For the past several years I have been running a virtual office with collaborators in multiple locations. We have tried a number of collaboration tools, including GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC, Groove, Time Matters World, with mixed success. Most of the work was project based, where control of the project files could be passed (as a football) from one collaborator to another. This works as long as you can pass control. However, there are times when we have needed to have simultaneous control of a project. For those, we have now standardized on a Wiki.
What is a Wiki?
According to www.wiki.org, it is:
Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.
Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.
I have talking with many programmers who work with source code Wiki’s to store and organize snippets of code. What distinguishes a good programmer from a so-so programmer is the ability to understand and “reuse code” efficiently in different environments. By using a Wiki, code can be annotated and placed in an environment where it is made available to other coders in the organization. But this is where most “databases end” and the “wiki begins.
Because each article in a Wiki can be edited, each person who finds the code and uses it, can improve on the code … revise it. The wiki tracks prior version. It also tracks discussion on the particular article. In this way, a Wiki (used in open source development) can grow to become a vital resource of what works and doesn’t work in an organization.
At Basha Systems, we have recently implemented an internal Wiki. Every time one of us has an idea, we toss it up on the Wiki. Someone else may look at the idea and refine it (or reject it). The idea can then develop into a procedure, process, or utility. Commentary can be refined as the utility is used in a feedback loop which then improves the program. The wiki software we use is called [url=http:\www.pmachine.com]Expression Engine[url], the same tool we use to host this website. But there are a number of “hosted” Wikis on Yahoo, Google, and other paid sites you can use. We keep ours behind the firewall, but there is nothing to say you could not start a public wiki for open collaboration.