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C'est Ci Ne Pas Un Wiki
Preamble This page was copy-and-pasted from our intranet's Perspective wiki page. In this page, I'm criticizing the Perspective wiki. This dokuwiki, is, in fact, a wiki.
Not entirely satisfied with my user experience with Perspective, I decided to investigate the state of wiki.
Why isn't this Perspective wiki a wiki? One example: the guy who installed this wiki created a page1) whose only content is a plain Word document. A wiki is all about facilitating cooperative documentation, and that page is merely a poor man's LiveLink or SharePoint. The Word document enclosed could easily have been created in an affording wiki. And then it could more easily have been tracked and edited by everybody.
My favorite resource for wiki comparisons is the Wiki Matrix. Using that as a guide, I cherry picked a few popular and promising wikis.
- MediaWiki (Buzzword)
Notably left out are thousands of home-grown wikis, like our own local Super Happy Dev House's pbwiki.
David Weekly (of SHDH fame) recently gave a talk at Xerox PARC regarding wikis. It's short and is recommended reading.
My Wiki Installations
I installed a couple of the most promising wikis onto my domain, dlma.com, to see how easy it is to administer, skin and add plugins to them.
- wiki.dlma - a tikiwiki installation
- dokuwiki.dlma - a dokuwiki installation
If you're reading this page and want to play around with my installations, please feel free. Click on Login at the bottom of the page, and then Register a new user account. You'll have to email me to get an account on my tikiwiki, though.
Notable Problems with the Perspective Wiki
First, allow me to summarize my motivation for doing the investigation.
- Editing sessions time out too quickly, then edits are credited to anonymous.
- Have to login when revisiting the site.
- Have to grab the mouse to do any formatting or linking.
- No obvious pre-save preview (The not-obvious one doesn't work in Firefox.)
- WYSIWYG Bug: Editing an existing document does not show links made with the toolbar. (wiki syntax links work, though. But they're not WYSIWYG, are they?)
- Printed pages include the wiki sidebars.
Wikis exist to facilitate productivity and emergent structure.
Having said that, the first thing my manager said2) when I told him I was looking at wikis was, “Can I make it limit productivity and ease-of-use?” The answer, of course, is yes, all the wikis I reviewed allow you to create user groups and assign permissions based on categories or namespaces. It's unwiki, but management seems to like preventing staff from modifying just anything.
Perspective is a fine wiki for dipping your toes into the wiki concept. Perspective 2.0 with deep integration with Microsoft Office will be a more viable product, especially for non-technical people. Technical staff may prefer to have the option to use wiki syntax when creating pages, and not to suffer the notable problems mentioned above. Appreciated is the rss feed (on a collection basis?) And the fact that the wiki pages and included files are both maintained with a revision history. When WYSIWYG editing works better, that'll be a compelling feature.
TikiWiki is all that and a bag of chips and the kitchen sink. My default installation made 194 MySQL tables. Anything I thought of could be configured. (E-mail notification, rss feeds, article submission/review, rich drawing editing, per-user skins, threaded-discussions etc.) It's all there. Maybe if somebody got paid to maintain it. But as a hobbyist, I'm just not that interested. There's too much.
Confluence looks awesome. I was a big fan of Charles Miller even before he joined Atlassian. And I have a good friend who uses Confluence. I wouldn't be surprised if it was worth the money. Unfortunately, my budget is $0.00.
DokuWiki is the best option of all. It is light-weight, the wiki syntax is the most inuitive, the code is well organized and easy to modify, development is ongoing, it has the rss feed, editing toolbar and wiki syntax, discussion pages, section editing (see the edit buttons to the right), and plenty of plugins. DokiWiki prints pages intelligently, leaving out the sidebar, but expanding the link urls. DokuWiki affords technical documentation better than the others. And that's the most important attribute.
Perspective 2.0 will be a superior non-technical Windows-friendly wiki. But Perspective doesn't serve the original goal of a wiki quite as well as some of its more mature alternatives. Due to momentum, we can stay with Perspective, but if we were using DokuWiki, I think we'd see greater adaptation.
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