Blog Archive

Blog posts for October 2013

Creating wikis has just gotten easier

One of my favorite things about XWiki is how I can easily extend the wiki to meet different needs. But one use case that couldn't be very easily achieved so far was starting with a basic version of XWiki Enterprise and later deciding to add more wikis to accommodate evolving needs.

Luckily simplicity is one of the main themes for the XWiki Enterprise 5.x cycle. The upcoming 5.2 release introduces the ability to create wikis straight from XWiki Enterprise. With the Workspace Application integrated in XWiki Enterprise, it's very simple to create new wikis without the need to install additional extensions. So depending on your collaboration needs and the complexity of your projects you may use just the main wiki or create a set of wikis.

"Wikis" in the main wiki Administration & the new "Create Wiki" right

A new section has been added to the administration of the main wiki. From this area you can enable the wiki creation feature. The section also manages who has the right to create new wikis.
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New wiki creation wizard

A brand new wizard that allows the creation of wikis is now available from the "Add" menu.
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CreateWiki1.png
CreateWiki2.png

New "Home" menu

The main wiki, the first wiki you have when starting a new instance of XWiki, is now called "Home". Once you have created multiple wikis, you will also start seeing the new "Home" menu.
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The Home menu as it appears on the main wiki.
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 The Home menu on a different wiki, in this case the Marketing wiki.

Support stopped for XWiki Enterprise Manager

With the ability to create wikis by default in XWiki Enterprise, the support of XWiki Enterprise Manager has been stopped starting with the 5.2M2 release. The old use case of creating wikis in a farm is still possible by installing the Wiki Manager UI manually through the Extensions Manager. Stay tuned for the 5.3 release when this use case will also be integrated in the default distribution.

Only a few days left before you can try it out!

The new 5.2 final is being release this week, so to try it out make sure you visit the xwiki.org download page in a few days. If you can't wait for the final release before testing the new integration, you may also download the 5.2 Release Candidate.

Organizing tasks with the new Task Manager application

The Task Manager application offers users the ability to create, assign and follow tasks right from the wiki using a shared task list.
Built using App Within Minutes, the new Task Manager application will be automatically listed in the XWiki Applications panel as soon as you install it. The application homepage, linked from the Applications panel, lists all the existing tasks. The livetable allows you to see your team members' tasks, priorities and deadlines.
With the Task Manager application you can easily create new tasks, assign, follow and share them. You can set priorities and due dates. This way you know who is working on what tasks and by when.
Each task has its own page. To start adding tasks, click on "Add New Entry" from the application homepage. 

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The Applications panel

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The Task Manager application homepage

A task can be easily edited by clicking the "Edit" button at the top of the page, just like you would do with any other wiki page. As an XWiki user you'll find the application is intuitive and easy to use.

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A task page in view mode

The application also has an Administration section.

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The Administration section

Try it out

You can easily install the Task Manager application on your wiki by following these installation instructions.

New to XWiki?

Try out XWiki and the Task Manager application by creating a free cloud wiki and manually installing the application.

You can also check out the XWiki.org extensions wiki for more cool applications.

JIO and WebViewers: interoperability for Javascript and Web Applications

Here are the slides of a talk given by Ludovic Dubost and Viktor Horvath (from Alixen) at the Open World Forum. This talk had the objective of presenting JIO and WebViewers, two open specifications which help integrate Javascript document viewers with Web Applications including CMS, Wikis, Collaborative Applications.

About JIO and WebViewer

  • JIO is a specification that allows compatible Javascript applications to open documents on any JIO compatible server in a standard way. The talk demonstrated the connection between OfficeJS, Mioga2 and XWiki servers.
  • WebViewer is a specification that allows to write Javascript document viewers (PDF, Spreadsheets, SVG) that can be automatically used by compatible Web Applications to view and edit the content of the supported file formats. The talk demonstrated PDF and Spreadsheets viewers embedded in multiple applications including XWiki and Mioga2.

Introducing XWiki 5.2

We are happy to announce XWiki 5.2 has been released yesterday. The full list of features is detailed in the release notes. Now let's take a look at three of these features:

1. The ability to create wikis straight from XWiki Enterprise

You may remember we've already talked about this last week. With the Workspace Application integrated in XWiki Enterprise, it's very simple to create new wikis without the need to install additional extensions. So depending on your collaboration needs and the complexity of your projects you may use just the main wiki or create a set of wikis. 

  • A new section has been added to the administration of the main wiki and a new right to create wikis.

    WikisAdministration.png
    The Wikis Administration section

  • A wizard that allows the creation of wikis is now available from the "Add" menu.

    AddMenu.png
    The Add Menu

  • A new "Home" menu has been added

    WikiHomeMenu.png
     The Home menu on the Marketing wiki

With the ability to create wikis by default in XWiki Enterprise, the support of XWiki Enterprise Manager has been stopped starting with the 5.2M2 release. More information is available in last week's blog post about the integration.

2. Solr-based search suggest

Starting with this version the search suggest feature takes into account the configured search engine. As a result, the search suggest feature is now using Solr by default. The search suggest administration section has also been improved and the source creation form has been simplified.

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The Search Suggest

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The Search Suggest administration section

3. New step to upgrade all wikis in the Distribution Wizard

A new step has been added to the Distribution Wizard to update the default set of wiki pages on each of the existing wikis. This step is triggered only if you choose to upgrade the entire farm in the "Upgrade Mode" step.

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Distribution Wizard: Step 3

Try it out!

We've only talked about three features from the XWiki 5.2 release, so for the full list of features make sure you visit the release notes. By trying out the release you'll also notice a lot of bug fixes (135) and many improvements (50).

What is the wiki culture and what does it mean for enterprises?

Here is the third article of our series of articles, entitled "How can the wiki culture change your business".

For an enterprise, Wiki Culture is first about:

  • Understanding the "knowledge challenge" and making it a priority as big as for instance the responsibility for the structure of the company, as big as selling, as big as hiring and keeping skilled workers. 
  • Understanding how the process of favoring small contributions that can be combined will lead to better results than bigger contributions that are hard to bring together, and recognizing the importance of information organization.

Wiki Culture is about setting up the principles and the tools that will favor the contribution of information and its organization, that encourage the participation of all individuals to this sharing and organization process. Wiki Culture is about empowering every individual and every team and allowing them to be information consumers, but also producers and organizers.
Wiki Culture is about the company being focused on "group productivity", rather than on "individual productivity".

Group productivity versus Individual productivity

Enterprises focus a lot on individual productivity. First in performance reviews, employees are asked and motivated to perform individually. Internal competition also pushes this further.
Individuals are often more comfortable with the "personal productivity trend". Each employee creates his own environment of personal productivity on his computer. This is taken further by the BYOD trend in which employees will often install their own chosen tools. Each user has on his PC his own way of organizing files or email folders, his own email filters. Today in small and large companies, even when it is officially forbidden, individuals will use cloud tools such as DropBox and many others to improve their productivity.
At best they will expose others to their online content, but hardly work together with other employees to find a common organization for the information they work with. 

While these tools allow employees to be more productive, it is easy to understand that the productivity of the enterprise is not the sum of the productivity of individuals. It's all about the way employees work together. If they work well, one plus one can be three as each individual gains from the collaboration. If they don't work together, it can be highly counter productive as employees shoot in different directions. 

A key challenge for collaborative tools is to allow group productivity to rise while increasing individual productivity. This cannot be achieved by letting individuals make different incoherent decisions on how to use existing or new tools. Users and sub-groups have to be empowered to participate in the way the information system is organized.

Did Wiki Culture exist before Wikis

I believe that at the individual's level, the basis of the Wiki Culture did exist before the existence of wikis. An individual, often a leader, was able to gather information from others and organize it and then share it back (on print, by email, or any other way). However at the group level, the lack of appropriate tools led to making it difficult to make others participate in the process, thus reinforcing the model of organizations with a strong and very directive leader.
Today with new tools, multiple individuals who have the willingness to contribute, organize and share information, have the possibility to do so collaboratively and benefit from each other's work.

Ludovic Dubost
President & Founder

The benefits of the wiki culture

Here is the fourth article of our series of articles, entitled "How can the wiki culture change your business".

The benefits of Wiki Culture for an organization are reflected in the way employees think, first about the group, and secondly about themselves. Employees are more willing to help the organization succeed.
This is an organization more open to newcomers who will be integrated and become more efficient at a faster pace. It is an organization where temporary or former employees can still remain members of the team through all the content they have created and shared with the group.

When your organization achieves Wiki Culture, employees are less frustrated with not finding information that should be readily available. Situations where you have to redo work which had already been done are more rare.
Employees learn from one another and progress faster. They also feel like they can achieve more with every year, since they can focus on new endeavors while easily reusing information contributed during the previous year.

Organizations that achieve Wiki Culture are more agile and can react faster to the ever changing business environment. They are able to bring in new team members up to speed on projects very quickly.

Wiki Culture is deeply changing your business in a good way. 

Ludovic Dubost
President & Founder

Current state of XWiki Research

XWiki SAS does a lot of R&D for making its flagship product evolve. The Tech Team concentrates their efforts on making XWiki better by focusing on its roadmap, while the Research team helps them by participating in collaborative projects that explores technological aspects that could be interesting for the long-term evolution.

Being the Research Manager of the second team I'll present some of the activities we have been involved in during the past months, and what we are preparing for the time to come.

The main XWiki Research team activity, as said earlier, is to participate together with other companies to collaborative research projects that are usually funded by public institutions (e.g., Ministry of Economy or the European Union).

These projects revolves around some cutting-edge technological topics, such as cloud computing, distributed and resilient systems, or are focused on exploratory and risky developments.

Thanks to the participation to these projects we can look at interesting technologies that could be useful for the long-term evolution of XWiki, or try to enter some new kind of market by attenuating the consequences of an unsuccessful outcome.

Currently XWiki is involved in several projects.

RESILIENCE

The first one is RESILIENCE, a project about resilient infrastructures for data replication and safety in Javascript intensive web applications. In this context we are experimenting on integrating rich content editors based on Javascript in our products which will allow user to edit and manipulate non-textual objects. We are also working again on real-time interactions that will allow to improve how XWiki users collaborate.

This project is interesting because of two initiatives that we are trying to build around it: WebViewers and OTLY.

WebViewers is a standard for producing reusable Javascript components that conform to an API and that can be deployed in different environments. These components provide rich content read/write capabilities. This will allow web applications such as XWiki to be extended with  editors that provide users with a way for manipulating non textual content, such as reading PDF files, editing spreadsheets or drawing diagrams. The same, of course, is true for all the other environments that will support the API.

OTLY, on the other hand, is an initiative that aims at providing a framework for adding real-time functionalities on top different kind of editors. This framework will give developers a way for defining real-time collaboration algorithms that work on different data models,
and for binding them to different editors. Users of the framework will then be able to add real-time functionalities to the editors of their applications seamlessly.

Of course WebViewers and OTLY a great value for XWiki, in particular by improving the user experience and the collaboration experience. However the more ambitious goal is to have other people contributing to the evolution of these initiatives. The more editors will be available, the better XWiki will become, and this is valid also for all the projects that will decide to adopt these technologies.

EESC

The second project is EESC. It's a project that is focused about deploying a digital environment for handling school-oriented activities: from the management of the classrooms, to the note taking; from the organization of the information about teaching, to the student collaboration around projects.

The goal of this project is to try to provide a comprehensive solution that addresses many use cases that are present in the daily management of a high-school.

XWiki has already done several projects that were somewhat related, but focused mainly on the organization of learning resources. EESC will allow us to improve our knowledge about school management systems and will also give us the opportunity of building an actual system that will be deployed in school and that will be used by thousand of students, teachers and parents for improving their daily activities revolving around the school.

Part of the EESC project will also be the improvement of the XCLAMS project, a system for sharing and organising learning resource, that
has already been used as the basis for the Curriki and Sankoré projects.

LearnPAD

The third project is LearnPAD. This is an European project that is going to start next year and that is quite related to EESC: in this case we will be focusing on improving the working environment of civil servants in the public administration.

The goal of the LearnPAD project, in fact, is to provide civil servant an environment for documenting the public administration practices, easily find this information, and experiment with the procedures.

This is a need because of two reasons: fast evolution of the legislative framework, and the autonomy that public administrations have in their functioning which give them a certain degree of freedom.

This is an exciting opportunity for XWiki because it's really something that resonates with our mission and also will allow us to experiment with the world of public administrations that is notoriously difficult to approach.

Other projects

There are, finally, two other projects where XWiki has somewhat a minor role. The first is RISCOSS, an European project about assessing the risks and costs of the adoption of the Open Source in the Enterprise and STREAMS which is a very academic research oriented project about peer-to-peer communication and synchronization.

This is a brief summary of what the Research team is currently working on at XWiki. There are a lot of activities and exciting topics to explore that will surely make XWiki better and better.

Fabio Mancinelli
Research Manager

How to start with Wiki Culture

Here is the fifth article of our series of articles, entitled "How can the wiki culture change your business".

How to start

Applying the Wiki Culture in your enterprise is easier said than done. Many wikis have failed by being too rudimentary or when employees hadn't been explained how to successfully use the new tool.

There are a few steps and requirements that are needed to achieve Wiki Culture in your organization:

New Generation Wikis

First, from the tool perspective, it is important to chose a tool that is adapted for enterprises. The Wikipedia software for instance, is made for Wikipedia, not for companies.
It is important to have additional features that are necessary for the enterprise, for instance: a Wysiwyg editor, PDF export, rights, file attachments, structured data and many others.
Flat document editing in Wysiwyg can also use macros to embed any type of content with a relevant presentation (a Powerpoint presentation can be embedded in a page or a business intelligence report coming from an external database). 

It is particularly important to provide a semi-structured document approach that allows going beyond the flat text document and provides additional and convenient ways to navigate data.

Semi-structured Documents

Traditional documents are flat text documents with no structure. Unfortunately this does not allow you to navigate through content of the same type. Suppose you want to share project information. It is important to know if the project is active or not, who the project leader is, the size and the duration of the project. It will be interesting to link other pieces of information to these projects. If you use a flat document, you are not sure users will fill in the needed information and even if they do, as the information is buried in the document without structure, you won't be able to navigate using this information.
If you use a spreadsheet to list your projects, it is hard to have complete content, to link to other documents (like specifications, documentation). Additionally you won't get a history of the changes related to the information concerning one project, but the history of the whole spreadsheet file.

With semi-structured documents, users can define the proper structure for their documents, which makes it easy to fill in the project information, while not limiting flat content and still keeping a wiki-style history for all document changes. And thanks to the structured information it is possible to create a better navigation of the project information.

Semi-structured documents are key to a successful information organization inside an enterprise, which is still simple enough to allow users to participate to the design of the structure.

Which team and content to start with

When setting up a Wiki, you need to keep in mind that you will need to convince your users that the change is beneficial for them. Your tool will compete with their personal productivity tools.
Therefor you need to chose your initial team and initial content in a way that will maximize the perceived value for users.

For instance you can choose a team that is particularly motivated to work together, a team with little internal tensions. On the content side, you should choose some existing content that is important to that team, but that is not efficiently accessible, although users need to regularly access it. 

Empowering users

Giving users the possibility to create their own organization and their own structure is very important. Teams should be able to create their own workspace in which they get control on how the content is organized.
Using simple tools, users should be able to create custom data structures which mater to the team. These structures will ease the creation of content which will also be more organized when displayed to all consumers (inside or outside the team).

Initially only one team will start by creating their data structures, most other teams sticking to the standard content sharing features (files, wiki pages, links).
The first applications created that are complete and better organized will serve as an example for other teams. Other teams will ask questions about the early adopter team's application and will want to be taught how to achieve a similar result. 

You can provide some support to help these first experiences and encourage other users to be coaches so that they show newcomers how to efficiently use the tool. When some valuable applications are added, you can decide to invest more in them using custom development to improve the result.

Month after month, more content structures will show up that are directly created by the users themselves, users will help each other and learn from one another.

Ludovic Dubost
President & Founder