RBL wikispace in authoring mode

The system is easy to use and you can have a free public read, private write wiki if you don’t mind Google ads down the right hand side of the pages (the ad content changes to reflect text in the page very quickly by the way). I’ll probably pay have paid the $50 for a year’s add-free account to support the RBL module in place of UseMod.

Advantages of wikispace for use with colleagues include WYSIWYG editing, nice clean modern look, discussion tab for each page, notifications of changes, easy upload of images and files, almost unlimited storage space (something like 2Gb is quoted on the FAQ page, I’m sure that Wikispace are making assumptions about the use level for each wiki). You can upload files and link to them as a blank grey icon and the file name, and that includes MP3 files although there are facilities to embed content from media servers such as YouTube and Odeo.

I especially like the ‘backup’ facility: the entire wiki can be downloaded as either a zipped folder of text files in Wiki markup (Markdown flavour) or as a zipped folder of html pages. The ZIP file and folder have the title of the wiki and the date of creation in the name. A well thought out feature, nice for portfolio use, and gets round the worry of your data being on someone else’s server.

The debit side is: no autolinking and [ ] links as opposed to WikiWords, and no backlinks listing – most classic wikis have the page title as a link to a search that lists pages that link to the page in question. This is useful when you want to explore a topic in a larger wiki. Wikispace does include a tagging facility so category searches and so on are possible. The biggest drawback so far is no way of adding ALT text to images. If wikispaces is trying to get educational buy in especially for their ‘private label’ service, then ALT text is going to be important.

Vicky Davis has set up the Westwood wikispace for her pupils in an American school. The students produce short pieces of writing in response to themes; Web site reviews and so on. Mrs Davis is prepared to tolerate the Google ads, I personally dropped the plastic to remove them on the RBL wiki.

Note added 16th August :: Tags, alas, only work for logged in users: there is no way to set up category indexes that anyone can see. On the positive side, backlinks are supported but the facility has not been integrated into the web interface yet. You can pop a link on a page that will generate a list of all the backlinks to that page, but you have to do that on a page by page basis at present. I’ll be using the RBL Wikispace with colleagues from October onwards and it will be interesting to see if they ‘notice’ any of these issues as newcomers to the wiki concept. Perhaps I just expect to see things that I am used to from Ward’s wiki, Meatball and the clones.

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