social- behavioral norms, which clearly are more common and more forceful in a corporate environment, where all wiki “contributors” work for the same company. “Ross Mayfield said that in four years of building wikis for corporations Socialtext has seen precisely 0 trolls and 0 instances of vandalism.” He also maintains a Best Practices wiki (hey, it’s the new skin!). Now, remember, it’s a wiki – you can contribute, not just read.

As for the TechCrunch Party, the guest list is currently at 738(!) and here’s a preview of who’s coming, courtesy of CustomCD.us. (who may have intended to keep this a surprise, but I found it anyway….)

Update (7/28/2007): Here’s another case of wiki “who done it”.

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WetPaint, the Wiki-less Wiki

Recently I wrote: “You Know Wikis Have Arrived When …. they become the feature post in your regular junk mail – this time from an Executive Recruiter firm:
What in the World is a “Wiki”? If you don’t know what a Wiki is, you probably should
.”

Well, maybe you shouldn’t. Let me rephrase the original statement: 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. This just became possible on Monday, with the launch of WetPaint, a hosted free service that combines the best of wikis, blogs, and forum software.

  • It’s like a wiki: you can create any number of pages, arrange them in a hierarchy, navigate through top-down in a tree fashion, or via direct links between pages. Anyone can edit any page a’la wiki (optionally pages can be locked, too). There is version control, audit track of changes and previous releases can be restored at a single click.
  • It’s like a discussion forum: you can have threaded/nested comments attached to each page
  • It’s like a blog: editable area in the middle, sidebars on both sides with tags and other info.

The launch created quite some interest: TechCrunch profiled Wetpaint, and several bloggers say it’s the best wiki platform ever. I respectfully disagree. There is no such thing as a “best wiki” – there are only “best” tools for specific purposes. Here are a few examples:

Confluence and Socialtext are both Enterprise Wiki’s , robust, well-supported, targeting corporate customers. Clearly not end-user products.
JotSpot is more geared towards smaller businesses and consumers and in fact it’s a mix of a wiki plus a few basic applications. I still had to watch the demo videos before getting started though.
Central Desktop is a “wiki without the wiki”, more of a full-featured collaboration platform with calendar, task, project ..etc features for small companies.

Yet I couldn’t have used any of the above platforms for setting up the Techdirt Greenhouse wiki, the online space supporting the recent successful “unconference”. Why? We needed the simplest possible site that’ so easy to use that anyone can get started without even a minute of training. WetPaint (in closed beta at the time) was simply the only choice:: easy-to-use, yet powerful, a platform that allows anyone to contribute to the website in minutes, without any training, or even reading help.

Forget wiki. WetPaint is a wiki-less wiki. It’s the most user-friendly self-publishing tool that allows anyone to create a site and transform it into an online community. Don’t take my word for it though: the proof is the 3000+ sites that were set up in the 3 days since the launch. That probably includes people who have not had a site before, and some who moved, like Mike:

I’m moving from the current Wiki (based on Mediawiki which runs the beloved yet always under fire Wikipedia) to a new Wiki doo-fangle called Wetpaint. Why? Coz it’s a gazzilion times easier to use and I like it.” Well said.

Here’s what Yule says: “I just started a wiki - my first ever… Blame WetPaint - couldn’t resist starting this up.”

Check out samples of WetPaint sites, then it’s your turn to create your own… I will soon be launching mine.

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You Know Wikis Have Arrived When ….

You Know Wikis Have Arrived When …. they become the feature post in your regular junk mail – this time from an Executive Recruiter firm:

What in the World is a “Wiki”?

If you don’t know what a Wiki is, you probably should.
The term “Wiki” refers to both a collaborative site on the web or your company’s intranet/extranet and the software that runs the Wiki.

A wiki is a website designed for collaboration. Unlike a traditional website where pages can only be read, in a wiki everyone can edit, update and append pages with new information, all without knowing HTML, simply by using a MS Word type interface.

Wikis are the latest, greatest tool for group collaboration, project teams, document editing, etc. And, best of all, they are easy to use, affordable, and extremely flexible.

The easiest way to learn more is to click on the link at the end of this section of the newsletter and try it for yourself!

What can you do with a wiki?
Whether you’re at work or at home, you can access and use a wiki. The wiki allows free-form collaboration, but most wiki software providers and hosts also offer structured applications that allow you all kinds of very helpful functionality.

Here are some of the things that can be done (depending on whose software you use and what applications may be available:

  • Create an intranet
    Publish company information, such as news or employee guidelines
  • Project management
    Schedule project deadlines, assign tasks, and define product specifications
  • Document collaboration
    Multiple users author documents with aid of version history
  • Manage a group’s activities
    Utilize event calendars, discussion forums, blogs and other apps
  • Collaborate with virtual teams
    Communicate with remote contractors or clients
  • Track software bugs
    Log defects and build custom queries
  • Call center support
    Access case histories and increase customer support

A wiki can be hosted on your company servers or there are a number of hosted versions available. There are a number of suppliers, each touting advantages over their competitors, of course.

One important aspect of a wiki — it is highly cost- effective and versions/solutions range from those for the smallest teams on the most limited budgets scaling up to full enterprise versions.

If you are unfamiliar with this explosive growth phenomenon, you may want to take a look for yourself. [Company name] has found one supplier offering free trials. It’s pretty neat stuff and has become indispensable in our own operations. Click the link below for a free trial.

This is not a [Company name] product but we have used the free trial ourselves and had no problems, no hassles, and no sales calls. It just takes 30 seconds or so to sign up.


For spam, this is actually pretty good. The original letter pointed to the signup page of one particular provider, and of course the sender forgot to disclose the paid referral relationship … So instead of just one, here’s a list of a few wiki providers:

Confluence and Socialtext are both Enterprise Wiki’s , robust, well-supported, targeting corporate customers.
JotSpot is more geared towards smaller businesses and consumers and in fact it’s a mix of a wiki plus a few basic applications.
Central Desktop is a “wiki without the wiki”, more of a full-featured collaboration platform with calendar, task, project ..etc features.
WetPaint blurs the line between wiki, blog and discussion group, providing an amazingly easy to use interface, but it’s currently at beta stage.

The above list is by far not complete, it’s just a few of the top of my head – feel free to contribute in the comments section.