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Evolving Jotspot's Wiki

There was a time when a wiki was a tool simply for creating, collaborating and sharing unstructured data in an easy way.

But the newest version of Jotspot Wiki, released today, expands upon this idea and is a full-fledged collaboration system with improved features, user interface and usability.

Jotspot has been evolving the concept of what a wiki is and does since its first release in September 2005.

Jotspot defines itself as an application wiki company and defines its wiki as a platform for building collaborative applications. There are no fewer than 25 different applications that Jotspot offers as part of its wiki platform, many of which look better and are now more integrated into the core wiki as part of the new Jotspot.

"The first 30 seconds is where we see users struggle," Scott Johnston, vice president of products at Jotspot, told internetnews.com.

"They get in and don't quite know what to do. And even when they do things, things like linking and actually representing data that they have is hard and that's what this is trying to do."

In addition to having a new look, the Jotspot interface now includes a revamped sidebar navigation to help users better navigate their wikis.

Jotspot Tracker, which had been a standalone Excel spreadsheet wiki-type application, is now fully integrated as part of the Jotspot wiki experience.

But some core spreadsheet functionality is still lacking. Johnston said that Jotspot still doesn't handle multiple spreadsheet "sheets," forcing users to create multiple pages.

The integrated calendar is also much improved over the legacy static calendar that previous versions of Jotspot included. It does not yet provide any default form of MAPI or iCal integration or support that would allow users to integrate their Jotspot calendars with Microsoft Outlook or an iCal-compliant calendar (such as Google Calendar).

"This particular move was really to try to get the look and feel a lot better, and try and give navigation that is much more comfortable," Johnston said. "There is still a lot of integration we'd like to do."

Though the new version of Jotspot makes improvements in helping users identify recent changes, it is still somewhat deficient in terms of user alerts via RSS and e-mail.

"On RSS feeds we are still working at integrating changes in a much more user readable format," Johnston said. "We're step one to the point of where we're showing a lot more relevant change history."

Johnston also noted that by default the new version of Jotspot does not include an "e-mail changes" function, though a plug-in is available. He expects to integrate the e-mail feature into the next release.

"It is a big piece of what will get people feeling better about the wiki itself is if they are aware of changes and don't have to use an RSS reader to do that," Johnston said.

The new Jotspot 2.0 wiki will be available to users today, though not all users will get upgraded at the same time. Johnston explained that users that have customized their existing Jotspot deployments will get a self-service upgrade path.

"People that are using the stock wiki will be upgraded over a set schedule that we haven't released yet," Johnston said. "We'll start with paying customers and then do the remaining 40-odd-thousand wikis after that."