Supposedly, 2005 will be the year of the wiki. Most programmers and Web gurus probably know what a wiki is and may even be using one. For those who don't, ADT's resident blogger, Mike Gunderloy, defines a wiki as "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."
Despite fears that Web vandals may ruin the wiki, Bruce Sharpe, VP of products at Blast Radius in Vancouver, BC, is optimistic it will work in spite of itself. "It's one of those ideas that work better in practice than in theory," he says.
Sharpe's enthusiasm for wikis is based on recent experience. Blast Radius started an internal wiki this past year. The idea was to create an online space where colleagues could share information on competitors and toss out ideas for new products. It was kind of an online version of a brainstorming session.
The wiki was planned to be an experimental arrow shot into the air to see where it would land, but according to Sharpe, it took off like a Titan rocket. The employees at Blast Radius have become wiki users and wiki fans, and participation in the ongoing, online staff meeting has gone far beyond the limited test Sharpe expected.
The success of the internal wiki also fed plans for the next release of XMetal, Blast Radius' XML-based content authoring products. "Wikis aren't very robust yet," Sharpe says, and he believes software will begin to hit the market this year to bring more mature content authoring and management technology into the wiki world, so businesses can both make use of wikis and make sense of the flood of unstructured documents.
For further information and discussion of wiki technology, see Mike Gunderloy's "Vandals at the wiki."
Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.