Wikis evolve as collaboration tools
Latest offerings get users swapping knowledge quickly
Content management systems usually won’t work as collaboration tools. Although a CMS does ease content creation, the resulting Web sites have rigid navigation and formal publishing workflows. Wikis, on the other hand, empower users to create new pages ad hoc as well as create links easily within the content.
These relaxed controls make Atlassian Confluence, Near-Time, Socialtext, and Traction important enterprise applications that can streamline internal processes through more efficient communications and knowledge sharing.
Although all four of these packages espouse a wiki’s simple content creation and editing, my testing demonstrated variations in remaining areas that formed my evaluation criteria.
For one, enterprises need strong access control to prevent unauthorized changes. Products vary in the depth of e-mail and RSS notifications. The way content is searched, tagged, and organized ranged widely, too. For example, file uploads could be placed in one large area or segmented into a more friendly hierarchy. Finally, I considered scalability, integration with existing authentication systems, and open standards or APIs to customize the solution.
Atlassian Confluence 2.2.10
Confluence has multiple personalities: a collaboration tool, intranet, document repository, and project monitor. Throughout it all, however, the system stays true to its wiki roots. Spaces hold pages that are easily organized, can reference attachments, and turn into discussion forums using comments. Moreover, everything is searchable — subject to enterprise-grade security that extends permissioning to individual pages.
Still, Atlassian doesn’t try to make Confluence into a collaboration Swiss Army Knife; although the software integrates with other systems through provided Web services interfaces, you won’t find a spreadsheet or other built-in applications. And that’s fine, in that it means you don’t have to be a genius to use or administer this application. Further, more than 100 plug-ins and Confluence’s internal component system (built on the Spring Java framework) provide great extensibility.
The only option I’d like is the capability to import user accounts from an Active Directory or LDAP server; currently you have to create individual user accounts and apply permissions.
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