Here at the Syndicate Conference in San Francisco, I caught up with Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext -- a supplier of enterprise-targeted Wiki-based collabaration solutions -- for a podcast interview. Wikis are a prominent technology in the world of RSS and social networking -- the technologies that inspired the very existence of this conference. As such, Mayfield is one of the poster-boys of the popular but still nacsent ofAt the top of my list of questions was whether or not the negative press that the Wikipedia has been getting as of late is drawing the value proposition of Wiki technology itself into question. The interview is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in.
Since a lot of people may not know what a wiki is, I asked Mayfield to first describe in his own words what is what Socialtext offers. Said Mayfield at 1:15 into the interview:
We have about 200 customers using us in a variety of ways. Generally when they use a wiki for collaboration, they use it as a n alternative to group email, decreasing their e-mail volume by about a third. When they use it for collaboration, they accelerate project cycles by about a quarter, and now we're getting a lot of larger enterprises who are replacing their intranets where you have a bunch of static content that only gets updated through let's say a 30-day editorial process that we can collapse down to a single click with a Wiki dynamic group editable website. You just click a button and edit it. It's kind of the way the Web was supposed to be in the first place and works particularly well for communicating with groups.
In response to whether the negative press that the Wikipedia has gotten recently is affecting the viability of Wiki's in the enterprise, Mayfield said (at 7:35):
Of course, it's going to be a topic of conversation, whenever introducing this to an enterprise. Right. They'll be reflecting upon what's happening in the larger consumer markets, the cultural understanding of what a wiki is based on the this very large and public prototype of the way it could be -- that is Wikipedia. In all practice, it's very different. Right. I can speak to the specifics in Wikipedia but behind the firewall, things are quite different. In the three years that Socialtext has operated and served 200 customers, we've never had a single case where there's been an employee doing something that would be malicious. The important point is that even if they did, it really wouldn't matter because what you have is, you're storing the history of every single edit with the attribution of who is actually making the edit itself. So, it's very easy at anytime for somebody to roll back the changes, right, you can always with a couple clicks. Go back to the previous revision.
Also in the interview (which is about 23 minutes long), I talk to Mayfield about the startup nature of his company, how to get a job working for SocialText, who its customers are, how much his solutions cost, and whether wikis are poised to take the place of the super-expensive proprietary enterprise content management systems that are in the market today.