WikiPlus Overcomes MOSS Shortcomings

Posted by Brett Young | Friday, November 21, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

A little more than a year ago we learned that people in our company were standing up wiki solutions on their own because IT did not have a wiki standard. At that point we identified three wikis, all built on a different open source platforms, including OpenWiki, MediaWiki, and Flexwiki. Clearly we missed the opportunity to anticipate demand. However, it wasn't too late to limit our risk.

In less than two months we identified stakeholders, gathered requirements, evaluated wiki solutions, and selected a standard. The goal of the standard was to prevent (at least going forward) the proliferation of disparate wiki platforms. We selected Screwturn Wiki because it was open source, built on Microsoft .Net and SQL Server, and met our functional requirements. However, due to our need to establish the standard quickly we did not have time to operationalize it. This meant that there was no centralized infrastructure, no internal support team, and no guidance on how to implement a Screwturn wiki to work well within our company. Development teams were basically on their own to build and support their Screwturn wiki instance.

While the Screwturn wiki standard met our goal of building new wikis on the same platform, the way we implemented the standard did not meeting the needs of our end-users. They wanted a standard that was fully supported by IT and on a centralized infrastructure. Self-provisioning of wiki sites was also an important requirement. They didn't want to engage IT people to create a wiki. They wanted to simply push the "new wiki" button.

As all of this was going on, we were in the process of implementing Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007. We had heard that MOSS included its own wiki out-of-the-box. This was intriguing to us since it would mean that we could leverage our MOSS infrastructure and support structure. It also would meet the self-provisioning requirement. However, we immediately learned that the MOSS wiki is a really a WINO: Wiki In Name Only

The out-of-the-box MOSS wiki lacked many features that had become standard in today's open source wikis, including table of contents, sections, sectional editing, and intra-page linking. This perplexed us. It was as if Microsoft had thrown their "wiki" into MOSS at the last minute so that they could check the wiki box on the feature comparison chart. While the MOSS wiki may have some value for people who had never used a wiki before, those who had find it utterly lacking.

So, we had a problem. Do we try to use the MOSS wiki for the masses and allow people that need a real wiki to continue to use Screwturn? This would require us to address the operational shortcomings of our Screwturn standard, which would take time and money. It would mean that we would need to operate and maintain two separate wiki solutions, which is complex and redundant. We needed a better solution

Our research revealed very few full-feature wikis built on MOSS. In fact, we only found three possibilities: Kwizcom WikiPlus, Community Kit for SharePoint (CKS) from Codeplex, and WikiPoint by Neoworks. We ended up dropping the CKS from consideration because it lacked sectional editing and intra-page links. We also eliminated WikiPoint because it appeared to only be supported on WSS 2.0. That left WikiPlus. If that didn't work, we were prepared to do what was necessary to operationalize Screwturn wiki.

Our initial evaluation of WikiPlus was not great. While they did add a few interesting features, such as reporting, lifecycle management, and an enhanced editor, they were missing critical features, such as a table of contents. We contacted them and learned of a new release that would not only include a table of contents, but sectional editing and intra-page links. Over the next several weeks we worked closely with Kwizcom to address our unmet requirements. They were very responsive to our needs. The result was a feature-rich wiki solution built on MOSS. Our people who evaluated WikiPlus liked it better than Screwturn, primarily due to the WYSIWYG editor.

Someday Microsoft's wiki may grow up and eliminate the need for a 3rd party solution like Kwizcom WikiPlus. Until then, its nice to know there's a viable alternative.

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