Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I may have found the perfect wiki

This is a follow-up to my last post about trying to find the perfect corporate wiki. I think I may have found it. I was researching and researching and none of the open source options seemed to be what I wanted.

  • Confluence would have already been one the one if cost weren't a barrier.
  • TWiki seems to have everything except that it is ugly and unappealing.
  • DokuWiki has no WYSIWYG editor and limited functionality of some other features.
  • MediaWiki has poor page permissions.
  • Trac is okay as a wiki but some features are limited (lots of features are plugins rather than core functionality). No LDAP authentication with our current setup, and it's a bit tedious to setup each project which is independent from the others.
  • Socialtext has most features but it's open source offering seems to have poor documentation and installation.
  • MoinMoin lacks page commenting, has minimal attachment handling and is ugly.
  • TikiWiki appears to have no tagging. Actually, looking again, it does seem pretty nice, though - I didn't look too closely.
So, I'm picky. Some of the above have all the features, but are ugly or hard to use (see my spreadsheet). Then, earlier yesterday I stumbled upon XWiki. I should have seen it before, since it's listed on the Wikipedia entry on corporate wiki's, but for some reason I missed it. It's pretty sweet, looks pretty good, has WYSIWYG and all the features and some nice dynamic HTML. It would work pretty well, I think. But, as I researched, I couldn't find any recent articles about it or anything. Mysterious. They've been around a few years and even participated in Google Summer of Code 2007, but the lack of recent press scares me.

Then last night I found it. The one. MindTouch's Deki Wiki. I mean, I've just barely tested it. But I tried their site (which runs on it), I read the reviews (which are recent and rave about it). It has all the features, it looks nice, seems user friendly, it's growing (some claim it to be the fastest growing wiki), it's under active development, etc. It's not perfect, but it may be as close as we'll get (especially for the price).

It is a bit different from a traditional wiki since it is more hierarchical than most, but does it well and still has tags (and links and search, of course). Permissions are currently a bit limited, but should be good enough for us until they finish implementing group-based page/section permissions.

And more, it's very extensible, including a state-of-the-art API that allows it to integrate with lots of other stuff (to create mashups in geek terminology). Also, one of the download options is a VMware image. Sounds like a good reason to finally test drive the whole virtual server thing.

Looks like the co-founders of MindTouch, the creators of Deki Wiki, are a couple of ex-Microsoftees. Contrary to popular opinion, looks like Microsoft people know how to do some things really well after all (even if they're no longer at MS).

There are some good hosted wiki's too, but I didn't really spend much time researching them since they usually cost money. BrainKeeper looks good and is feature-rich. Everyone said JotSpot was nice, but we're still waiting for Google to rerelease it.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for the write up! We think it's the perfect wiki too. :-)

    I think we have the most flexible permissioning though. For example, you can permission entire hierarchies to create private spaces or down to individual pages. You have the ability to provide user roles and can permission the entire wiki in a couple different ways. Also, MindTouch Deki Wiki provides authentication integration with LDAP, Active Directory, Drupal, Mambo, Joomla, and Wordpress.

    I really value input from users; specifically you could post your thoughts on permissioning here: http://forums.opengarden.org/

    Again, thanks a bunch for the write up. :-)

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  2. It's cool to get such a quick response from one of the founders of Deki Wiki - especially since I just watched some of the cool videos you posted!

    I already setup Active Directory authentication - that was easy. :-) I do like the way permissions are handled, they do seem nice and intuitive. Permissions based on groups would make it easy to maintain them when new staff are hired for a department, etc, or if there is a large group of users to handle.

    So far, I really like Deki Wiki. I think my main issue is that pages seem to load a bit slow - though it seems to vary by computer (maybe it's affected by JavaScript execution time?).

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  3. Mike,

    Thanks for the input. The groups support is completed (in the API), there just isn't a user interface for it yet. You do have groups support via LDAP/AD, but there isn't an interface for managing them in Deki Wiki. This is in the next release: http://wiki.opengarden.org/Deki_Wiki/Release/Itasca , has notes on this. You can provide your input there too.

    BTW, I'm stoked to hear AD auth was easy. As for page load times, there was a dude who did a comprehensive evaluation of load times of Deki Wiki against MediaWiki and even with our editor he determined we loaded like 1/2 a second slower than MediaWiki with no editor. He then eval'd MediaWiki with a couple editors and Deki Wiki was seconds faster. I think that's still floating about the forums or elsewhere at OpenGarden. Finally, ut is definitely affected by JS exe time.

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  4. Hi Mike,

    Just wanted to confirm that XWiki is under active development. Actually we're releasing a new version every 3 weeks which I don't consider that bad ;)

    You're right in that we have chosen to focus all our energy on making it the best enterprise wiki platform out there instead of focusing on the marketing aspect. Seems now is the time to start writing those articles :)

    Thanks for considering XWiki in your list and if you have any questions feel free to contact us (all infos are on http://xwiki.org) and the XWiki dev community will be happy to help you out.

    Cheers,
    -Vincent (XWiki Release Manager)

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  5. Hi,

    Too bad the lack of press on XWiki scares you.. Maybe the fact that we are in Europe and not in the US is a disavantage for us..

    But you will see that our developer and user's lists are very active..

    We can point you to tons of features that will show you that XWiki has very interesting capabilities you won't see even in DekiWiki..

    One of them is quite easy to grasp. The whole (100%) of the XWiki UI is built on top of the XWiki Scripting API. Which means that everything that is done in the UI could be done by users of the Wiki using the scripting API.

    This simply means there are not limits to the customization and to the extensibility.

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  6. I forgot to tell that I'm Ludovic, creator of XWiki.

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  7. Re: Deki Wiki groups permissioning, looks like it's scheduled for the Hayes++ release (pre-Itaska). :-)

    I'll have to test the speed issues a bit more and discuss at OpenGarden.

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  8. Vincent and Ludovic, thanks for the feedback regarding XWiki. It does indeed appear to have some very nice features and I would like to test it more at some point. Just wish I had more time in the day ;-).

    Regarding press, I was hoping to find even just some blogs that some enthusiastic users had posted, but have had a hard time finding any :-(.

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  9. Hi Mike,

    My name's Rick Kenney and I just started working for XWiki the beginning of September as their US Rep.

    A Technorati search reveals quite a few entries for XWiki but most of them are in French.

    Blog engagement is something I definitely need to work on. Maybe you could help? ;)

    I'm only about 30 minutes North of you in Clarksville. If you want to meet up I'd love to talk.

    Rick
    rick [dot] Kenney [at] xwiki [dot] com

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  10. Check out the Ubuntu installation page for Deki Wiki. There's a note a month old saying the instructions couldn't be followed as is. We're now days away from 7.10 and the 7.04 instructions just don't work. Let's see how long it take for accurate instructions for 7.10.

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  11. Hey Xwiki guys! You guys are doing cool stuff, keep up the good work.

    Thanks for pointing out this deficiency in the install guide. There are so many install guides that have been generously authored by our users (Gardeners) I'm having a hard time finding this one. :-) Is it for an older version of Deki Wiki?

    In general MindTouch authors an 'official' Debian install guide. Pretty much all other install guides are generously contributed by the Gardeners. I mention this because sometimes these other guides are just drafts or outlines and then the details are filled in through conversations in the forums by less techie folks asking questions of the community. Then these updates are often cross-posted to the wiki.

    In addition to the install guide we provide upgrade scripts for each release and we package our software for ease of installation in the VMware certified package. Typically we have an incremental release a month and a major every three months. Of course, lots of people just enlist in our SVN repo.

    Anyway, Xwiki keep up the good work guys. I think Xwiki and MindTouch are the only wiki companies that power their site with our own software. :-)

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  12. I'm smack dab in the middle of the same decision process, and will be evaluating twiki and dekiwiki to see which works better for us. Thanks for the writeup of your process!

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  13. I have been evaluating Deki Wiki and XWiki both, and have found problems with each. I am not a programmer and am trying to relearn a lot of the basics as I go along, but my problem with Deki Wiki is minor (I can't really get the CSS to override as easily as they indicate it should) and the default layouts are really slow - embarrassingly slow. The way the menus cascade down gives you enough time to sip your coffee. XWiki is fast but doesn't have the best user interface. So it's a draw at this point, and I am leaning towards Deki just because I am sure someday I'll learn how to restyle it.

    The ideal pairing is Joomla and Deki, I think - if I could use Joomla's very handsome template structure with Deki's great file structure and built in ease-of-use, I'd be in hog heaven.

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  14. @gramour thanks for your thoughts. It's possible to disable the Deki Wiki menu expansion animation to speed things up a bit - I've found that its performance is highly dependent on client processor speed, as is the editor. See this post for how to disable the menu animation. And I also manually updated to the latest version of Mono to try to speed up server-side speeds. It all seems fast enough now - though I am on a pretty fast computer.

    I haven't yet attempted to customize the layout/CSS so I can't provide any feedback from my experience there, but there are wiki pages and forum threads discussing it.

    Overall, I've been quite happy with Deki Wiki and it's continually being updated. Who knows, I may have been just as happy with XWiki, but ended up going with Deki.

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