Monday, June 16, 2008

Sharepoint Wiki Disaster

I finally got an answer to our major problem with wikis in Sharepoint. It is bad news.

One of the advantages to using a platform approach is the integration of the various pieces in one place, with a unified look and searching. We have been using Sharepoint as the platform for our intranet for many years, starting when Sharepoint was just "Sharepoint" then onto Sharepoint 2003 and as of April 1, Sharepoint 2007.

It was the feature set of Sharepoint 2007 that got me interested in blogging and enterprise 2.0.

We have been experiencing problems with the notification feature for wikis in Sharepoint. When there is a change to a wiki page, it sends out the whole wiki page with no indication of the changes. It is very frustrating to have a whole document, that you have already read, being sent to you with no indication of changes. That is why track changes in Word and document comparison software exists.

The wiki is creating a new version each time it is saved. The changes are there in the wiki to be discovered and presumably to be transmitted. Sending out a notification of the change is core wiki functionality. Isn't it?

I cornered Lawrence Liu at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference to find out what we were doing wrong. I was stunned to find out the problem was not us. It was them. The Sharepoint wiki will not send out the changes. It merely sends out the entire wiki page.

This is a disaster. It removes the communications aspect of the wiki. It makes it hard to see the activity in the wiki. I see something is happening, but I have to go into the wiki, click on the history and go through each version to see the changes.

As I have posted before, it is important to have both the artifact and the flow of knowledge: Knowledge is an Artifact and a Flow. Sharepoint's design of wikis destroys the flow.

Everyone knows that the Sharepoint wikis are basic. I have been willing to live with the simplicity. It makes them easier to understand and easier to show people how to work with them. After all, training is just another barrier to adoption.

Thanks to Lawrence for giving me a straight answer to my question. Even if the answer was terrible. Lawrence Liu can be found on his blog: Lawrence Liu's Report from the Inside
and on Twitter: Twitter/LLiu.


  1. The Lockheed-Martin thing ("Unity") (did you catch that session? was great) sits on top of Sharepoint, but is basically a .NET app that layers all the extra stuff on top -- I suspect this is the sort of thing it adds.

  2. I missed the Lockheed Martin presentation.

    LLiu mentioned that he has some partners looking at the problem. The information is there.

    It is really pushing me to think about bringing in another product.

  3. Hi Doug,

    If your firm has the will (and the budget), you could write a feature to deploy on your Intranet. For any wiki pages, whenever an article is saved, intercept the email and have your wiki send one which just sends the history.

    Easier said than done, but definitely possible.

    Alternatively, Kwizcom have a Sharepoint wiki which might do the trick (plus a free evaluation version).

    Hope that helps


  4. I've run smack into Sharepoint's Wiki limitations - I wholeheartedly agree that the current iteration runs counter to the spirit of Wikis. I will check out Kwizcom, but any other alternative recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

  5. @irshal

    The top three on my list are Mediawiki, Confluence and SocialText. All of very INexpensive.

    Mediawiki is open source and free. We have not used open source software before, so it presents some new challenges.

    Confluence has a free download and a sharepoint connector.

    SocailText also has a SharePoint connector. The company is one of the thought leaders in wikis and social media.

  6. MS has an army of Devs and can't do anything right. I introduced Confluence in my previous job, and was very happy with it. However it's a challenge to maintain it with pure Windows point and click trained IT staff.

  7. I have used Confluence and SP, and SPs wiki. SP does not have a wiki - it has a one-way web authoring tool. If you can rework the page in a wiki markup language then the page text drifts into HTML "heck". With wiki's from vendors that don't have lock-in, and lock-in to documents as their primary goal, the round trip editing and webpage-as-content model works much better. With Confluence, many many plug-ins and macros are available to present access to content on your web page. Try it. Tom, - independent consultant

  8. I started using SharePoint Wiki about a week ago. I've been an active Wikipedian for nearly two years and an aggressive user of Wikispaces as well. SP Wiki is certainly an easy start up for beginners, but boy does it lack in fundamental features. You say you've learned to settle for the available features, which is admirable. But an aggressive Wikipedian uses categories, change notifications, and discussion pages to find answers to many questions that can't be found directly and to track progress on areas of interest.

    I'm beginning to worry that my org will have to abandon the SP Wiki and move to an add-on. What will be involved in moving a Wiki -- a total rewrite, or copy and paste effort, or do these things export and import data?

    I was expecting Microsoft to provide a top of the line Wiki product that would be supported through development iterations. Not only is that not the case, but it isn't even the plan. Lawrence's blog more than suggests that he's satisficing. What's up with that?

  9. @Pat -

    I was not expecting a top of the line wiki product from Micrososft. This was their first attempt. Microsoft rarely gets it right with their first attempt.

    We have not looked into the difficulties of migration. I have heard there are some tools to help. But you will inevitably lose some information and/or formatting.

    It is better get the add-on quickly.

  10. Traction TeamPage has the feature you request (and then some) which is to send e-mail notification that shows the DIFF view of the old and new pages. You can fine tune which spaces you want to monitor at this level - and even fine tune it by author, tag or other search facility.

    Notification is often a tough issue, largely because some people want to know about every add/change and others just want certain things. I like to get a digest of new content once a day and get e-mails when something is tagged "headline" or "todo" for me.

  11. Don't think about Wikis only: Share any SharePoint content as knowledge! For categorizing any SharePoint items or documents cross-site based on centrally managed taxonomies and browse it by default navigation, category tree or A-Z directory you can use the Taxonomy Extension found at:

    Related items can be shown in the item's detail view, cross-site category-based meta-data lists from different source lists and types can be subscribed by RSS or email. With that extension the SharePoint portal really can become a place to share knowledge as well as content.

    Just check it out. / Frank


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