Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Making new applications by removing features

Several recent online projects look, from my wiki-centric point of view, like someone took a wiki and pruned features out of it to make it simpler:

  • Backpack: put your to-do lists on line, and share access
  • Ta-da Lists: simpler than backpack, to-do lists
  • Writeboard ... shareable text-based documents, with password protection, hosted for free

But these are all good ideas given that it's pretty clear (if you try to get people interested in using a wiki) that there are lots of folks out there who find the wiki concept frightening or intimidating. I'm just trying to think, now, what stripped-down version of a wiki I can make to make my millions. ;)

I find the fear of wikis perplexing myself, although I came close to understanding it when a marketing guy told me he welcomed the idea of getting my documentation onto a wiki so that he could start editing it. So if you feel a lot of ownership in your writing, then I can see worrying about letting other people edit it. But the key concept is that with a decent wiki, you can see WHO edited something, and WHAT they did to it. With sufficient tracking and reversion features, you don't need security....if someone takes a topic awry, you just revert it.

That's what they do over at the grand old Wikipedia, of course. If you've never looked around Wikipedia, take a look now and tell me you aren't impressed with what a bunch of volunteers has been able to put together.

Yes, there's contention over Wikipedia information. Yes, any 12 year old with an internet connection can log on and change a page so that it's filled with profanity. But research, according to this New Atlantis article, shows that someone else fixes it, awfully fast.

But I'll bring up a wiki in a corporate setting and be amazed at how people worry about their coworkers getting access to information or being able to update it. They don't see the value, they see the downside. Maybe that's just human nature.

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