Writing Information Trapping, I’ve been doing a lot of looking at solutions for organizing information once you’ve found it. A big part of that has been looking at wikis. I did some experimenting with JotSpot along with other wiki companies (and some standalone wiki software) and I can’t decide if Google’s acquisition of JotSpot is way too early or not. To make the most of the acquisition Google will have to take — at least for a while — the role of evangelist.
Wikis are well-known because of projects like Wikipedia, but I don’t think they’re enjoying a wide level of adoption. I realized why when I was considering setting up a wiki for where I work. I imagined about 30 people eventually using it and updating it, and I thought that using a hosted service would be easier than installing a wiki on our server.
JotSpot’s pricing at the time (JotSpot is no longer billing customers for the use of the service) meant that it would cost $24.95 a month for up to 25 users with a limit of 300 pages. Based on what I was imagining for the wiki that felt cramped. The next step beyond that was unlimited users, with a 1000-page limit, for $69.95 a month.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind paying for online services. In fact in some cases I prefer it. But unlike something like e-mail or picture hosting or even an online word processor, I don’t know enough about wikis — how I can use them, how my organization would use them — to immediately start tossing out $70 a month. I needed a cheap way to experiment with wiki structures and what I could put together for my company.
I ended up installing MediaWiki on a server to have something to play with. Having my own wiki installation proved to me that wikis are not easy to use and that it would take me a while to learn the particular markup. In that case an online service would be better. On the other hand, the more I explored MediaWiki the more I became enamored of its potential, and the more I wanted to do things like embed RSS feeds and multimedia content — things that seemed a bit beyond the scope of hosted wiki services.
Wikis are new enough and not integrated enough into the online experience that it’s hard to decide how you might use them, and hard to assess what kind of services you’d want, how much you’d be willing to pay, etc. On the other hand installed wikis have their own learning curve.
I enjoyed using JotSpot when I was trying it out, and it was one of the better services I reviewed. (I also enjoyed PB Wiki.) I think Google got a good service. But in addition to figuring out how to turn the service into a source of an ad revenue, they’re going to have to take the role of evangelist. They’re going to have to drive adoption of wikis as a information-structuring source. That’ll be an interesting role for Google to take — I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle it.