Free Software for Fun and Non-Profit, part 3
Web-based publishing is easy to do, and is an example of a technology that can help people communicate across the country or across the hall. Blogs, forums, and wikis are three easy-to-use tools to help any organization improve communication and collaboration.
Blogs, or weblogs, are usually personal journals penned by a single author, although exceptions certainly exist. Many blogs allow readers to add comments, thereby facilitating a degree of collaborative conversation. Within an organization, a blog could be used for announcements or all-staff memoes, committee or director's reports, or more.
Forums allow multiple simultaneous conversations between participants. Forums present a structured display of conversations with the most active discussions at the top of the list, and an historical record of all conversations. Forums have sophisticated features for quoting previous posts, including pictures, and formatting text. A forum can be a great way to facilitate long-term planning across teams, or with virtual groups.
Wikis are basically group-edited web pages. Wikis are considerably more free-form than blogs or forums, allowing any reader to create or modify Wiki pages. Wikis are often used for product documentation, allowing group members to collectively author and edit. Pages can be password-protected to ensure that only certain people are allowed to edit, while everyone can read. An organization might put their Employee Handbook in a Wiki: changes made by the HR team would be instantly available to all staff members.
Blogs, forums, and wikis all have two things in common. First, they run on a web server, a computer connected to a network (public or private) that runs software to deliver web pages to visitors. Second, the only requirement of visitors is a connection to the network and a web browser, like Internet Explorer or Mozilla. Blogs, forums, and wikis can run on the internet, publicly accessible to everyone or they can run privately, accessibly only to an organization's staff.
There are quite literally hundreds of blog, forum and wiki software packages available. Not all are Free Software. Here's a very short list of a few recommended Free Software packages: blogs
- Wordpress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability.
- Blosxom is a lightweight yet feature-packed weblog application designed from the ground up with simplicity, usability, and interoperability in mind.
- phpBB is a high powered, fully scalable, and highly customisable open-source bulletin board package.
- miniBB ("minimalistic bulletin board") is flat linear (non-tree) version of highly customizable bulletin board.