Friday, June 23, 2006

Thoughts on Jotspot

Well, the previous post was on Socialtext and as promised, this one is on Jotspot. A while ago I posted something on knowledge management in organizations. In that last post I already indicate that wiki's seem to solve most of the problems. In my opinion Jotspot is the best solution for an enterprise wiki at the moment, though Socialtext wins on ease of use, which is a very important point too. However, the problems of Jotspot are easily fixed. But lets start with the good and end with the bad

The Good
- Easy to use, uncluttered user interface with a good WYSIWYG editing tool. Not as easy as Socialtext, but still.
- The editing tool has a good arrangement of functions including tools for tables. This makes that editing is as straight forward as in Word
- You can easily add new applications to your wiki, like knowledge management tools, weblogs, company directory, spreadsheets, photogallery's, forums, bug reporters, project management tools etc. It is only a click away.
- You can even add and build your own applications in Jotspot.
- You can send e-mail to the pages and add attachments to pages. It is even sophisticated enough that you can import Word and Excel including pictures right into the pages.
- You can right click text and format the text the way you want it.
- It has RSS feeds of entire wiki's and specific pages
- Administration allows for easy editing of user privileges with regards to pages.
- Good pricing plan. You can use it over the web and you can buy an appliance.
- Seems very flexible, with scripts, XML and other features. It really looks like the platform hasn't reached the end of its potential for a long while.

The Bad
Some of the problems I had with Socialtext show up here too.
- Attaching images to pages is done through adding a URL. So you first need to attach a picture and then link, or find it on the net. Should be just a little dialog box and an upload feature.
- When you want to mail to a page you need to add a code to the page. In company situations you really don't want that. It requires explaining and explaining is bad.
- No integration with corporate LDAP or Active Directory.
- (Same as Socialtext) Every unique user should have a unique users page. On the one hand it should allow him/her to make an introduction, contact details, to link to pages they have edited, their weblog, projects they are on, tasks they have to do and links to the project pages. It should be the homebase for the user for much of its editing and also a place for others to find out what you're working on. (For an example, see wikipedia) This last gripe is one of my major ones, together with the next one. For Jotspot it would allow a great integration of all the various applications with a central place for the user to get his information.
- it could help structure projects etc with some pre-structured workspaces and pages. People should just be able to click buttons that say: Start new project. Start new workspace. start new informational page etc.
- E-mails at the bottom of the page should be threaded and collapsible.
- Just having a left windowpane leaves an uncluttered view, but also wastes screenspace that could be used for more information.
- Looking at the bugs pages of Jotspot doesn't give me a warm feeling someone is working on the bugs. No comments, no status updates etc.
- Many of the applications could use a smoother user interface and sometimes feel rough at the edges, like they haven't been really finished yet.
- Sometimes it feels slower than socialtext.
- Really bad is that internal links aren't done by a simple button, but by a complicated one looking like a W. It is called Toggle WikiWords. No idea what it meant until I started using it. I can't expect a 49 year old computerphobe to understand this in the first look --> They should look at Socialtext.
- Focus on Wikiwords while linking internally and new pages. WikiWords are two or more words joined with no spaces and capitals for each word like this: WikiWordsAreNotEasyForNewbies. It should just be a selection of a couple of words and than a click of a button. Turns out it can work that way, even with spaces. But it isn't explained like that and it doesn't follow from the user interface.
- I still haven't found out what Anchors are. (if you edit text anchors show up like green blocks around text, if you go out of edit mode, nothing shows up).

Great system, lots of potential, lots of possibilities. It is sometime rough around the edges. It makes me worried that co-workers wouldn't really understand everything and would need coaching and training to introduce them to the system. But lots of the ajaxie widgets give me the idea that every 6 months there will be a new app that will make some colleagues work easier. I do think I would choose it over Socialtext because of this.

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