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Review: Wikis In The Enterprise

If you've "googled" any topic recently--and who hasn't--you probably received a link to that topic in Wikipedia, the best living example of the power of online collaboration using wiki software. If you follow the link to Wikipedia, you'll find information about your topic and--this is the living part--you'll be solicited to help flesh out the content by editing and adding to the text about the topic. More than 85,000 people around the world have already contributed to a million-plus Wikipedia articles in less than five years.


The engine behind this demonstration of collaborative clout is Mediawiki, an open-source wiki distribution. Mediawiki is one of more than a dozen popular open-source wiki distributions at, which lists hundreds of such wikis and related wiki projects.

"A wiki is a type of Web site that allows users to easily add and edit content and is especially suited for collaborative writing," according to Wikipedia. "The name is based on the Hawaiian term wiki, meaning quick, fast, or to hasten." Wikipedia is thriving because knowledgeable people with desire to share what they know were finally presented with a technology that made it easy for them to organize and present their knowledge. Other experts contribute by fine-tuning a subject through a collaborative process. Furthermore, all the content is easy to access with any Web browser. If you could harness that process in your company, your employees could easily share their knowledge about your company's policies, processes, products, services and procedures with each other and with your customers.

We consider this ability critical to Network Computing's business, so last June we started using Mediawiki to keep our core editorial and testing documentation available and up to date. We've had good experience with this open-source distribution and would recommend a package like Mediawiki for companies that can run the software in-house and are inclined to implement community-developed and supported software. That said, there are valid reasons--most important, the availability of technical support--to select commercial rather than open-source software.

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