Wiki Wiki Vs Lotus Notes

Has anyone here experienced a fight between the two for an organization's mindshare?

Who won?

Yes, I have. LotusNotes won.

The scene was a small start-up. One of the founders of the outfit set up a wiki, and it saw some use. But the MD asserted that he never could get the hang of all that weird markup that wikis use, so he deemed that we would begin using Notes. So we did. End of story. Bear in mind that this is a very smart guy with more than 20 years experience as a developer, he's a well-known figure in various technical communities where wikis see a lot of use, blah blah blah. From his CV, he'd look exactly like the kind of person you'd expect to think that wiki's were great. But it turns out that he likes Notes, because he thinks Notes is easier to use. So there you go.

When it was suggested that this was perhaps merely because he's used Notes lots before and had never bothered to put any effort into learning the wiki markup (which would take what, five minutes?), and so his belief that wikis were hard to use was a self-fullfilling prophesy, he just did his JediMindTrick "we never had this conversation, the last five minutes didn't happen" wave of the hand (a common responce of his to situations that challenge his prejudices) and continued on his complacent, blinkered, intellectually lazy way.

That organization has a fairly clean separation between development workstations and "office-work" PCs. Notes was only deployed (for reasons beyond me) on the office-work machines, so it can't be used effectively for real-time technical collaboration the way the wiki was. Meanwhile, the cultural imperative is to put as much information as possible onto Notes. Bah.

It is surprising that the reasons stated have to do with Wiki's mark-up. There is really nothing complex about Wiki mark-up. Surely there are other reasons. Since LotusNotes is so cool and so easy, why doesn't it inspire more people to clone it? Why then is Wiki cloned so often? It seems there is a certain magic in Wiki. It appeals to our imaginations. Is LotusNotes boring? Can we see LotusNotes at work somewhere? Perhaps someone could compare its different functions and establish a sort of objective + and - scoreboard for both and see who wins in the end. By the same token we could also determine why Wiki does not seem to become a commercial success.

LotusNotes does hugely more than a Wiki. So, it's not comparing apples with apples. Indeed, it's quite possible to implement a Wiki in LotusNotes.

What does LotusNotes that a wiki does not do?

An application development environment. User macros and scripting. Distribution of content and application. Email client. Encryption. Go look on Or click on the LotusNotes link!

[Yes but it seems there are a lot of useless features. Does this Notes work the same way Wiki does - creating pages on the fly - or it is much more structured? Is there an online demo? Surely Wiki could work better than Notes for certain organizations.]

"a lot of useless features"

If you're only interested in whether it can be a Wiki, then this might be true. However, I think it's a bit silly to dismiss things as "useless" just because you don't need them now.

"Does Notes work the same way Wiki does - creating pages on the fly?"

Well, yes. As I've already said, it can be used to write a Wiki. It is (among other things) a development environment.

"Surely Wiki could work better than Notes for certain organizations."

Perhaps so, depending on how you define "certain organizations". However, Notes remains a tool that I'm sure is better for (other) certain organizations. I'm not sure what you're trying to demonstrate here, other than an rather limited knowledge of LotusNotes and an eyebrow-raising ability to make assertions based on that knowledge.

I am not trying to demonstrate anything. I am merely exploring with you the comparison between the products, which is really the subject of this page. Bottomline is most of us have seen wikis all over internet but we have never ever seen LotusNotes in action. So I guess the first step would be to see LotusNotes operating somewhere on internet. Any URL you could recommend?

(with any other keywords you like, of course).

It's about as sensible a question as "I'd like to compare PHP and wikis" - they're apples and oranges.
Okay. Some history. Lotus Notes is over 20 years old. It was and still is a platform agnostic, replicatable, full PKI (Lotus were one of the first customers for RSA) hierarchical (dont ask!) database system. It is end-user facing, and the client, although funky, is now (in its current form - v6.5) - winning awards.

It's an industrial strenght groupware system. There are very large customers out there running it with varying degrees of expertise. I usually hover around companies with about 120,000 users on Notes. It's big.

Why? It replicates data between servers automatically, and seamlessly. It is typical to see one Notes "application" spanning 22+ servers, and users using this application globally. Changes are then replicated between all databases seamlessly, and asynchronously. It'll work on a WAN, it'll work on a modem, and it'll work on the end of a satellite link.

It is not a relational database. Its strength is "collaboration" - collecting together and categorising/indexing/linking unstructured multi-media information. Discussion databases, action trackers, workflow applications. And the users mailbox. The next version 'nd7' - comes with a proper (and optional) db2 back end - so you can do relational stuff as well.

IBM are pushing the future in terms of 2006 and beyond in terms of Domino being a service on a portal environment. So it's slowly moving out of the proprietary code market into open source again.

It has over 100,000,000 - yes, 100 million - end-user licenses. That's actual sales. not the "bundled with xyz" licenses that other vendors have.

It is an application development language. V3 (1993?) had something akin to 1-2-3 formula language, V4 came with "lotusscript" - a VB clone. V4.5 came with simple web formatting and a web interface. V4.6 (1999?) came along with Javascript and Java as well. V5 bundled it all together cleanly. V6 (2003) delivered a new killer interface, spam killing, huge performance gains, stabillty gains, WebSphere integration. The list goes on. V6.5 (October 2003) brings instant messaging integration - with IBM Sametime.

Interestingly (from a developers perspective), the application code is actually compiled into the database itself, and replicates around. So as long as you have a client, you can play.

Oh - and it's very, very secure. You've never heard of a Notes virus, as the Notes client was locked down big-style a long long time ago. NSA/FBI/CIA all use Notes. As do various governments around the world. The Microsoft Exchange stuff is childs play in comparison in terms of security.

Hey, you asked!

Who am I? Just an independent contractor who makes his living at this stuff. Believe me when I say I'm just trying to help here, and not evangelise or rant.

WikiWikiVsLotusNotes? You're comparing a very cool web collaboration system (Wiki..) with a corporate communcations/groupware system. Wikki appears to be light, tight, fast, easy. Notes is all things to all corporates. Very different. Both have huge strengths. Let's not attempt to say which one is better.

Hope this helps,

--* Bill
More Comments

We're in the middle of this battle where I work. The big hurdle for us with Notes is that it really sucks to use cross-platform. At the moment the only viable options for Linux users is either Wine, or using thin web based clients.

Not sure when this was added, but ND7 and ND8 will cure this forever. IBM will launch a RichTextClient? based on the Eclipse framework that will eventually (IMHO) replace the ThickClient currently used for LotusNotes. I've seen the betas and it is very good. Initial platforms will be MicrosoftWindows and Linux with Mac coming later (Boo!) -- GarethHowell May 2005

Wine and Notes have issues - it is not ready for active use in an organization. Examples are redraw bugs, nested scrollbars (show two scrollbars where there is only one - or none!) and memory consumption (forks several processes using 300mb all together+) and the fact that it's slow (UI respons time) - I'm using a 2.3 GHz 512MB. Getting Wine and Notes to play well with each other demands a lot of tweaking, ie. more work for the sysadmins and frustration from the users.

The thin clients have limited amount of functionality it seems making you a second rate citizen in the Notes world, and not all applications are 'ready' for the web. Ofcourse consultants all over the world are ready to fix this for you :)

But it is true, a wiki does not replace Notes. Things like calendar, mirroring/multiple servers, offline capability are not in a wiki. On the other hand, in my opinion for the limited set of functionality a wiki provides it is much better than Notes.

Hope this helps also :)

Lotus Notes is clearly a brain damaged software. Now with the current status of Wiki Engine (like moinmoin or Mediawiki), we can easily make more collaborative works with a Wiki than with Notes. If you are in company using Notes, start with a small wiki for a small team... you'll see that everybody will use it instead of the famous "Notes" database.

It should be clarified a little bit: the Notes Client is a cretinous slow bloatsome piece of junk. Domino (the server) and the Notes architecture in general may have accumulated a lot of cruft over the years, but it is an awesomely flexible and robust piece of work. You could implement a wiki in any number of languages on the Notes platform, and you'll have it replicated for read AND write for load-balancing across servers AND to the individual clients, all without writing one line of extra code for that replication. Wiki is an application, Notes is a platform. Notes as a mail application is actually rather loathsome, but as a collaborative document repository for tasks like distributing training and reference docs across platforms, keeping the sensitive bits from salesdroids that dont need the info, and collecting comments and revisions on the docs, it's second to none. I like to hop on my bike when I head to work, but when I need to haul 60 tons of cargo, I'm going to use a Mack truck. Right tool for the job.


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