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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 [email protected], 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.

Comments

  1. Zoli,

    thanks for the link.

    To answer some of your questions:
    Hosted Confluence is NOT available under the community license. As this was for a not-for-profit a community license was all we could go for. PBWiki and SocialText had no such restrictions.
    I tried out DekiWiki but the lack of an ability to create Groups ruled it out quickly.
    I realise it was a long post but the wiki is for an organisation with multiple committees and sub-committees, not for a conference. We used it to organise one of the organisations conferences last year. This year we intend to use a wiki to run the organisation, not just the conference.
    WetPaint was also looked into and ruled out because of the inability to keep your wikis private.

    If I didn’t go into detail on DekiWiki, it was at the end of a long post in which I had gone into considerable detail on the other 3 wikis. I didn’t have much more to add about DekiWiki, so I didn’t go into detail on it (and anyway I didn’t want to write the War and Peace of wiki reviews!).

    Sorry this post didn’t live up to your expectations.

  2. Tom, I felt it was more of a rant than a comparison. But then so is mine -a counter-rant to the rant:-)

    Somebody should write that War and Peace one day .. whether you, me or somebody else….

  3. Zoli,

    As a significant number of people read blog posts in RSS readers (thereby missing the comments) I would appreciate if you would update your post with my explanations )specifically my reasons for not using hosted Confluence and for not chosing DekiWiki).

    Thanks,

    Tom

  4. Any organisation storing sensitive information on a wiki is going to be nervous about using a free hosted service regardless of what assurances it is given. Also most large organisations (which make up a lot of Confluence’s users) wouldn’t blink at spending the comparatively little money it costs to set up a Confluence wiki on their own servers. Considering the long term impact that it will have on their organisation it’s possibly the cheapest implementation that they will ever undertake.

  5. Hi Zoli,

    If you do end up writing a wiki review, take a look at Wikispaces too. While we didn’t have a free option that made sense for Tom, our Private Label service is being used by a lot of customers in similar situations. We’re sporting single-sign-on, a full API, and very competitive pricing.

    It was our third birthday just a few days ago and we posted about the state of our community and where we’re headed:

    http://blog.wikispaces.com/2008/03/wikispaces-turns-three.html

    Best,
    James

  6. Zoli – thanks for updating the post.

    Charlie, with all due respect, I think you are wrong. That may have been the case five years ago but the world has moved on. Thousands of companies now trust some of their most sensitive information to hosted applications like Salesforce.com, Freshbooks, MyRMA.net, etc.

    Even Microsoft realises this and is now starting to port their applications to online – hence their hosted Exchange, hosted CRM and Windows Live offerings.

    Even environmentally, it makes more sense to use online applications (remember carbon taxes and carbon accounting are only a few years off).

    Setting up applications on your own servers is the way of the past.

  7. You can keep Wetpaint wikis private. I’m using it for a private project.

  8. this non-geek, former journalist appreciates the simplicity of PBWiki

  9. For the record: There absolutely are GROUPS in MindTouch Deki Wiki. In fact, you can use internal or external groups. If you want to use external groups you can expose LDAP, Active Directory or even Drupal, WordPress and some other apps for exposing groups. You can even run multiple concurrent external auth systems if you like. And yes, you also have internal groups (as previously mentioned).

    MindTouch’s Deki Wiki is a distributed application platform that allows a site admin (presumably an IT person) hook in external apps, services, databases, auth systems, etc. Users can then organize data and systems in a manner most appropriate to them. In short, MindTouch connects teams, enterprise systems, Web2.0 apps and services. These external apps extend the platform and can be used by (even non-programmers) to create situational apps and data mashups.

    MindTouch Deki Wiki is most often cited as being the most usable in this space, but it’s very different technically from any other offering in this space. You can find information about the underlying technology of this platform here: http://mindtouch.com/Technology

  10. I would also like to add Nuospace (http:/www.nuospace.com) into the competition – in my personal (and biased :)) opinion it should be the most convenient and user-friendly out of the all products mentioned above.

    Alex,
    Nuospace founder

  11. I have been having some hard time to get SocialTextOpen up and running on a Ubuntu machine due to dependencies hell (perl deps, omg).

    Seriously as compared, Confluence is a lot easier to install but it’s a shame that it doesn’t come free.

    In the past few weeks, I have also evaluated other wikis and CMS. In terms of usability, only Confluence and SocialText are meeting my requirements, Plone is slow and funny.

    yc

  12. WIKIs are really getting popular now a days. Many are discovering the power of it is many term specially in SEO.

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