In part one on this topic, I spoke ecstatically about how Wikipedia, in our quest to be more user friendly, could find some inspiration in SocialText’s ability for both WYSIWYG and wiki text editing of a document. Upon further exploration, I’ve found that a few other enterprise wiki software providers, such as Atlassian’s Confluence platform, include dual Rich Text/Wiki Text editing modes. Wikia is also testing a new Rich Text editor of their own, but it is pure WYSIWYG, rather than an optional mode one can choose in the editing window. which, as Angela has kindly pointed out in the comments, also has optional rich text or wiki text editing capability .
But whether it’s SocialText, Wikia or Atlassian, the larger point still stands.
MediaWiki development has done a fabulous job of scaling to meet the crushing demand of some of the biggest wiki communities in the world. A rich ecosystem of useful extensions has sprung up as well, much like the garden of delights to be found among Firefox add-ons.
But the one area that enterprise development has outstripped MediaWiki is in catering to those who need a dead simple wiki. (In all fairness, MediaWiki does have a WYSIWYG extension, but I personally find it to be unsatisfactory, and it is rarely used.)
Why is the enterprise so much better at producing wikis for the neophyte? Because their customers absolutely demand it.
When you’re dealing with a company full of people who almost never step outside the box of Microsoft Office and email, just introducing the idea of a collaborative workspace is like pulling teeth. If there is any real technical hurdle at all, then you can expect your product to fall flat.
I am a drunken cheerleader for commons-based peer production wherever it appears. But within the wiki community, ease of use is the one realm where the profit motive has admittedly produced better results. I say we take it as an opportunity to recognize the success of others, so that we may duplicate it.
With that frame of mind, I’d love to hear what your favorite usability features from enterprise wikis are, and how they might help Wikipedia.