Sun wikis

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Sun is deploying wikis as a public extranet on wikis.sun.com. They're using Confluence from Atlassian, a product I've used in two real life implementations of an entreprise wiki ([shameless plug] and with which I have significant experience now [/shameless plug]). Tim Bray has a post about the launch and wonders on his "wiki ranch" if he can make it more open to external contributors.

Meanwhile, I reacted on Martin's comment on Tim's blog:

Too bad Sun does not use free tools, like MediaWiki, for the internal Wiki. I manage a high-school reunion wiki, and although the syntax is hard to grok for non-techies, it is flexible and sooo open! It allows me to automate the registration process using some simple Python code between a Google Spreadsheet and the MediaWiki site, hosted freely at http://www.wiki-site.com. Libraries used: Google API (http://code.google.com/) and http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Using_the_python_wikipediabot

If I had choosen other closed Wiki offering I could not have done all those nice automatic features!

Martin's comment is so typical. The real cost of a wiki isn't in the license, but in its development and growth. I've got several real life exemples where it would have cost several times MORE to use MediaWiki than to pay a license for Confluence and use it out of the box (that's what Sun uses too, and my little finger tells me it's not just a coincidence!). Most open source software (and MediaWiki in particular) absolutely suck at end-user features such as a really working WYSIWYG editor (no, wiki syntax isn't any "simpler" for casual users than HTML, it's just Fucking Ugly Code™ for them), or usability. And let's compare the complexity and cost of maintaining a bunch of "free" spaghetti code (bricolage!) assembled by a geek hobbyist to a product that comes with enterprise support and can be managed by non developers, etc., etc.

Sorry, but for entreprise wikis, the available most open source options are simply not up to par with the commercial offerings. I don't take a cut in selling licenses, and my clients perfectly understand that it's in their interest to pay a license if it's less costly for them than customizing a "free" software that they won't be able to maintain without endlessly paying a developer.

And a last note on MediaWiki, which fames derives only from Wikipedia, it's made with only one goal in mind: powering Wikipedia, period. Just take a look at the features (and lack thereof) and, most importantly, its documentation. One can only wonder, in front of such an horror: either the developers suck at documenting their code (too bad for people who make a tool for an encyclopedia) or the software isn't suitable for such a task. In either case, it's bad.