A few people have contacted me lately about using wiki tools to collaborate with others on a project. We don’t have an “official” wiki at IWU so there is always a bit of confusion at the outset.
Many people have opted for Google Docs instead of wiki. This makes a lot of sense if your group is just collaborating on internal work. If you want to publish the work to the web later, wiki tools are a better fit.
What wiki is the right wiki? I don’t know. We have used Confluence (a commercial tool that costs money) and Wikispaces (basic wiki is free, extra features cost you). There is also a basic wiki built in to Moodle. I’ve used MediaWiki (the engine that powers Wikipedia) on my own server with great results. So I must be a wiki expert, right? Not even close. Here is an article naming some of the wiki farms on the web today.
So what tool is the right tool? There are a few factors that are important when stacking these tools and services up for comparison. First is access. There are two sorts of access for a wiki – read and write. Clearly your own people will need to both read and write if they are going to collaborate. Can the tool allow or disallow public reading, writing, or both? Can you use it to make this choice on a page-by-page basis?
I’d also look for a tool that permits downloading a backup copy of your wiki, at least in HTML form. That way the end product of your collaboration can be retained, even if the company hosting the service goes out of business.
Last but not least, find something that is easy to sign up for and easy to use. I have some concerns about the usability of the Moodle wiki. On my first visit I couldn’t figure out how to make a new page without looking it up. When comparing usability I’d stack any wiki up against Wikipedia. Everyone should know how to modify a Wikipedia entry by now – it is very easy – and if your wiki service makes it confusing you might shop elsewhere.