I’m in the (time-consuming, and therefore bad) habit of trying to test first-hand most tools that I’m likely to be involved in during projects. I like to reccomend solutions I’m happy with. Until very recently, I had my mind made up about the wiki platform I liked most… but after they changed the manager for Spain, I’ve been sorely disappointed with his ability to deliver.
So I’ve had to dive back into trials and analysis this last couple of months. Here’s some brief notes about the more relevant results, in case you find them interesting (you may remember also Gartner’s take on the issue, which is relevant, and you can see most of the candidates on the WikiMatrix if you care for technical detail):
SocialText – Written in Perl (a veteral internet development language), you need a server with the appropriate support. They have a very good corporate wiki toolselt: easy spaces management, good user and group management, permission settings, WYSIWYG editor, plus very good use of RSSs and email subscriptions, included blog platform, several nice plugins (like a spreadsheet), ability to integrate with Sharepoint, individual dashboards… critically, it is very easy on users. It’s not translated into Spanish. The foundation is Open Source, and it distributes a free version as an installable or (since very recently) a VMware package. Offers hosted service (many levels), software install and hosted and in-house “appliances”. Good support materials, very good thinking behind the features, bad commercial delivery in Spain. Can be acquired too as part of Intel’s Suite 2.0 package of corporate web 2.0 apps.
Atlassian Confluence – Written in Java, and a solid platform: it provides both an API and support for webservices. It offers all sorts of fine-grained control to configure exactly what elements can be seen on each page by each group. The rest of the feature set is much like SocialTex (spaces management, user and group management and authentification, WYSIWYG editor, RSSs and email subscriptions, blog platform, plugins, ability to integrate with Sharepoint, individual dashboards), plus some conversation support (comments on the pages). The detailed control can be overkill for simple installations, but is technically very good. Good thinking shows in many angles, and while marketing is less brilliant than at SocialText, support is better. You can download and try a free two-user version. It offers hosted versions in several sizes (starting at 49$ month) and licenses starting at 1900$ (academics get much better deals).
Mindtouch Deki – Built on PHP plus mono/.net (mono is an open source version of Microsoft’s .net, and PHP is a popular language for dynamic internet applications… with a checkered security history). More precisely, the software started life as a branch of MediaWiki (the engine used by the Wikipedia), and then got a substantial amount of polish: essentially a good skinning method, WYSIWYG editor, RSS, and industry-grade ability to integrate outside data sources… aka “mashup”. Not bad on user management, better at spaces management. It does make the grade as «corporate software» IMHO, but it’s the less conventional of the three. It is still Open Source. The software -and the company- are evolving fast and with ambition, and show a number of rough edges and work in progress (language encoding is not perfect); watching it is not for faint-hearted IT managers, but the product can deliver impressive features, especially if you plan on integrating lots of media or active content. They achieved a lot of notoriety by offering a VMware downloadable version which is a cinch to install, back when SocialText was offering a really prickly DIY Open Source install; this has generated very high download numbers, enabling their very vocal CEO to shout from the rooftops that they are coming… which is true. The business model offers quite a few options in several steps, including hosted free wikis and gold-plated support. Can’t say much yet about it, but the documentation is not as good as I’d like: evolving, as everything.
Twiki – Another Perl-based offering, and a veteran in the field. Until recently did not have a company behind it (it’s community-run) but it has a healthy ecosystem of developers who can install and support it, and since this summer has a «Twiki.net» official service. Provides most corporate wiki requirements (RSS, WYSIWYG editor, users and groups) and makes it very easy to build small form-based applications. The major difference is that it does not run on a database but on text files, which has advantages and disadvantages (makes it harder to build dynamic content… but makes it faster to serve the one you have). Solid: people such as Yahoo discovered wikis with them.
MoinMoin – Python-based (Python is a rather modern language used in some of the best second-generation internet software… RubyonRails being the reference for the third). Like Twiki it works on plain text files, but it’s evolving toward allowing use of databases. Also like Twiki, it is community-run and has a healthy ecosystem. Has the most limited set of corporate characteristics (no WYSIWYG, limited RSS) but it does the basics and also allows the use of templates for new documents.
XWiki Enterprise – Java-based, Open Source, and corporate-backed. It’s European and shows less marketing flair (and lower prices) than counterparts such as Mindtouch or SocialText, but it has essentially the same community-plus-inhouse development model, allowing download of the Open Source version while providing hosted and supported paid-for options (also some basic free ones through partners). It offers wiki and blogging functions and the basic set of corporate wiki elements with a heavy helping of document management (but no WYSIWYG editor, apparently [updated: they do have a WYSIWYG editor]), plus an emphasis on form-based content management. [Updated: they have built an open-source platform that enables the development of collaborative applications, XWiki Enterprise among them].
TikiWiki (or rather Tiki CMS) – PHP based, with some extras. Another Open Source, community-driven effort, but a very structured one. Has outgrown the wiki origins to become an integrated content management suite. More precisely it provices wiki, blog and forums, plus many of social software’s toys (map server, link directory, slideshow integration…) within a single package. It’s very solid (as solid as any PHP, that is). Perhaps its weaker area is integration with other data sources and plugins.
Blogtronix – Using Microsoft’s .net, it will never be a house favourite. Again, it’s more of an integrated offering with wikis, blogging, forums, some CMS and document management, plus “corporate networking”, podcasting and video blogging tools. Serious attention paid to widgets & co. It’s a corporate offering, no Open Source, and hails from Eastern Europe, although it’s got a solid foot in the US. Has all the corporate wiki essentials, and incorporates solid management and reporting tools for the plethora of services. Offers the product hosted, on appliances, or take-away.
Jive Clearspace X – Written in Java. Again, an integrated offering (blogs plus forums, and wiki documents thrown in), this time corporate, hosted, and outrageously expensive. It covers the basic corporate wiki bases, but it’s not designed for building wikis, just to add some functionality to an online community. Very solid product, on the other hand: I’d reccomend it for a conversation-based, gold-plated community. Pity the lack of Open Source.
DokuWiki – This is the plainer of the pack, but is here for a reason. It is written in PHP, Open Source, community driven, and encourages setting up “bounties” to get new features developed… which is frequently seen but rarely officially encouraged elsewhere. It has most of the basics for a small corporate wiki but does not use databases, simply stores plain text (as many documents as page versions). Can be installed almost anywhere, and is becoming popular among ISPs.
Wikispaces – There are lots of only-hosted, free wiki services. I’ve tried many. Some are functionally quite better that Wikispaces (try Wetpaint), but this one has the best ease of use and agility, and makes it very easy -on the admin and the collaborators- to build a very good-looking wiki. Plus, the «private label» version (a «pro», ad-free, supported and skinnable version), while expensive in absolute terms, can be cheap compared with the rest if you plan on large numbers of users.