A Wiki For Everyone: Wetpaint
Create, contribute, connect. This is the new mantra for newly launched Wetpaint, a new wiki service, allowing you to create, edit and collaborate on private or public web content with unprecedented simplicity and ease of use.
This is indeed how wikis should have always been, given the fact, that while wikis have been born to make it extremely easy and immediate for multiple people to collaborate and edit online content, for too many reasons the early commercial services and products offering such capabilities all failed in making the user interface good enough foer the casual non-geek user.
Notwithstanding the many good things I must say about the usefulness of wikis for collaborative, online teamwork, I must honestly acknowledge that the limitations, idiosyncrasies and unintuitiveness of some of their key fundamental features has impacted much more than necessary their gradual adoption beyond the early users groups.
Wetpaint, which is still in Beta, has really done a best effort to streamline, simplify and make consistent with other existing and established interface terms and visual metaphors, access to its few, but truly powerful features.
If you are not yet familiar with what wikis are, consider them simple-to-create and maintain web sites that you can author without any technical or HTML knowledge, and which have the unique advantage of being editable right on the page. That's right. As you land on a web page created with a service like Wetpaint, you are not anymore limited to reading. You can (if authorized) edit the page contents right there and then on your browser, without the need to load any special web editor like Dreamweaver, FrontPage or GoLive.
A simple button, labeled EasyEdit, allows you to start adding, deleting and editing any content on the page in a split second.
It truly couldn't be easier. But there's more.
Wetpaint supports the use of categorization tags, a user-friendly, bottom-up approach to content categorization. Any new web page created asks for tags to be associated to it, and even after a page has been created it is very easy to go and edit and add new tags. (Unfortunately, the process in this case is not as consistent and easy as it should be, as the user is required in one case to separate tags with commas and the other to click a special button after each new tag is added.)
Wetpaint also allows for the use of images and makes it easy for readers to post comments to any article.
In Wetpaint wiki pages can also be tracked and monitored for changes by using the Watch Page feature, which allows you to see at a glance a number of predefined pages and whether changes, comments or new contributions have been made to them.
An since wikis are all about sharing information and collaborating together, Wetpaint has intelligently integrated another simple-to-use facility which allows you to email any page instantly to anyone you want.
One innovative and very useful feature introduced by Wetpaint to the larger public is the ability to easily move web pages around via a simple graphical interface. While the tool and the terminology utilized still show good margins of improvement, this is the first implementation I see that makes finally some immediate logical sense.
Good is the overall navigation reference that is automatically built around your content. It is easy to access related pages, most active pages or those where new content or comments have recently been added.
In general, wikis can be set to be public web spaces or private workspaces to develop projects or coordinate tasks among dispersed but interconnected workgroups and you can assign to one or multiple users the role of "wiki moderator". Moderators are allowed to delete pages, lock pages from being edited, ban disruptive users, and move pages around on the site. Since those changes can make a big impact on how the site will appear to its readers it is certainly best to provide such control rights only to those truly and deeply involved in the project.
Unfortunately there are also missing features, which I am sure, will come with the time, and which could really make this web app a truly useful one. Some of these are:
a) no RSS feeds for page changes or comments.
b) no spam protection from spambots.
c) no automatic submission to social bookmarking sites
Business content analyst and MasterNewMedia contributing author John Blossom also writes about Wetpaint:
Wetpaint Makes Wiki Development Friendly and Simple
Wikis gained a lot of publicity last year, but successful communities built around wikis are not mushrooming with anywhere the speed of weblogs.
This may be in part because up to this point wiki technology has been pretty geekish.
No offense to some of the progressive-thinking people behind those early efforts but there aren't too many right-thinking people (don't count me in that camp) who want to muss with raw code these days to publish anything.
We've tried to instigate wikis on a number of occasions and have met with huge indifference from executives when they are asked to contribute.
A new tool called Wetpaint hopes to change that with a far more intuitive and easy way to add content to a collaborative database.
As demonstrated in their Sandbox hands-on demo adding text, graphics and tags and additional topic pages is as easy as any user-friendly weblog interface.
A sample finished wiki looks pretty nice and includes features for monitoring content via a watchlist account or email.
A signup promises the ability to use this tool on one's own Web site.
Wetpaint lacks some of the advanced tagging that some established tools provide (at least that are evident) but out of the box Wetpaint is a huge step towards helping people to create community content anywhere with far less hassle than in the past.
Maybe this time execs will feel comfortable chipping in content.
See John Blossom's ContentBlogger for more insightful analysis of where the content-based market is going next.
Watch out. Wetpaint works properly only on Firefox 1.5 (PC and Mac) and on Internet Explorer 6. Other browsers not supported (yet).
A good and simple to understand Tour is available to everyone. (Contrary to what Michael Arrington writes in his early review of Wetpaint, I find this Tour approach, very effective, and well targeted to the type of users Wetpaint is addressing.)
If you want to sign-up for the service, as it becomes commercially available, you need to place your email in the pre-designated input box on this page: http://wetpaint.com/
Try it out immediately without needing to sign-up:
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