Managing Knowledge and Collaboration – Like A Boss

Posted on 18 September, 2011

Introduction

It is my turn again to write for my favourite iOS dev blog ring – iDevblogaday. Looking at our last post that is a month old and didn’t even relate to iOS development (the one before was from April) – you can be sure that much has happened since at Spielhaus. I will write about it – but not now. Now it is time for more pressing matters.
Confluence, my all-time favourite wiki software happens to unveil their next mega update on Monday September 12th, 2011 6AM PST. (and with mega update I mean like going from iOS4 to iOS5…)

Remember my old blog posts about Confluence? Well, forget everything I wrote and consider only this:

Confluence 4.0 is a freakingly awesome wiki package and you miss out big time if you skip it!

*I am not affiliated with Atlassian – just pure enthusiasm!

 

What’s new and why it matters

I won’t bore you with reasons why you gain a tangible advantage when using wikis to manage your valuable knowledge. I wrote about it here¬† <- recommended short reading.

Editor

So if you got the point why a wiki is important, by now you should be using it on a daily basis. The good news is that the new Confluence update will improve greatly in this area. The biggest change is the editor. It’s time to sit down because this will hit you hard. They ditched the wiki markup! No more *bold* and h1. formatting! It is WYSIWYG all the way across the sky now. But it is even more awesome then before – because wiki markup is still there but with direct visual feedback. Check out the short video below:

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How cool is this? You start typing the macro, hit enter and it automatically expands to the visual representation of the macro functionality!!!

I predict that the new editor is the single most important change to Confluence that will greatly boost wiki acceptance. New users will feel directly at home with the word processor like interface while seasoned users will create and edit pages even faster.
I am especially looking forward for the following improvements:

Tables

It is really easy to create tables in Confluence but it is far easier to use the drop-down and select the table size.

New Status Macro

This simple color coded buttons can be used to visualise the project status.

Expand Macro

Finally! They bundled it with Confluence. And with the new editor all you need is type {expand and hit enter to activate the macro. However I found that this is only half as cool as it could be. I have found no way how to get out of the expand macro body while typing the text that will be hidden. So I have to use the mouse to click outside the macro and resume writing. UPDATE: I have found that using simply pressing arrow down moves out of the expand box while editing. The other thing is that you can’t change the title of the expand text directly which defaults to “Click here to expand…”. You have to edit the macro and set the title :/ Or you simply write along using the expand macro syntax to set the title – this works too.

But hey – this is what Confluence 4.0.1 is for – Atlassian do you read me? :)

Tables and Images

I mentioned tables before but this one deserves more attention. You are now able to cut and paste images directly from the web into a table cell. The image will be automatically added as an attachment to your wiki page. Crazy stuff. It is so damn easy now to make those boring wiki pages more interesting. Plus you can resize the image to a predefined preset or enter the your own width. Copy & past cells as well as merging is available (and quite standard).

 

Mentions

The next big feature is about @mentions. If you are more than a one man show, collaboration is the ingredient that makes a product great. The problem with remote teams is that collaboration doesn’t really work that great because of our inherent human lazyness… One has to invest effort to notify others and keep the strings together while working with many people on the same thing.
Confluence allowes you to create networks inside the wiki by simply following other users (much like Twitter). With mentions all you need to do if you want to well… mention another user is write @username. The user/team mate will then get a new mail with a preview and a link to the content where you mentioned him.
This makes it easy to interact with other wiki contributors and also persuade the “silent readers” to actively work on wiki pages (and contribute knowledge).

Conclusion

If you want to see some of the devs who are working on Confluence – here is the “Confluence 4 – Behind the scenes” video.

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So here it is, the next C4 (Confluence 4.0) update is due tomorrow. Plant C4 and BOOM!

I will upgrade our Spielhaus wiki as fast as possible because I can’t wait to work with the new editor.
If you are not using a wiki, you should. It is really worth it. If you do – keep using it and make that next great iOS app already!

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