"Where Will Wikis Go Next?
The good news about wiki technology is, that like the Web itself, it's here to stay. Wikis filled a small niche near the time of the Web's birth, but that niche has begun to widen. At its narrowest point, we will continue to find wikis filling the humble role of helping shape people's attitudes and knowledge about Web-based, collaborative content creation and editing.
The bad news about wikis is twofold: Unless you implement a wiki within an industry-standard database such as Oracle, MySQL, or PostgreSQL, you may need programming skills to migrate your wiki from one wiki implementation to another. Some wiki implementations store wiki content in database records, while others store content in plain-text files (don't forget, XML is plain text). In both cases, the Web site is dynamically rendered into HTML. This is why wiki sites don't have URLs that end with the ubiquitous ".htm" or ".html." The other major bad news about wiki is that there is no standard way to mark up a wiki. If you do move from one wiki implementation to another, you will need to ensure that your Wiki markup is changed accordingly so it will be understood by the new wiki. I was dismayed to discover that there are important differences, for example, in the way Swiki.net allows Swiki markup and the way markup is handled in a Squeak Swiki or CoWeb. It's the same product more or less, so introducing needless variations in wiki text formatting or markup between the same basic software puzzles me.
Wikis are already overshadowed, having never emerged as a must-have technology, by more feature-rich WCMS products that incorporate real-time video and audio. A Squeak Swiki can do this for users with the right kind of programming skills; Squeak itself already contains internal, drag and drop, multimedia support. The future looks promising for collaborative WCMS as shown by some of these developments around the world.
For those who take air and computing for granted, MIT's Project Oxygen (also known as the Oxygen Alliance) [http://oxygen.lcs.mit.edu] is worth watching because of its mission to prototype a series of systems for "pervasive, human-centered computing." Among the database- and personal information management-related facets of this $50 million experiment mentioned on the Knowledge Access page are Haystack http://haystack.lcs.mit.edu/, the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Semantic Web http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/, and START, a natural-language question-answering system available since December 1993 http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/infolab/ailab.
One can see how far removed the ivy-veiled halls of New England academe are from reality, however, by visiting the Collaboration page, where the sole reference to a working collaborative Web-based document annotation system is the W3C's AnnoteaProject http://www.w3.org/2001/Annotea/. In the Annotea model, annotations of documents (typically a Web page) are stored on an external server and made accessible to anyone (or authenticated users). The difference between Annotea and wiki is that in an open wiki with no additional extensions, you have no way of knowing who's contributed what. A WebDAV-enabled wiki would likely solve this problem. I expect it would be trivial to request some form of identification as part of the authoring process, if deemed necessary in the wiki deployment, before accepting contributed content. On the other hand, the core idea behind wikis is that a wiki page is always in perpetual edit, so one does not need to know who contributed what.
The only two Annotea server implementations available as of January 2003 are the W3C's own server, and the Zope Annotation Server (Zannot) [http://www.zope.org/Members/Crouton/ZAnnot/]. Annotea Web browser clients, plug-ins, and tools listed by the W3C are Amaya (its own editor/browser) Annozilla [http://annozilla.mozdev.org/, Snufkinhttp://jibbering.com/snufkin/, and SWAD-Europe: RDF-based Annotation Systems reports/annotation_demo_server_report/. You'll find more Web-based annotation software listings at the SemanticWeb.org's site on Annotation & Authoring http://annotation.semanticweb.org/.
A few academic projects experimenting with collaborative WCMS caught my eye and interest.
The Connexions Project [http://cnx.rice.edu/index_html] is happening at Rice University. Brent Hendricks, who wrote the Zope Annotation Server, is listed as Chief Architect. Connexions sounds very much like the University of British Columbia's Public Knowledge Project http://www.pkp.ubc.ca/, except that Connexions appears geared more towards collaborative course development and publishing, and in that sense is somewhat like the open source Andamooka library http://www.andamooka.org/.
Daniel Suthers, Laboratory for Interactive Learning Technologies, University of Hawaii, is leading two projects described in one of his co-authored publication as "online workspaces for annotation and discussion of documents." The projects are KÃ¼kÃ¤kÃ¼kÃ¤[http://lilt.ics.hawaii.edu/lilt/software/kukakuka/], a Hawaiian word meaning discussion, and Pink [http://lilt.ics.hawaii.edu/lilt/software/pink/index.html], not quite ready for prime time as of January 2003, but sounding very much like a wiki. You can try the demonstration version of KÃ¼kÃ¤kÃ¼kÃ¤. MIT is also leading an open source infrastructure project for computer-mediated (e-learning or online learning) educational activities called the Open Knowledge Initiative [http://web.mit.edu/oki/index.html].
With deep connections to MIT again (Sloan School of Management), and the University of Heidelberg, Germany, dotLRN [http://dotlrn.mit.edu/], "a fully open source eLearning platform project" uses the enterprise-level OpenACS system http://openacs.org/projects/dotlrn/ "to foster learning and to promote collaboration." Another project using the same client/server combination is dotWRK http://dotwrk.collaboraid.net and. Among the competing products listed for dotWRK are Groove Workspace http://www.groove.net/products/workspace/, into which Microsoft invested, and eRoom, which Documentum http://www.documentum.com/ finalized its purchase of in December 2002. Documentum was named Content Management System of the Year by the Belgian Data News. I think it significant that with this much open source activity in the field of collaborative WCMS, Microsoft is issuing dire warnings about open source software, yet at the same time planning its own collaborative WCMS strategy. On January 21, 2003, Microsoft announced its agreement to purchase PlaceWare, and, more significantly, "the creation of a new business unit â€” the Real Time Collaboration Group â€” within the information worker business," of which PlaceWare will become a part. I have a feeling that Microsoft may well be on its way to becoming the IBM PC of collaborative WCMS, unable to compete with more robust, more open, and less expensive products."