One of the hottest topics at this year’s WikiSym 2008 will be application wikis.
To put it simply, an application wiki allows its users to create… applications. Why is that exciting ? Because it means users can mix both structured and unstructured freely over the same platform. Take product sheets : you might want to have both structured data (name, retail price) and unstructured data (the product description or a sales pitch). In a typical wiki, none of that data would have metadata associated to it.
This means that if you were to write a list of all the pages that are product pages, you would have to identify every one of them and list them manually on one page. Same thing if you were to modify the layout of those pages : you’d have to iterate them one by one to change the intended layout. Pretty frightful when there’s a hundred of them… On the other hand, typical content management systems aren’t perfect either. While they offer a predefined set of templates for content, it is harder to create free-flowing pages and links between those pages. Application wikis bridge the gap between those 2 types of software : they let users add freeform information while at the same time providing the ability to typify it and manage forms from a central location. Forms can be created easily and mixed with typical wiki pages and a query language provides additional power.
Come give a look to the getting started with XWiki tutorial delivered by Guillaume Lerouge (product manager at XWiki, an application wiki provider) or to the application wikis panel (where Stewart Nickolas from IBM & Ludovic Dubost from XWiki will speak) to find out more on the topic !