JotSpot looks to make wikis less nerdy

JotSpot released a new version of its wiki application platform Monday designed to make the technology more adaptable for nontechnical users.

Startup JotSpot hopes to move wikis away from their nerdy text-based roots by unveiling a revamp of its hosted application platform that features a variety of page types and simpler ways for nontechnical users to customize their wikis.

The "wiki" term describes Web sites that can be accessed and changed using a browser-based user interface.

Although wikis are being readily adopted by all kinds of users as a new way to collaborate and share information, they still lack some user-friendly features, according to Joe Kraus, co-founder and chief executive office of JotSpot.

For instance, when a user adds a spreadsheet to a wiki, that information can appear as unformatted text, while photos show up as attachments at the bottom of the wiki page. Changing the formatting of wikis is often only possible if a user is familiar with the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) language.

With JotSpot 2.0, Kraus said, the company is taking a page out of Microsoft's Office desktop applications suite's playbook. When users create a new file in Office applications, they're asked what kind of file they want to create and are presented with a number of different templates. With the new version of JotSpot, as users create wiki pages, they'll be able to choose from a variety of predefined page types including calendars, spreadsheets, photo galleries and file repositories.

For the spreadsheet page, JotSpot has integrated a version of its Tracker hosted service that includes formulas. First talked up in January, Tracker enables users to cut and paste a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet directly onto a JotSpot Web site where anyone can view and edit the data. Every wiki page now has a shared permission model, but companies can limit the read-and-write access of any page.

JotSpot 2.0 also makes it easier for users to customize the look and feel of their wikis. Users now may change color schemes and add logos and icons without having to know CSS, Kraus said. One of the first things users want to do when they start a wiki is brand it as their own, he added.

JotSpot aims its wiki offerings at a wide range of customers, from individual consumers to large enterprises including British Telecommunications, Intel and Symantec. The sweet spot for its applications are divisions of organizations or entire companies employing between 5 and 250 people, Kraus said.

As they widen their wiki deployments, JotSpot's larger customers are starting to demand increased functionality such as network-attached storage and single sign-on integration. The company is currently working on a downloadable version of JotSpot that will ship in a VMware software virtual appliance within the next couple of months, he added.

Kraus said in January that the company was considering offering a similar service to Tracker for databases. Now, JotSpot has a project based on group directories where users can create their own forms-based databases and edit them using drag-and-drop controls. Eventually, the company plans to apply that technology to all of its application wikis that contain forms-based databases, so users can modify them. Effectively, JotSpot will create a "do-it-yourself applications builder," he added.

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