Business

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

MindTouch CEO Ken Liu: Adding a Wiki Twist to Business Sites

San Diego-based MindTouch hopes its innovative product line gives it a large corner in the developing Wiki Web site market place. Its products involve wiki-style Web communication. Perhaps the most successful — and controversial — example of a wiki is Wikipedia, one of the Internet’s largest encyclopedias.

Ward Cunningham created the concept of the wiki and launched its first appearance on the Internet in 1995.

Using the Hawaiian word “wiki” meaning “quick,” Cunningham coined the concept of WikiWikiWeb as a Web site for speedy interaction among targeted users. In its most basic form, a wiki Web site allows any user to create, add, remove or edit content and pages.

Forrester Research recently surveyed CIOs on their attitudes about Web 2.0 technologies. That survey report credits MindTouch, which specializes in providing enterprise wikis, as a smaller pure play firm in this developing market place. MindTouch CEO Ken Liu discusses his company’s unique spin on the wiki world in business.

LinuxInsider: What function does a wiki serve as a business tool?

Ken Liu:

Wikis are perfect for bottoms-up and ad-hoc cooperations. It is a very viral tool, meaning it is a light word processor inside a Web browser. Using a wiki avoids buying a big application from a vendor. One key aspect is the collaboration feature that allows multiple users to share written information at the same time. It is not a one-to-many issue. A second aspect is use of an Internet server to host the process. This takes an IT staff to maintain.

LinuxInsider: Doesn’t the open source nature of a wiki make a company vulnerable to information distortion or inaccurate editing by users?

Liu:

The open source nature is not an issue. The access to changing posted information has to do with a company’s corporate structure about openness with its employees. A wiki is a tool a company has to manage, however. Wikis are not perfect solutions for all types of company Web sites. For instance, Web sites sponsored by financial and law-related companies are not served well by wikis.

LinuxInsider: What is driving the popularity of this new technology?

Liu:

Wiki technology is driven by a company’s need for constant collaboration. For instance, a company can put needed information on its Web site for interaction with clients, partners or segments of employees within the company. Members of the targeted company departments or user base can comment on proposals and such that can then be viewed by all managing people involved in combining the responses into a final report.

LinuxInsider: How does the wiki concept fit into a company’s overall communication structure?

Liu:

One-to-one communication on a company’s Web site is merely an information silo. One-to-many communication, however, enhances the communication process. It allows ongoing responses and interactions from multiple participants within an organization. This represents a major paradigm shift in the workplace. With wiki technology any Web site that is public facing can have others react with the front office. This is becoming a big social trend.

LinuxInsider: How does MindTouch’s wiki product, called Deki, differ from other wiki creation products?

Liu:

The word “Deki” is Japanese for “smart.” Our product is the first wiki software released as a virtual appliance with just the need for software and not a required hardware component. From download to installation takes 15 minutes. This is a powerful thing. There is no need for an IT staff to set it up.

Deki’s ease of use is a key feature. Icons in our program look the same as icons in other Windows programs. The user interface is simple and intuitive. Also, users don’t need training to use it. Automatic downloads manage the updates without needing IT intervention.

LinuxInsider: What led to the development of the wiki as an innovative technology?

Liu:

In the last 10 years the Internet has been a one-way communications tool. Our wiki platform takes technology to the next level. We are trying to make the technology easier to use by developing the platform via the office tools concept.

LinuxInsider: Do you anticipate the wiki platform replacing traditional Web sites?

Liu:

Wiki technology will not replace the Web site. Instead, wikis let a company enhance its Web site by adding talkback for groups capability. This actually expands the blog concept. A blog is talkback for one individual.

LinuxInsider: How does wiki technology fit into the needs CIOs highlighted in the Forrester Research survey?

Liu:

CIOs have to look out for the entire company. The issue is that wikis are not conducive to a full system-wide adoption. Instead, wikis facilitate a CIO’s ability to target smaller group collaboration. Large group usage is not effective.

LinuxInsider: What has led MindTouch to be singled out by Forrester Research as a pure play firm?

Liu:

We are gaining notoriety in the industry. We have deeper technology than other vendors.

LinuxInsider: What are MindTouch’s business goals?

Liu:

We are involved in three main businesses. One is www.wik.is. This is a site we host with 50,000 wikis around the world. It is available for free or for (US)$60 per year for 60 GB of storage as an advanced feature.

The second business is Deki. This is our wiki product for the enterprise world that launched in January. We are seeing a lot of European downloads and use.

The third business is our Nexus Server. This is a wiki portal for consumer sites and business contribution. It fosters the growth of user-generated content. It is hard for companies to generate good content on their own. This outlet lets contributors create fresh content to drive more visitors to a site. Using this content can also increase advertising responses by better targeting viewers/consumers. The Nexus Server concept also deepens the bond between users and assorted sites.

LinuxInsider: Where do you see the wiki technology going?

Liu:

Wikis will continue to become a main supplement and compliment to the Web portal. In six months we will release an aggregate search engine of all content an a Wiki site so it all displays in one place. We will probably distribute it as an add-on to our Nexus Server product.

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