Jot Spot

October 6, 2005 in 4 out of 5 stars, Hosted software

What is it?

Jot Spot: A hosted wiki service. They are to wikis what TypePad is to blogging.


Who makes it?

JotSpot (headed by the brilliant Joe Kraus)

Why is it the killerest?

Note: I won't go be doing a comprehensive overview of the features of every wiki (which are super cool) instead I'll focus on what JotSpot specifically does well.

JotSpot is aimed directly at businesses. Think of it as Intranet 2.0. Each page in a wiki (hence JotSpot wiki) is editable by any reader, keeps track of versions, is searchable, etc. and JotSpot makes all of these things quite painless and fairly intuitive.

JotSpot also offers full WYSIWYG editing, allows users to set specific permissions on content, insert widgets like calendars and drop downs, insert RSS feeds to syndicate external content, send emails to and from any page and invite others to participate and collaborate.

They also have spiffy "starter kits" that allow you to get up and running quickly with common functionality.

What could be improved?

I'm going to be kind of hard on JotSpot here, but it's only out of love. I love what they've done, I think the application is extremely well done, and I think Joe Kraus sliced the first loaf of bread, but here's what I think they can improve:

I'm worried about their business model. Specifically that they are essentially targeting businesses-only. I'm worried because the adoption rate among businesses is very slow (resistant to change and new stuff, clueless, slow adopters, etc). Typically something technical like this takes off in the business-to-consumer area, and then those consumers are employees, so they set it up at work and get their companies to use the product. Jot has basically tossed this whole method of marketing. I think they ought to rethink that.

My other beef with JotSpot is that they are as ugly as a two year old Yugo. I know wikis are kinda ugly anyway, but if Jot were to pioneer making the wiki more accessible and less intimidating, more of an everyman tool, etc. they'd be able to break the wiki out of the "hard core users only" base that use it now. (And I think they desperately need that given the above stated marketing challenge.)

The best way to do that is to make the interface inviting, easy to use, attractive, familiar/friendly. Right now anyone that's not a Linux weenie is probably reluctant to give it a whirl.

Jot need a top notch designer to help them with everything, from branding, logo, and site design, to the application interface and default templates.

Take Odeo, they hired Dan Cederholm to do the design, and while still functional, it's also inviting, well done, unintimidating. Plus it doesn't look amateurish, which JotSpot really does. (Note: I think Odeo has some business model problems, just talking about their interface). is another superb interface that makes something fairly complex, quite accessible. They hired Doug Bowman to put the lipstick on, and it is the best signup flow on the whole Internet.

I think JotSpot should spring for a designer and do more for marketing than any feature set ever could.

Note, with JotLive they appear to have a designer who is heavily influenced by popular web applications, borrowing design ideas. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing mind you, but I think they could (and should) lead instead of following.

JotLive signup screen
Look familiar?

JotLive screenshots
Look familiar?

I may be stretching it a bit, and I'm not saying it's a horrible thing to draw obvious "inspiration" from other apps that work, but like I said, I think Jot should lead instead.

How much does it cost?

Starts at free for 5 users, and progresses to $49 for unlimited users.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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I think you went EASY on them.

The site is hopelessly ugly. How can they expect people to do daily work in an environment like that? How can I bring my boss in when the first site she sees looks like it's overly technical?

Posted by: Hashim | Oct 6, 2005 8:27:59 AM

Hi Hashim, thanks for reinforcing my point. You overcame the first problem (b2b-only emphasis), but can't move past the second problem (ugly) in order to get your company to adopt it. It's a shame really because the technology is great. But many will never know it. Businesses aren't going to take a risk with something this new when it appears you need PhD in Computer Science to use it.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Oct 6, 2005 8:50:01 AM

Thanks for your detailed post and for your advice. We're definitely listening. We agree that our product isn't as beautiful and easy to use as we'd like. We want the experience to be truly joyful, and it's not there yet. I can promise you that we're working hard on it (and yes, with top-notch designers). It's our #1 priority. We'll have something in the next few months that should rock your world and change the way everybody thinks about wikis.

Ken Norton
VP Products, JotSpot

Posted by: Ken Norton | Oct 6, 2005 1:17:02 PM

Ken, rocking my world sounds great. I really wish you the best and can't wait to see what you have in store.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Oct 6, 2005 1:41:51 PM

I love the stuff JotSpot is doing, but they do lack that consumer end of the business model. Perhaps they should buy out pbWiki? ;)

Posted by: Jeff Lindsay | Oct 6, 2005 8:01:27 PM

Hi Jeff, thanks for the reminder, pbWiki review coming soon.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Oct 6, 2005 8:28:56 PM

I think Jot has problems with their business model. I love Jot for some of its feature like the WYSIWYG editor, emailing to pages, RSS etc. However, I cannot convince my boss to use Jot for these following reasons:
- Jot does not have NDAs for small plans: We are a small company so big plans are wastful for us. However, without NDAs a lot of information is just too sensitive to put on their server, since our customers are normally big corporates. And the fact that Jot is a startup worries my boss too, since whatif they close shop next monrning. We need some ways to maintain the wiki up and run once we start using it.

This bring another issue, Jot does offers JotBox, however the box aims at big corporates, hence they are too expensive to small companies.

In a nutshell, the too problems make us not to use Jot is:
- Our information are too sensitive for others to host.
- There is uncertainty about avaibility. Once we comit to use this, we want the system up and run "forever".

- The JotBox somehow "does not" solve those two problems for our case.

I think we would be happy if Jot sell the software to use to install and host ourself. And I guess other small companies might have the same issues.

Posted by: Tran Tuan Anh | Oct 10, 2005 7:34:50 PM

Everyone thinks their information is "too senstitive for others to host".

Except of course the many thousands of customers who use Salesforce to host their extremely sensitive advertising related information. Somehow they've gotten past the issue of hosting their sensitive data elsewhere.

I'm inclined to just say "get over it", as so many others already have...

Posted by: Carney | Oct 12, 2005 1:41:32 AM

Hello. RE Jotspot:

I have actually found that they have a fairly nice interface and they do keep working to add applications and plug-ins. Some tutorials are very nicely and completely done, while others were probably written on the fly and never returned to.

It's the business model that really has the problem, and I cannot in good conscience recommend them or use them for my own wiki.

If a user wants JotSpot for a straightforward out of the box wiki, okay. If you need it to solve any business problems, and be at all customized, beware.

I have found that anything not off the shelf is treated as if it is a developer issue, that the developer team of one (I think) really wants folks to get all answers off the webdev site blogs and forums, learn "jot development", and that the simply will not acknowledge e-mails, follow-up on bugs, or provide any customer-facing responsiveness. There is pretty much no one support area to call or anyone claiming customer responsibility for JotSpot as a whole. User support thinks you should go to dev support while dev support wants you to do all your own work, hire a developer, or go back to user support. Or just stop emailing for god's sake!

Essentially, if you plan on using JotSpot for a solid business need, think again, because JotSpot doesn't currently have a business model that treats their customers in a businesslike, reliable, responsive, and problem-solving response way.

Good luck!

Posted by: LJ | Sep 28, 2006 1:29:58 PM