Project of the Month, May 2008

By Community Team

May 2008: MindTouch


Project Leader:

Steve Bjorg

Steve Bjorg
Age: 35
Occupation or experience: Founder and Chief Technology Officer
Education: BS/MS in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder
Location: Boulder, Colorado

Quote about SourceForge.net?

Thanks for the bandwidth!

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

Simple. It’s the leading community for open source projects.

How has SourceForge.net helped you?

[Community Manager] Ross Turk has listened to my incessant bitching for a full year now. This helps me relieve stress.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

Free bandwidth. 🙂

Project name: MindTouch
Date founded/started: 7-24-2006
Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/dekiwiki/

Description of project:

MindTouch Deki Wiki is really like nothing else in the market today. It’s literally years ahead of other, very large, companies that are interested in following in MindTouch’s footsteps. Specifically, MindTouch Deki Wiki connects teams, enterprise systems, Web 2.0 apps and web services. It’s a connective tissue for the enterprise with a wiki interface. This enables users to organize data and systems to best suit their needs.

Why and how did you get started?

Steve Bjorg and Aaron Fulkerson started the company in 2005. We saw a problem with how people were sharing information, realized wikis were the future, and began building a platform that allows users to collaborate around text and files. However, unlike other systems, we’d also allow users to connect legacy systems, web services, apps, and databases to enable collaboration around these information silos. Bringing his experience from Microsoft, Steve masterminded the web oriented architecture (WOA) which would allow for this connectivity.

What is the software’s intended audience?

The vast majority (more than 90%) of our users deploy behind a firewall. We’ve seen great adoption by IT guys, who want to replace other wikis with inferior user experiences and limited feature sets. They also find it easy to gain traction within their organizations since MindTouch Deki Wiki is the only platform that allows you to connect existing systems. The users are very often business users, but it’s usually the IT guy who is deploying, hooking together systems, and pushing it out to the business guys.

How many people do you believe are using your software?

We conservatively estimate there are more than 200,000 installs in the wild. Based on an extrapolation of our analytics it looks like we have upwards of 700,000 users. This is remarkable for an open-source enterprise software company that has less than two years of public release – our two year anniversary is July 25, 2008. We’ll be celebrating this at OSCON08 in Portland where we’ll be exhibiting and throwing a party.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

Users of MindTouch Deki Wiki fall into three categories:

  • About 50-60% of our users are deploying MindTouch as a general purpose wiki solution for collaboration around text and files. They choose Deki Wiki over other wikis, they tell us, because of the superior user experience and feature set. Maybe because of Deki Wiki’s unique ability to create mashups and situational apps is a factor too. Moreover, sometimes these users cite the fact that they can hook together enterprise systems, web apps and services as a factor in the selection, but these users are not yet to this point.
  • Another 30-40% of your users, and growing, are installing MindTouch Deki Wiki for connecting legacy systems, web apps and web services. This allows users to create alternative interfaces to legacy systems and build new apps from composites (as well as delivering the aforementioned benefits of mashups). This user is almost entirely the enterprise IT guy who is hooking in Web apps, ERP, CRM, Google Apps, etc and allowing the biz users to mash things up to suit their needs, with the added benefit of IT governance.
  • The remaining minority of MindTouch Deki Wiki users (5-10%) are doing software development on the platform. We’ve been selected over BEA Weblogic on more than a few occasions to build new apps. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. When you’re writing new applications in the enterprise it’s most often the case your building on, or integrating with, other enterprise systems, auth systems, etc. MindTouch Deki Wiki’s WOA and service orchestration makes doing this quicker and reusable.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

We’ve see a huge amount of adoption beginning last July with the release of our platform and it’s just continued to grow as the word has spread. It was clear back in July we were doing something right. However, last fall was another milestone: there was the first user-organized conference in Belgium (that we know of!). This was a pretty clear indication people liked what we’re doing.

What has been your biggest surprise?

First of all, I have to say that the groundswell of adoption has surprised everyone, including us. We’re super thankful for this. Also, we’re constantly being amazed by the stories users share with us in our forums: http://forums.opengarden.org. Users are synchronizing old Microsoft Access databases with Deki Wiki, mashing up Oracle databases with Google Maps and Charts, and more… The most surprising though, I think, is the development teams using MindTouch Deki Wiki as an alternative to BEA Weblogic. I have to say, while it does make sense, that took us by surprise.

What has been your biggest challenge?

MindTouch Deki Wiki often gets lumped into the plain old wiki category. Clearly, we’re not “just another wiki” and what our users do with our software is a clear indication of this. The Web 2.0 Hype machine initially was a real barrier for us. Until recently it’s been a challenge to cut through the noise of less sophisticated products and be heard. Thankfully the strength of our product has allowed us to break through.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

First of all it’s a fantastic product that has been brilliantly engineered. Download it and try it out. I’m certain you’ll agree–even our competitors do. More importantly, to be successful in software you have to deliver clear value. Deki Wiki does. I think it’s also important that MindTouch has been authentic, open, receptive to feedback, original and that we absolutely love what we’re doing. I think this has positively impacted our growth. Finally, we sensed the trends in enterprise software ahead of time and we’ve managed to catch the wave while others have foundered. Evidence of this is the Web Oriented Architecture, our open source business model, and the development trajectory we’ve put the product on since the beginning.

Where do you see your project going?

MindTouch Deki Wiki will continue to perfect as the enterprise connective tissue, or glue if you will, of disparate systems. We want to continue to realize more value out of existing systems and services.

What’s on your project wish list?

Given the wide latitude of possibilities that Deki Wiki offers, we’d like to see more community contributions from developers who manage to connect disparate systems. It’s really easy for developers to say, “Well, this could only apply for our legacy systems” and forget to contribute back – but you’d be surprised when somebody else asks for that same obscure code! We’ve been fortunate to have a strong vision in building the platform – and it brings us great joy when we see people building on top of that and returning that code to the community.

What are you most proud of?

We’re incredibly proud of the large and active community of users and developers we’ve built around Deki Wiki. It’s an amazing feeling for our developers when they go to a conference, and some random IT guy tells them “Deki Wiki is awesome! I love your product!” I think it’s those personal shout-outs which let us know we’re doing good work that we’re most proud of.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

We’d like to change the installation process so it’s easier to get Deki Wiki deployed. Given our unique stack (C# for the API, PHP for the front-end), set-up is not as simple as other OSS projects like WordPress. However, over the past few months, we’ve been able to roll out dead-easy RPMs for most Linux destros, as well as an Amazon EC2 AMI. On more than one occasion, we’ve told a developer or IT guy about our software, and they’ll have an EC2 AMI instance up and running in minutes to test things out. Of course, things are still a bit difficult for Windows users (just because you use Windows doesn’t mean you can’t use OSS!) for now, but we have some plans in the future to help those guys out…

How do you coordinate the project?

We have developers who write unit tests to catch regressions on the API component of Deki Wiki, and we also have testers who go through the user interface to make sure that visual bugs (and the communication between the frontend and the backend API is not buggy – this is pretty standard for most projects. To coordinate our QA team, we use Mantis (an open-source bug tracker in PHP) as well as our community Deki Wiki at http://wiki.opengarden.org – we dog-food our own application to coordinate our testing!

Do you work on the project full-time, or do you have another job?

Full time. MindTouch, a company based out of San Diego, CA, develops Deki Wiki.

What is your development environment like?

Thanks to the wonderful guys at Mono, the API component of Deki Wiki (C#) can run on either Windows or Linux machines – this means our development environments are incredibly varied. Some of us work on Windows machines, others of us work on Macs, and some of us use a Linux distro (Ubuntu being the most popular). For the front-end guys who want to emulate the stack without going through complex set-ups, we actually use the VMWare image we ship as our development environments.

Milestones:

Milestone Date Description
Deki Wiki 1.8.0 July 2007 First public release
Deki Wiki 1.8.1 August 2007 Polished Hayes feature
Deki Wiki 1.8.2 November 2007 Exposed UIs for the API
Deki Wiki 1.8.3 January 2008 Performance stabilization release
Deki Wiki 1.9.0 March 2008 User experience improvement
Deki Wiki 8.0.5 May 2008 Switched to Ubuntu-style versioning
Deki Wiki 8.0.7 July 2008 Expected date of next release

How can others contribute?

We love community contributions, on every level! From developers, we love to get patches of bugs in our system, or any code which was used to connect Deki Wiki in creative ways. From end-users, we love to get feedback on how to improve the user experience – in fact, we’re currently discussing UI changes to the control panel on our active forums (http://forums.opengarden.org). Even if you’ve simply run into an issue trying to get Deki Wiki to work on some obscure platform … we want to hear from you! It’s only when we know there are problems can we actively fix them. Joining our community is incredibly easy – just go to http://opengarden.org/ and register. This gives you full access to our bug tracker, our wiki, and our forums!


Check out our previous projects of the month.


MindTouch Logo 2

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