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TWiki Success Story of Orbis

Orbis Technology is a company of around 100 employees, which provides market-leading software solutions for the gambling industry. We started using TWiki as our sole intranet system in January 2003. Prior to that we had two competing intranets: a MoinMoin wiki system used by a subset of developers; and a traditional intranet of HTML pages, maintained by an administrator.

We selected TWiki as the means of unifying these two intranets for several reasons, notably:

  1. It was designed with a corporate intranet - rather than an open-to-all website - in mind (with features like forced login, access control and version histories)
  2. Generally it was more fully featured and user-friendly than most other wikis out there at the time, especially when all the plugins, extensions and skins were taken into account.
  3. It was easy to understand how the system worked, and being written in Perl, I thought (rightly, as it turned out) that it would be easy to tweak as well. Plus the ability to easily customise look-and-feel by editing the HTML templates was very appealing.
  4. The hierarchical "web" structure provided us with a basic navigational layout out of the box.

TWiki has helped us to preserve a lot of continuity with the previous system. Because all content is stored in plain text files, one per page, it was easy to migrate content over from the old wiki. Meanwhile the old HTML intranet pages were brought into the new navigational scheme using %INCLUDE% directives.

Enabling forced login (though only for editing, not for viewing pages) gave a real advantage to users over the previous system, as it provided for much greater visibility of exactly who was making changes. That and the extensibility are what really set TWiki apart. As for wikis in general, the ability to edit pages through the browser is a key benefit when, like us, your users are very evenly split between Windows and Linux desktops.

From a coding perspective, TWiki has been easy to maintain, customize and enhance, due to the clear separation between data files, templates, scripts and libraries. And the code is mostly well commented and easy to follow. Handy features like the web statistics and mail notification of updates have proved invaluable for more mundane administrative maintenance. For a long time we used the December 2001 release, running on Linux, but we recently upgraded to the September 2004 release (still on Linux).

We've had a fantastic take-up and positive response towards TWiki here at Orbis. Usage has been rising steadily and we're now running at almost 40000 page views and over 2000 page edits per month. A substantial majority of employees regularly edit pages, and absolutely all of them regularly view pages. In almost 2 years, I've never heard of anyone comparing TWiki unfavourably toward the old arrangement, and many people have told me how much of an improvement it is, and how it is still becoming increasingly useful. Criticism has almost always been constructive, and directed at minor bugs or possible enhancements.

For me the best part of administering a TWiki system has been witnessing the unexpected ways in which people have started using it, both for work and for social matters. There have been many novel ideas for new pages that I could never have dreamed up myself. TWiki really unlocks people's creativity. That's what makes it fun as well as useful.

Update: March 2005

The Orbis TWiki intranet has been selected as one of The world's ten best intranets by Jakob Nielsen's www.useit.com. Also see silicon.com's news item

-- GordonIngram - 23 Nov 2004

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Topic revision: r5 - 2010-07-04 - PeterThoeny
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