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2006Spring: MusExMachina: Cases: Team Productivity Practices: Wiki

We set up a private wiki to help us catalogue ideas and collaboratively compose documentation


Summary:

Though wikis provide the benefit of enriched collaborative document creation, our primary reasons for migrating to a wiki had to do with ensuring better ways to assess team progress and providing avenues for crisis resolution. Should circumstances render team members incapable, a wiki permits our team to retain composure should we be in 11th hour scenarios. The ability to adapt to such unexpected circumstances was nearly impossible with a decentralized document creation processes.

Decentralized, Multi-Platform Document creation process


When our team was composing the writeup for the first phases of our project, we desired to author our work in an environment that supports advanced formatting. Consequently, we chose to use word processing software and save our work in a feature rich and highlu supported file format. We choose to save our work in the Microsoft Word Document file format. We each exchanged work with other teamates over email, and as a result needed one our teammembers to act as an "editor" and be responsible for merging changes into a "master" version of the document.

We ran into some problems when we completed our writeup this way. We noticed after we submitted our writeup that content within our printout did not match what members of our team authored. Though we agreed to share documents in Microsoft Word Document file format, some teamates choose to author their portion in Microsoft Word and others chose Open Office (as they had not purchased the Microsoft Word word processor program). Unexpectadly, when our editor merged the writeups we found the following problems with our final document:


Additionally, we encountered the following shortcomings in using a decentralized Document creation process:

Solution: Force everyone to merge their work in central location, like the web. Utilize a wiki to do this.

Centralized, Single-Platform Document creation process


When our second milestone came around, our team had already anticipated benefits to using a wiki. We started with the swiki, found we required more features because we wanted to build our software development process around a collaborative environment, tried out some other wikis, and finally settled on using MediaWiki.

Our team started out using the swiki to fulfill the written portion of our milestones. However, we shortly found we needed a more customized solution:

Setting up our own Wiki


In choosing the wiki platform to use, we considered the option of installing our own copy of the swiki. However, hosting restrictions made doing so difficult. Our budget permitted us to only consider webhosts who provided shared webhosting services, and we were unable to find a webhost who did provide the option to run smalltalk within these budget restraints. Availability concerns with hosting the Swiki from our own local computers guided us to discount the option as well. Consequently, our next step was to survey available Wiki software.

We first tried out the options provided through our webhost's auto installer interface. We hoped to benefit from their having indexed and prepared wiki autoinstallation for customers. We thus sought to avoid the time-costly process of ourselves assessing wikis and learning how to properly configure them for our needs. The wikis provided through the autoinstallation interface were phpwiki and tikiwiki. We experimented with the wikis provided and found they didn't meet our needs.

We found:

We then consulted wiki feature assessment websites, like WikiMatrix (http://www.wikimatrix.org/) and compared the list of wikis. We choose to use MediaWiki based on favorable results from the Wiki Feature Comparison Matrix and from peer provided recomendations.


Mediawiki


Is it morally wrong to advertise for mediawiki on the swiki?

Our team substantially benefited from using MediaWiki in our Document creation process.

Our installation of MediaWiki resolved the aforementioned concerns we had with the central document creation process. Inadvertantly we realized the following benefits as well:


Some notes on setting up a wiki for teams


The following steps cover some aspects of how our wiki was setup. A more detailed process tailored for MediaWiki is included as well. Since wiki software is evolving, we tried making the following indicative of the thought process involved to properly configuring collaborative editing software.

More detailed notes on how to configure MediaWiki

Emerging needs


Though collaborative authoring software is evolving, we experianced some shortcomings with current collaborative wiki software.

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