Wiki software

We have an issue with process documentation where I work.

Namely, we don’t have enough. And what we do have isn’t very well organized.

For example, here’s a short Microsoft Communicator chat I had with a coworker yesterday:

Me: Good afternoon! When you have a chance, I need to talk to you about how to generate the customer list file for process D71420.
Me: I know you told me how to do it once, but I’ve forgotten.

JN: Check your sent email, you sent out an email with good directions

Me: LOL! I hope I haven’t had it it archived off…
Me: OK, found it. Thanks for the reminder.

JN: It was a good write up.

So I’ve started researching wiki software and personal wiki software. Actually, I started by searching Technical Writing on reddit, and found a post titled How can I take my company manuals to the next level?

One of the answers on that post referenced Confluence, a full-sized (not personal) commercial wiki solution from Atlassian. I’ve gone to Python Meetups at Atlassian’s office here in Austin, so I thought it was worth a look. Confluence uses Java in the backend, which isn’t a technology I’m really familiar with – but our internal web hosting group here is, so they would probably be more comfortable supporting it than some alternatives. It’s just $10 (donated to charity) for up to 10 users if you host on your own server (which would be de rigueur for our process documentation, which includes login information for customer FTP sites).

I took a first look at a couple of other full-size wiki solutions:

  • Wagn (pronounced “wagon”) runs on Ruby on Rails. It has an interesting card-based interface that reminds me a little bit of HyperCard, which might be easier for my co-workers to wrap their minds around when I’m trying to convince them to write documentation for their own jobs. It’s open-source and free – and our web hosting group is also somewhat familiar with RoR, so it might be easier for them to support than some other alternatives, such as…
  • Moin Moin is a flat-file (not database) wiki built using Python 2.x (not 3.x yet). It’s the wiki software of choice for some major open-source organizations, including Apache, Ubuntu, FreeBSD, as well as itself. It’s also available in a “personal” (not web hosted) version, which would be useful to use to demonstrate the capabilities on the way to “selling” the company on the idea of hosting our documentation in a wiki (instead of files in random locations on our network file shares).

Speaking of personal wikis, I found the following interesting:

And then I started thinking about going back to OneNote – if only there were a way to script OneNote – perhaps by accessing its XML, or maybe a PowerShell Provider that makes it easier…

One thought on “Wiki software

  1. I’d pretty much written off Confluence as a solution, because the Server (host your own) version jumps from a minimal one-time payment of $10 for 10 users to $1,200 for 11-25 users.

    It turns out that even in the 10-user version, unlimited ANONYMOUS users can access Confluence. That might be ideal for our situation, since there would be very few people who would want to add anything to the knowledgebase, but quite a lot who might want to be able to search it.

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