In this two-part article, we give a detailed comparison of the wiki top dog MediaWiki and Confluence.
We already wrote a few words about MediaWiki and Confluence some years ago. At that time, we wrote about the main objections to MediaWiki.
That article is still worth reading and remains largely valid. Ultimately the key argument then was that the choice of tool did not depend only on features, but also on the concept behind the software. This is a timeless truth.
However, MediaWiki does not need to fear a direct feature comparison. Importantly, the enterprise distribution BlueSpice has already decided the feature question in my view. This can be seen on our newest internal feature-comparison table, published here and offered for free download:
Everything used to be simple: database queries for structured data and full-text search functions were conceived separately. But that is now history. In new search engines, metadata can be searched for much more selectively. These new possibilities blur the distinction between a database query and a search function. What does this mean for the technological development of wikis? Continue Reading
This progress report is based on an interview with Miriam Schönberg who is responsible for knowledge management at HAVI Logistics, playing the decisive role in HAVIpedia’s development. HAVI Logistics is a company providing third party logistics for the food services industries, supplying various types of companies including restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s, Nordsee and Vapiano. The company currently has 5,510 employees and 55 distribution centres in Europe.
How did the wiki develop from a departmental wiki to a company wiki?
HAVI Logistics started a departmental wiki for the IT department back in 2004. Six years later, they introduced what was then the first Hallo Welt! GmbH wiki. It was called “hallowiki”. It extended MediaWiki, which was already in place, and made the departmental wiki available to more than 200 users in our IT area in different countries.
The current main page of HAVIpedia
It soon became clear that the information in the wiki was not only interesting and helpful for IT, but also for those departments which work with the IT department. Therefore we opened up HAVIpedia in 2011 for all our colleagues in the business. In theory, since this date, every employee who has access to the firm’s network has been able to get onto the wiki, find information, and contribute too.
There are no read-only rights, as everyone should and may take part. HAVIpedia is also connected to the Active Directory which means that our colleagues log in with their normal accounts and are also registered in the wiki on the move.
How does the wiki fit alongside the other collaboration systems within HAVI logistics?
As part its development into an Enterprise 2.0 company, HAVI logistics uses several web applications for internal communication and team work. The wiki is one of four central platforms which promote the exchange of knowledge within the company. It is, however, becoming more important.
The four pillars are:
Firstly, the intranet in which, for example, information on the customers and strategies is disseminated. This is top down – the management keeps the employees up to date.
Secondly, SharePoint is used as a collaboration platform for teams and for storing documents.
Thirdly, MySites is for personal information for the members of staff.
Finally, we have the wiki “HAVIpedia” with the aim of combining and grouping information. Here, you can find abbreviations and definitions, descriptions of best practise and much more. Links take you from one system into another and so on.
Is there a core team responsible for the wiki?
No. The wiki lies in my area of responsibility; it belongs to knowledge management. Naturally, I am helped by colleagues and I can delegate certain tasks to those responsible for certain areas. I try to ask my colleagues to do tasks that areas small and concrete as possible so that I do not burden them unnecessarily. I set planning intervals for implementation which are generally sufficiently long so that I do not put people under pressure. That works well. And I have noticed that personal contact is very important to bring my colleagues on board. The wiki supports communication in essential points, but it cannot replace personal contact.
Which of HAVIpedia’s functions are particularly helpful?
From my experience, and the feedback that we have got, the most important function is the What-you-see-is-what-you-get editor (WYSIWYG). Without this, it would not work at all! BlueSpice really makes a big difference here; it lets colleagues without programming knowledge add and adapt contents without any problems.
However, a well functioning search function is also essential. Particularly when the wiki grows and gets bigger, you have to rely on the search function a great deal. Interestingly, users often have quite varied strategies when searching. One may search and use facets, another might navigate by chapter and yet another relies on categories. All these variants need to be offered to create a well functioning solution.
For this reason, and others, the most important extension, I would say, is the bookmaker. Bookmaker lets you create thematic bundles. This means you can collect together specific coherent parts as chapters, then as books. These can also be exported as PDFs. This saves a lot of time for those who are looking for something as closely related themes are directly and clearly linked. This is excellent for best practise documentation like, for example, the SharePoint documentation, which we use all the time.
What is somewhat unusual, but very useful, is our offline wiki, which plays a particularly important role in second level support. This type of offline backup lets colleagues access their most important records even when they have no internet connection.
What I also, personally, like is that one can see straight away in HAVIpedia when someone is having their birthday, assuming that they have entered their birthday in their profile in MySites. This is a good example of how we sometimes use data from one system to place it in the right place in another of our systems. And it is always nice to use a birthday as an excuse to get back into personal contact with a colleague or wiki author. 😉
What is happening in the wiki at the moment and what are the challenges for the next two years?
In December 2012 we completely renewed the wiki technically. We are now using the most up to date MediaWiki version and on top of this we have installed the newest version of BlueSpice from Hallo Welt! GmbH. I think it is an essential factor in the success of enterprise wikis, that they do not stagnate technically, but rather develop further and that they are not just checked and adapted regarding contents. Most people’s expectations of our system are influenced by what they know from their private use of the web and social media. Usability is decisive and has to be, I have learnt this, regularly surveyed and adapted. The challenge of updating a system which is already running, has all the content needed, but is not up to date technically, is not to be underestimated.
As we have moved the technology a decisive step forward, we are dedicating ourselves this year to the contents. At the moment, we have more than 4500 articles, now we need to see what is missing and what new contents can usefully be included now that we have opened up for all areas of the company. Until now, the articles have been mainly focused on IT, due to the history. So now we have to motivate the staff to help to broaden the range of themes. This also concerns the quality of the information on the existing articles – which is predominantly very high. For this, we need to be ruthless about cleaning up articles which do not meet these quality standards.
Another point is the restructuring process. It needs to be more clearly defined and communicated which content belongs in which system. The demarcation and assignment needs to be clear immediately. Here we have, for example, assigning articles to categories, and departments for editing. We have also learnt that the uniqueness of content is important. This means that information should ideally be given fully in one place, so that you do not have to search in many places for additional information.
You have already mentioned the factors for success. What tips could you give others from your experiences?
Oh, well there are all sorts of things. Many of them are relevant when a business is planning introducing a wiki. For example, which wiki software should I choose? From my experience, I can say that being similar to Wikipedia is extremely important for us. Our staff know Wikipedia from their everyday life. Thus, it is much easier for them to learn the structure and how to work with the wiki when we do not stray to far from what they already know. The inhibitions and worries of getting actively involved can be lowered in this way.
We do not, however, kid ourselves that everyone writes in HAVIpedia; it will always be the case that most colleagues use the information passively, i.e. by reading it. Nevertheless, I think that now we are also broadening the contents, that more staff will feel drawn to add something themselves to topics they know something about. I often here the remark “that must be in HAVIpedia,” which is a sign for me that our colleagues are getting used to using our wiki.
In 2010 we laid great store by putting the look of the wiki in the style of our corporate identity. After finding our that all of our adaptations cause a great deal of effort when migrating, we now stick to the BlueSpice standard whenever possible.
Regular “gardening” is a must. Continual support of the wiki saves long-term irritation. This includes looking through the articles to see if they have categories, and if they are correctly and sufficiently linked, and for instance adding alternative terminology so that the articles can be found more easily. It is often small but very important work. In a well structured ‘ongoing’ wiki, I calculate on about two days a month which I spend supporting the wiki. If, however, there are technical changes or, like now, significant restructuring, then the time and effort needed is naturally significantly higher, and we plan for this as a project.
Thank you very much Ms Schönberg for the interview.
Further down, you can find an extract from the article “Social software – HAVI Logistics on their way to Enterprise 2.0” from Wissensmanagement (Knowledge Management) magazine (1/2013).
If you would like to know more about HAVIpedia, we would be happy to help:
+49 (0)941 – 66 0800
How to upload and insert files in BlueSpice for MediaWiki? Have a look at our Tutorial. Here you can see how it works:
1. Upload and insert file by using WYSIWYG editor
1.1 Press edit, change to WYSIWYG editor and use the insert file tool.
1.2 Click on upload, browse and select your favorite file. If necessary you can change the files’s target name. Click on upload file.
1.3 To insert the file, pick the file from the library panel on the left-hand side. Select the file you want to insert into the wiki article. Click ok.
1.4 You will see the file link in WYSIWYG. To change the description, use the Wikicode view. There you see a file link that looks like this: [[Media:filename.pdf]]. To add a different name, use [[Media:filename.pdf|example]]. Click save page. Then the file description is shown as “example”. When you click on the link you get to the document.
2. Upload and insert file via upload file tool
2.1 Use the widget bar to go to the toolbox. Click on upload file.
2.2 On the top of the page you will find the first steps description. Underneath you will find the upload interface link and some information on the file formats that you’re allowed to upload.
2.3 Browse and select your favorite file. If necessary you can change the files’s target name or further information on the file. Click on upload file.
2.4 Go to the page where you want to insert the file. Click on edit.
2.5 Even if you are in the Wikicode view you can use the Upload and Insert File tool. Click on insert file. Look for your uploaded file on the left-hand side. To find it faster you can use the filter function on the top. Found it? Click on the file and then click ok.
2.6 To change the description, follow steps 1.4 onward.
Vom 1. bis 5. März findet in Hannover wieder die Cebit statt. Die Hallo Welt! – Medienwerkstatt präsentiert dort erstmals BlueSpice der breiten Öffentlichkeit. Auf dem Webciety- Bereich der Halle 6 am Stand H32 finden Sie kompetente Ansprechpartner.
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