Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Wiki of choice: Wikispaces

In order to choose a wiki for one of my pet projects I had to spend quite a few weekend hours on comparing, demoing and testing things available on the market. There are lots of them, and I had little background to start with. As a matter of fact, my experience with wikis is limited to Wikipedia… and it’s only reader’s experience.

Eventually, I decided to go with Wikispaces.

I thought my expectations towards wiki to be quite typical, so I was quite surprised that it was so hard to find a suitable solution. My basic requirements for the wiki were the following:

  • Should be hosted
  • Should preferably look as simple and clean as Wikipedia
  • Should preferably NOT look or feel like Sharepoint
  • Should demand as little overhead as possible ? for example provide a WYSIWYG editor
  • Should be cheap, at least in the beginning

I found some helpful sites giving an overview of the wiki landscape, including:

  • Wiki page with list of wiki solutions
  • WikiMatrix? really nicely done dynamic matrix comparing different wikis

In the end I established some intimacy with the following wikis:

  • Confluence
  • Editme
  • eTouch SamePage
  • Jotspot
  • Socialtext
  • Stikipad
  • Wikispaces

Below, rather than a detailed review (I have full time job, sorry), a report on impressions along the way.

Jotspot: promising but inaccessible

Actually from the very start I expected Jotspot, about which I had somehow heard before, to become my wiki of choice. Reading its website and some press releases made it seem to offer everything I could ever want for my modest goals, and some more on top of that.

I was especially curious about the integration capabilities Jotspot established with salesforce.com and Google maps, among others, even if I saw no immediate use for that at this moment.

Unfortunately, after registering the trial wiki my experience with Jotspot never really went beyond this:

Jotspot fails to load

The site just didn’t load. Customer service was as prompt ? which was appreciated ? as unhelpful in providing any assistance regarding the problem. Maybe they should buy additional server or maybe two.

Update: afterwards I managed to log in once and it seemed to work.. but now it’s down again.

Editme

Editme looks very cute, but when I tried the demo, the editor failed to show up for some reason.

Socialtext: wait till we approve your application

Socialtext seems to boast at least as sophisticated solution as Jotspot. But it turned out you can?t establish a trial wiki without waiting for manual decision of their customer service. After Jotspot I valued my time, and just moved along.

Update: I received a confirmation later, so I will be able to give it a try. As of first impression, I like the double click edit functionality, but yes, the interface seems a bit intimidating at first glance.

eTouch SamePage: too much like Sharepoint

SamePage made me feel as if I stumbled into an ultimate solution: not only it allowed me to create a wiki, but inside the package I found a blog, forum, news integrator, and lots of other things.

However, even if the feature set is impressive, the complexity makes it a pain to work with. At least in the beginning.

Cryptic urls SamePage generates reminds that it is derived from a full blown CMS solution. Flexible, but not without a cost.

After some playing around, trying unsuccessfully to make it look closer to the way I wanted, I started again to search for something simpler.

Stikipad

It’s hard for me to write about Stikipad because it should be very close to my ideal solution. Clean and simple. So why I didn’t go for it? Maybe it’s because I couldn’t change the default template, which I didn’t like, in the trial version. It would truly be the power of the default.. I don’t know.

Confluence

I was directed to Confluence by this blog. The website suggests that it can be quite a friendly application, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a mass market hosted version (even though the company referred me to some of their partners who can provide hosting service).

Wikispaces: right on target

Wikispaces look simple and elegant, and not unlike Wikipedia.

Wikispaces

In no time I could customize the template a bit, and add my own temporary logo. Great start.

Interface takes just a moment to learn, which is also due to, let?s be honest, quite basic feature set. But roughly everything I need is there. The editor is also simple, yet offers an acceptable level of control over the looks of the page.

One thing I don?t like is that the files uploaded to the wiki, and I expect to upload quite a few, all land in one common directory. Further into future and I expect the place to get quite messy because of that. I would much prefer for every page to have its own filespace with some common root storage for things like logo, perhaps.

The other thing is that visual editor is having some problems when I try, for example, to format selected text. But I learned to bypass it by using text mode editor.

As far as I understood I would have to pay 5$ a month from the start, in order to have my wiki private. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be a big price spike if the number of users exceeds 5, as it is in case with most of the other providers.

Now I’m using it for some time already and found no show stoppers yet. My friend also seems to be happy with it. So far so good.


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  1. March 8th, 2008 | 8:28 pm

    […] and I wanted to give it a try, even though, as far as wiki goes, I had good experience with Wikispaces […]