You've probably heard of wikis by now. If not, well: a wiki is a Web
site that is editable by anyone. That is, you can browse to a page on a
wiki site, open it for editing in your browser, make whatever changes
you like, save them, and go on your merry way. There are no wiki police
watching over you, no long lists of rules, and (generally) nothing other
than your own good nature to keep you from making a mess on the carpet.
FlexWiki is an implementation of the wiki idea of ASP.NET servers. Tp
install it, you download a package of files, unzip into a virtual
server, and then thrash around with configuration files until things
start working. Poking at the FlexWiki site itself will turn up quite a
few pages with advice, but I soon found that the most effective approach
was to simply run the included configuration checker and to fix the
problems as they turned up. Eventually, I had my very own wiki up and
running. The experience was actually reasonably painless, as
poorly-documented open-source setups go.
So far, the "everyone can edit" approach has proven to be a real
strength of wikis on the Web. Some wikis (such as
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiWikiWeb) have been around for years,
accreting much useful information along the way. I personally can't help
feeling that this just represents lack of interest so far on the part of
the more nefarious users of the Web. Wiki proponents like to talk about
the self-healing nature of wikis - it's just as easy to put the useful
content back as it is to put in junk, because every page maintains a
history of edits. But that doesn't reckon with automated tools that can
make hundreds of changes an hour, swamping any human effort to keep the
trash picked up. I forsee another antispam arms race coming here.
But in any case, I think more development teams should consider running
their own wiki - not on the Internet, but on their own intranet (where,
presumably, the population of nefarious users is somehwat smaller).
Think about having one spot to visit for meeting notes, schedules,
design notions, wild ideas, upcoming parties, lunch preferences, new
tools worth trying, and whatever else impinges on the project. Now think
about having this without the overheard of setting up or maintaining a
portal site. That's what a wiki gets for you. FlexWiki is well-prepared
to fill this role if you're an ASP.NET shop, or even if you're just
running a few Windows 2003 servers (and IE browsers) internally.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.