Monday 15 October 2007

Is the term "wiki" no longer useful?

The guys at Atlassian should know all about wiki adoption, and they've posted some slides that explain how.

However, its well worth reading Ray Sims's analysis of these slides and also another wiki case study, Avenue A | Razorfish. I particularly concur with his comment about "overloading of 'wiki' risks making the term no longer useful as descriptor of an editable web page, but rather confused as a general descriptor for an 'enterprise 2.0 intranet' overall." I've said similar things myself in response to the Avenue A | Razorfish case study ("Their wiki sounds very much like a portal, but a portal implemented in a wiki or Web 2.0 style").

Generally speaking I see a couple of different meanings attached to the term "wiki":

  • Its traditional meaning - from Wikis for Dummies:
    • The pages must be stored in a central, shared repository.
    • Anyone should be able to edit pages.
    • Editing should be easy and accessible and not require special tools.
    • Formatting information pages should be much simpler than using HTML.
  • Wiki as an expression of Enterprise 2.0 - in other words the technical functionality of its traditional meaning plus a shift in organisational culture that reflects them, e.g. anyone can edit is mirrored in a flat organisational hierarchy.
  • Wiki as a cheap or open source Web content management system.
  • "Wikaportal" - I know its a horrible word, but effectively what I mean is the advanced use of a wiki as a cheap or open source Web content management system as a place to host other applications and/or mash ups - my feeling is that if you advance to this stage you start to break its traditional meaning, unless the applications or mash ups are still user driven by the majority.

Personally, what I think makes Atlassian's Confluence so popular is that as well as meeting some key enterprise requirements (for more, read Wiki - The New Facilitator) it generally sticks to the fundamental rule of simplicity. I hope they don't forget that.

1 comment:

  1. James - don't worry we're not forgetting about it.

    One of my favourite points to make is that a 'wiki' per se is not an application, it's a feature. A wiki by itself is a useful tool, but you can magnify it's use greatly in combination with other features (for example social features, blogs, comments etc).

    Sometimes in the tech world, terms get away from us. Confluence is really a collaboration platform, that also happens to be a kick ass wiki - although as we continue to develop it we are always careful to remember that the wiki is the _core_ feature.



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