08 August 2006

Confluence vs. Basecamp

I've recently been using Basecamp for some project management.  It was working fairly well.  I can definitely see the value if you are a consulting firm or similar where you are manageing multiple clients/projects.  The main drawback relates to their claimed strength of simplicity.  Sometimes it's too simple.  I'd like to see multiple todo pages for one.  Also, my real complaint is speed.  Basecamp seems very slow to me, painfully slow at times. 

On a new project, we evaluated Basecamp vs. using a wiki and sort of doing it ourselves.  Due to various constraints our wiki choices were MediaWiki (which is what powers Wikipedia, and many more), or Confluence.  MediaWiki definitely came up short.  We have a range of people using this, from engineers to marketing folks.  Wiki's sometimes present stumbling blocks to those who prefer to write in more of a word processor environment.  Also, we really wanted a good task list system.  We tried the two task extensions for MediaWiki, but neither seemed to actually work properly.

I then setup Confluence.  It should be noted that it is not open source and has a significant price tag that may be a prohibitive factor for many (note to open source folks though that they have arrangements for that).  Setup was simple drop-in and run a startup script (as well as create a database in your DB engine of choice). 

I am impressed!  Confluence is a superb wiki!  I've used several other wikis over the last year or two (we use twiki heavily as well, and I've tried a half dozen others).  Confluence takes it up a notch.  It feels polished and professional, and it's been a joy to use.  Also, the less-technical folks are finding it a lot nicer to use as well.  And, their task extension (we're using the Enhanced Task List macro) is quite nice, perfect for what we're after (fitting our Scrum use).

Another thing I like is how it manages hierarchies of pages, and provides automatic lists of child pages at the bottom of a page.  This allows you to forgo linking when you don't need to.  Also, the mail features, and RSS abilities are well done.  So, I'm sold, and we're proceeding full steam ahead with Confluence.

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jon silvers said...

Thanks for the nice review! - Jon Silvers, Atlassian

Brendan said...

If you want to convert your TWiki instances to Confluence as well there is now this option :)


Arvind said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Arvind said...

Nice review. Although, I wasnt able to assign tasks or 'to-do' to specific people using Confluence. This might be an important feature for organizations using Confluence for collaborative development in multiple geographical locations.

FlatBar said...

I actually went from Confluence to Basecamp because found the ability in Basecamp to assign people to To Do items and Milestones to be far superior than Confluence wikis.

Laran Evans said...

Nice post. I've used Basecamp off and on for a few years now. In the last 6 months I've really embraced it and have found it very solid.

I did a review comparing Jira and Basecamp, the whole task-tracking issue actually which is available online.

I mention it here because the task-tracking and wiki aspects, as well as a forum-type product are all parts of the complete solution needed to manage projects.


Chris said...

It's interesting. Here it is 2008 now, and I haven't used Confluence for a year or so. I haven't used Basecamp much lately either. Currently I'm using Pivotal Tracker, which they recently opened to the public. I've used this for two projects now and am liking it a lot. There's no wiki, but for task tracking and agile dev, it is proving really good. Tracker is available here: http://www.pivotaltracker.com

Garnet said...

I also use Confluence extensively at http://www.bobsgear.com It does feel very polished. But as a java process, it needs a lot of resources, and sometimes is fragile due to the fact that it is a java process. I wrote my own wiki system in .NET at http://www.hivewiki.com and the isolation of requests in .NET makes it much more stable. Of course I don't yet have the features of Confluence. But when inserting lots of content in Confluence, it's easy to tip it over and get it hung up. I've never encountered that with my simpler .NET based system.

Chris said...

Garnet, I haven't used Confluence for about 2 years now, but I'm surprised at your findings, and have to wonder. We were using it throughout the company, and had over tens of thousands of pages in the system, neverminding the probably 10x that in revisions. We ran it on fairly burly machines, but still, my take was that it could handle a ton of content.