Jennifer Shaheen, The eMarketing and Technology Therapist
Lately there has been a strong buzz about wikis in the business community. I have been familiar with the wiki for some time, but based on the chatter I began to wonder if using a wiki could help small businesses. Are wikis any different than some other popular tools like content management software or Google groups? Would a wiki help cut down on email traffic or instant messaging?
What is a Wiki – Really?
A wiki is software that allows users the ability to edit content in real time and is not unlike a content management system for editing your website. So how is it different? I decided to explore by evaluating a few wiki’s myself and talking with Dimitri Lisitski, CEO of Nuospace.com.
I found an important distinction on Wikipedia’s page; “Most wikis keep a record of changes made to wiki pages, often every version of the page is stored. This means that authors can revert to an older version of the page, should it be necessary because a mistake has been made or the page has been vandalized.” Content management tools for editing websites usually do not offer the feature of reverting easily to a previous version. Score one point for the wiki.
Why use a Wiki?
Typically wikis are used as a way to exchange ideas and most companies use them as a tool to keep company intranets active. However, Dimitri pointed out that the intention of a Wiki, at Nuospace, is to create a shared workspace for collaboration by multiple users on more than just content, but also on documents, directories and forums. Nuospace has structured their tool to allow companies to do this in a secure space. It’s a virtual workspace for small to mid-sized businesses to collaborate sharing more than just an exchange of ideas but also files. Google or Yahoo Groups did not offer the same flexibility that the wiki offered. Point number two for the wiki.
For me the idea of how best to use this tool was beginning to develop:
- Wikis for Projects: We could use this tool as a way to discuss each client’s project internally and allow freelancers access to only the projects they were involved in.
- Wikis for Marketing: I am overwhelmed with ideas for marketing my company a wiki would allow my team to see my ideas and add their point of view.
- Wikis for Internal Company Concerns: As we increase our staff, we find holes in our systems or develop new internal communication issues. The wiki will help us internally communicate as it was intended.
The wiki points have been calculated and have won me over. To me, the wiki is like a whiteboard that I don’t have to erase and my team can comfortably leave comments on as we grow. It will also allow us the ease of looking back to help eliminate similar problems in the future.
Choosing the Right Wiki for Your Business
Now that I defined why my small business needed a wiki, I decided to explore three different wiki providers: Nuospace, Zoho and ScribbleWiki. Each begins with a free trial. Nuospace offers their service for free with the following options: free up to 250 mb of storage and up to 100 pages with no limit on the number of users. Zoho only offered one free wiki as part of the trial and Scribblewiki is completely free.
I spent some time reviewing each tool and found that my two favorites were Zoho and Nuospace. Scribblewiki looks and acts just like Wikipedia, but for my goals it was not the most functional.
Zoho offered the following:
- An easy to use interface
- Ability to make the wiki public or private
- Permission options: by group, registered users, everyone or only the creator
- Option to change the skin color of the wiki and customization of the design
- Email notifications on new comments on the wiki
Nuospace offered the following:
- Easy to use interface
- Private only wiki
- Ability to collaborate on more than just a wiki:
– upload documents
– create multiple wikis
– discussion forums
– directory of files
- Permissions for sharing content and collaboration. You can invite users to get involved in any of the items via email. All invited users can review the content because it is not a public wiki.
- Feedback tags for status. Example: waiting for feedback, approved or rejected.
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After reviewing my goals, one of our biggest problems in running a business is finding a central communication tool that involves more than just sharing text; therefore, for me the biggest advantage of Nuospace was the additional tools not offered by the other providers. I asked Dimitri if all wiki applications offered document sharing and he pointed out that is not typically the case. “Nuospace is a wiki product built from the ground up to become a shared workspace for enterprise content.” For businesses, that includes sharing documents and knowledge. Nuospace is growing and will be offering a complete customizable interface in their next release, as well as supporting Firefox.
As a small business owner who has worked with many other small businesses, the common issues I see for many of us are lack of time, managing a virtual staff, and communication breakdowns. Try one and find out if a wiki is good fit to solving some of these issues in your business. I can say first hand that using a wiki is already having a positive impact on my company.
Jennifer Shaheen, the eMarketing and Technology Therapist, has more ten years experience working with small to mid-sized businesses on their eMarketing and Web-development needs. You can learn more about her by visiting her Web site, TechnologyTherapy.com