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Building Wiki Web Sites with ASP.NET and SQL Server

You can easily build Wiki Web sites with ASP.NET and SQL Server and provide your teams with one of the most powerful ways of collaborating on the Web.


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his article describes some of the advantages that Wiki Web sites provide and how you can use ASP.NET and SQL Server to create your own Wiki. You'll learn how to write powerful parsers using the .NET regular expressions class and you'll discover how to add sophisticated search functionality to your Web sites by using SQL Server's Full-Text Search service. Imagine you visit a Web site that offers information about .NET. You start reading one of the pages about the String class and then realize that the syntax of one of the methods is incorrect. You click the Edit button, update the syntax of the method, update the example that describes how to use the method, and save your changes so that future readers benefit from your contribution. You've just used a Wiki Web site.

Wikis allow users to edit the content of current Web pages. Wikis also give users the ability to add new Web pages as well. To edit a topic, users just click an Edit button. Any text entered in CamelCase notation (two or more words smashed together, such as the word CamelCase or DevCon) automatically become links to the new topic. The user can then follow this link and edit the contents of that new topic. Ward Cunningham, the author of the first Wiki, defined the Wiki concept as "the simplest online database that could possibly work."

As you will see in this article, Wikis are simple online databases that users can access through a Web site. Despite their simplicity, they provide a great tool for people to collaborate and create knowledge bases. Administrators and developers maintain most of the existing Web sites. It is very easy to overlook how different a Web site maintained by users is, the effects that this has on the community of users, and the quality of the information.



In a Wiki Web site, the owners of the information can update their information. This increases the likelihood that the information is always up-to-date and it allows users to constantly improve the content. Collaborating with Wiki Web Sites
Wikis are collaboration tools. If you have a project where several people would like to collaborate on the production of information, you may want to use a Wiki for the job.

For example, you can use a Wiki Web site to store documentation about a software development project. Users can use the Wiki to add new requirements to the project as new needs arise, developers can post design documentation as they work on the system, testers can store test results, managers can post project schedules, team members contact information, as well as information about clients, providers, and vendors associated with the project. You can also use Wikis as Personal Information Managers. You can use a Wiki to store information about your favorite books, pictures from your latest trip the Mayan ruins, and general information that you would like to share with other people.

In a Wiki Web site, the owners of the information can update their information. This increases the likelihood that the information is always up-to-date and it allows users to constantly improve the content.
Advantages
Wiki Web sites promote collaboration. If you have not yet visited a Wiki Web site, you will be amazed by the amount of information that people can generate over time when they work together on a specific topic. Unlike blogs (Web logs) where the information goes one-way (from the author to his or her readers), Wikis provide a true two-way communication channel in which everyone is an author and a reader. Wikis also work with existing technologies. Anyone with a browser and an Internet connection can visit a Wiki Web site and make contributions. Users don't need to have an specific text editor or another software installed on their computer in order to use a Wiki.

Disadvantages
Despite all of their beauty, Wikis come with some disadvantages that you need to consider before you decide to host a Wiki Web site in your organization. You can configure Wiki Web sites to be public Web sites that anyone can have access to, or you can create private Wiki Web sites and restrict access only to people in your organization. Regardless of the type of access that you provide, the fact that any user can edit a topic could create a security risk for you. Users could inadvertently delete text or change the meaning of an existing sentence. However, most Wiki implementations provide a mechanism to restore a topic that was (consciously or unconsciously) changed.

Another obvious disadvantage of Wiki Web sites is the lack of a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editor. Most Wiki implementations use a rather rudimentary text editor (an HTML input control) to allow users to edit topics. If you want text to look bold, for example, you need to enter some sort of tags to make this happen. Compared to Word processors available nowadays, this is really a bummer.



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