Confluence and SharePoint Wikis
This is the contents of a talk that I gave at the May 2009 meeting of SBTUG. It was a session on comparing the features of the wonderful enterprise wiki product Confluence by Atlassian and the wiki features of SharePoint.
The session content was delivered to the user group using the confluence online trial sandbox where you can try most aspects of confluence online before you buy.
This talk will not go into the following
- Other Wiki’s other than SharePoint and Confluence – See WikiMatrix for a complete comparison of all Wiki Software http://www.wikimatrix.org/index.php.
- The whole debate over the use of Wiki’s and whether you can trust the content on Wiki’s – this is for a corporate usage where there is unlikely to be anonymous comments allowed.
- WikiPatterns – although you should look at this site if you are interested in Wiki’s at all - http://www.wikipatterns.com/display/wikipatterns/Wikipatterns.
What is a Wiki
According to wikipedia, a wiki is:
A wiki is a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked (often databased) Web pages, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites … originally described it as “the simplest online database that could possibly work.”
SharePoint and Wiki Features
- No external Editor, no uploading documents, edit button on the page
- Wiki pages are constantly a work in progress - http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WorkInProgress (but Confluence has some add-ins for Page Status)
- Revision Comparison
- Recently Edited Pages
- Links can go anywhere (not a structured hierarchy)
- Comments and Discussions
- Document Management
- Integration with MS Office
No Matter how structured and organised your content is and how good your search is in SharePoint, a Wiki still makes the information much more discoverable as it’s not hidden away in documents, it’s just a few clicks away at all times.
But Structured Publishing pages on SharePoint could just about do the same thing.
Confluence and SharePoint Comparisons
- Has many many features for corporate Wiki useage
- Many installation options (eg Database could be MySQL, Oracle or SQL Server)
- Is the most extensible Wiki platform through the Macro’s and Add-ins
- Atlassian have won multiple awards
- Confluence is now the defacto standard for corporate wiki’s
- It can integrate with SharePoint
- Has excellent Word and Excel editing capabilities
- Built on Java – many MSFT only businesses may be scared off by that
- Smaller company – people may think, will they be around in a few years time
- Has to be integrated with Active Directory to be useful for business – this can be difficult
- Output to PDF limited and very hard to customise
- Not there just yet with Office 2007 support (although it is coming)
- Does not use CamelCase linking notation (like other wiki’s), uses Free Linking (Square Brackets) instead – seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki#Linking_and_creating_pages
- Atlassian’s own Comparison Page but it is very old (2005) http://confluence.atlassian.com/display/DISC/Comparison+Matrix
- Is already part of SharePoint – nothing extra to maintain or install
- Features of SharePoint that can be used with the Wiki (from http://woodywindy.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!773832677F575173!653.entry
- Setting Alerts to be notified of changes *
- Setting the permissions of the library, or even individual pages *
- Adding metadata fields – for example, subject tags, or even links to supporting documents
- RSS feeds *
- Requiring approval and document check-out for changes
- Creating different views of the information
- Friendly URL’s *
- Add Web Parts to your Wiki Page
The items above with a * are available in Confluence also
- It’s not really a Wiki
- Only uses SharePoint’s basic editor
- Uploading images is a really big pain
- A list of things that SharePoint can’t do from http://www.henricodolfing.com/2009/05/sharepoint-as-enterprise-wiki.html
- There is no support for standard Wiki markup language.
- The content editing capabilities of the default SharePoint Web Editor are limited.
- There is no taxonomy solution, i.e. content tagging and hierarchical categories.
- There is no content rating
- There is no support for subscription RSS feeds.
- No support for comments on Wiki pages. You can add discussion boards, but those are something different than what you would expect from a Wiki.
- The capability for generating reports on the Wiki activity are rather limited.
- There are no Wiki content templates (but this you could easily solve by creating a few page templates yourself).
- There is no easy way to attach files to Wiki pages. You have to do this by adding the content to a document library, and then include the link in your Wiki page.
- There is no support for things like Wanted pages, Orphaned pages, Most/Least Popular Pages, and Recent Visitors.
Here are some links to articles about the SharePoint Wiki feature
- A Demo http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA102348881033.aspx
There are a lot of for’s and against for wysiwyg editing of wiki’s. See http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WysiwygWikiUsefulArguments
- Wiki syntax is much simpler than HTML - like a simple conversion layer between rich text and html
- One of the main advantages of a wiki is its lightweight structure Confluence has a few basic formats, if you can’t say what you need to say with a few heading styles and bold and italic, it’s probably too complex.
- Wiki syntax is simple, straightforward and intuitive - once you get used to working with it, it is much quicker to create documents
- Keyboard shortcuts make editing quicker - http://confluence.atlassian.com/display/DOC/Keyboard+Shortcuts
- Large Tables are a real pain - http://confluence.atlassian.com/display/DOC/Working+with+Tables
One of the complaints often leveled against SharePoint’s wiki is its lack of support for “wiki markup” beyond intra-site page links. While this is true as far as it goes, it doesn’t consider what that markup is designed to do – compensate for the plain-text editing features of most wiki systems. For example, to make italic text in many wiki systems, you enclose the text in ”double apostrophes”. Yet while there are some conventions, there is no true “wiki markup” standard.
(the demos for Confluence were done in real time during the talk).
Screen Cast Demo 1 http://screencast.com/t/oau54Mt3ONs
- Wiki Pages
- Orphaned Pages
Screen Cast Demo 2 http://screencast.com/t/MtM5ZPUC
- Create Link to new Page
- Insert a Table
- Format some fonts – yes you can easily make it very ugly
- Go to history
- Restore an old version
Screen Cast Demo 3 http://screencast.com/t/hMljFNIe0
- Insert a picture into a SharePoint Wiki – showing ow difficult it is to just add a simple picture into a SharePoint wiki.
Extending the Wiki
- Plug ins http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence/plugins/
- Intranet / Extranet
- Full Website see http://www.customware.net
- Wiki Wednesday http://www.customware.net/repository/display/WikiWednesday/Wiki+Wednesday
- See Confluence Pricing http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence/pricing.jsp
- CKS:EWE http://cks.codeplex.com/Wiki/View.aspx?title=Enhanced%20Wiki%20Edition
- Not Supported
- in Beta 2 now
- Beta 3 planned
- Development seems to have slowed
- SharePoint Wiki Plus http://www.kwizcom.com/ProductPage.asp?ProductID=524&ProductSubNodeID=525
- > $2.5k per server http://www.kwizcom.com/ContentPage.asp?PageId=663
The Bottom Line
- Use the Wiki Feature on SharePoint but maybe don’t call it a Wiki, or you might put people off Wiki’s for ever.
- The SharePoint Dev Wiki is on Confluence http://www.sharepointdevwiki.com
- SharePoint is great for structured, corporate information that are policies and procedures that do not need to be edited regularly. If you are a SharePoint house, then use the Publishing Pages and document libraries for the structured information and allow Wiki’s in smaller team sites where a few people are editing them and they are small and single subject based.
- Comparing Confluence Enterprise Wiki to SharePoint Wiki is really not fair. SharePoint is not an Enterprise Wiki, and has never tried to be.
- However, comparing a corporate Intranet built on SharePoint vs one built on Confluence may be a better comparison, but that is a topic for another session.
- In a future session we will look into the Confluence SharePoint Connector to see if it really does enable a company to have the best of both worlds.
From WikiSym 2008
- The wiki is the place for fast collaborations.
- Sharepoint is the place to go for final documents (authoritative).
By definition, SharePoint is something completely different than an enterprise Wiki. If all you want is a Wiki, you don’t have to spend your time on implementing SharePoint. There are better solutions out there. But a Wiki is very rarely the only thing that a company wants, and if SharePoint does the most things you as a company wants, then it is very easy to add some 3rd party Wiki functionality and that way satisfying your need for an enterprise Wiki as well.
Document-centric collaboration systems like SharePoint certainly have a place in the universe. Atlassian has always maintained that SharePoint is an excellent tool for storing and managing online Office documents. That’s why we partnered with Microsoft to build the SharePoint Connector. Martin’s post forces us to think about the differences between the wiki way of collaborating and the SharePoint way of collaborating. Those differences run deeper than a few superficial features like browser support and wiki markup. At it’s core, Sharepoint strives to be something different than an enterprise wiki.