An in-depth analysis of two Confluence-based intranet solutions.
If you're in the market for an intranet based on Atlassian Confluence, you've probably seen one of the many ads for Linchpin, an intranet solution from //SEIBERT/MEDIA GmbH.
We're frequently asked how Brikit differs from Linchpin, and we think that's a great question. Read on to understand key differences and how the two solutions compare. We hope to help inform your decision on which solution is best for you and your team.
Linchpin is a solution from //SEIBERT/MEDIA GmbH, an Atlassian Solution Partner operating out of Wiesbaden, Germany. This is notable, as a vendor's location is an important consideration for anyone who is looking for a partner in the roll-out of a new intranet.
Brikit is an Atlassian Solution Partner based out of Portland, Oregon. We are a group of designers, information architects, Confluence mavens, and collaboration enthusiasts. We work with hyper-growth technology companies and Fortune 100 companies, mostly based in the U.S., with a few in Australia and Europe.
Taking a deeper look at the solution, Linchpin is actually based on a number of Confluence apps — 64 in total. Not all of the apps are developed by Seibert Media; many of them are developed by third-party vendors or Atlassian. For example, the Comala Workflows app is used to manage approval or review workflows and Midori's Better Archiving for Confluence is used to offer archiving capabilities.
The Brikit platform consists of five apps (Theme Press, Targeted Search, Content Flow, Blueprint Maker, and Calendar Integration). These can of course be complemented with third-party apps depending on your requirements, though we don't expect the number of apps required to meet a client's requirements to surpass ten.
At first sight, the Linchpin solution looks very different from the out-the-box look and feel of Confluence. You can see a themed header, which includes a menu and a footer. The homepage is a dashboard with news, events, and activity streams. It looks professional and the styling of the menus and the sidebar remind us a bit of Microsoft SharePoint. Once you navigate to secondary pages, however, the default Confluence look and feel is predominant. In fact, everything but the header and footer is essentially the flavor of default Confluence (fonts, colors, the sidebar, page information, comments, etc).
With Brikit, you have maximum design freedom for full branding. Whether you want to have a tool-like user interface, with buttons and icons visible at all times, or a clean presentation that resembles a consumer-grade website, our Theme Press app is flexible enough to realize almost any design guideline. In addition to fully styled headers and footers, your on-brand fonts, color palette, and design choices are available on all pages, not just the dashboard. You can choose between staying close to the default Confluence look and feel, or truly create a design that reflects your organization.
Upon installation, the Linchpin dashboard includes global, departmental, and location-based news. Upon further inspection, each news category is at the root a Confluence space, which means administrators need to create and maintain a space for each news category. Consequently, if a user subscribes to a news channel, he is essentially watching all content in that news space. On the content curation end, to edit the content of the dashboard, multiple steps are required. The dashboard is essentially powered by one macro, called the Personalized Content Macro. This macro references a template which only Confluence administrators can configure in the admin panel of Confluence, which in turn points to a page in the Dashboard space. When you eventually get to the source page for the dashboard, the page is constructed from a multitude of macros. The dashboard — being the most designed and curated page in any intranet —naturally requires advanced editing capabilities. The secondary pages, which resemble the Confluence look and feel, are easier to edit, but also more limited. It becomes increasingly difficult to visualize complex content, or to break up long pages with the default editing capability of the Confluence editor. The out-of-the-box Linchpin test environment includes a a few pages where content is organized in tabs, sections, and images. These pages, however, were created with a complex set of macros, making the editing experience for a regular user quite challenging.
Despite a powerful set of complex features, we at Brikit believe the editing experience should remain simple enough for all users, not just developers or Confluence yetis. Whether or not you've heard of macros, editing content in Brikit is straightforward. Anyone who has used a Google doc or written an email should be able to edit content with Brikit. We delay complexity for everyday users, not exposing users to the architecture of a complex page layout, but instead allow them to edit content block by block, and to access the WYSIWYG editor. We generally don't use macros to style content, so you'll never have to comb through a myriad of these to parse out your content.
Some features of Linchpin are worth noting for two reasons: few or no other vendors offer comparable functionality and customers are increasingly requesting them.
Personalizing menus based on location, department, or other parameters can be useful in large organizations where the amount of information can be overwhelming. Information siloing becomes probable, causing users to miss important developments in other parts of the organization. Anticipating what users need specific to their role or location can be vital in cutting through this problem.
With Linchpin, Confluence admins can personalize menu items based on fields in the user profile (such as location, department, language, etc). A second element that can be somewhat personalized is News; however, this personalization is not automated and requires the author to publish his or her posts in a designated Space. For example, if an author publishes a blog post in the Global News Space but it was in fact location-specific news, it will appear on the dashboard for all users. In the same way, a blog post that is mistakenly published in a space that is specific to a team, language, or location, when it was in fact meant to be information for all users, will not appear on the dashboard where all users have access.
With Brikit, powerful personalization of menus is made possible using the Restrict content macro. The settings in this macro can be tuned to display content based on many factors, including group membership, permission to see a page or a space, or physical location (if your network configuration supports this).
The Linchpin mobile app for Android and Google allows users to browse content, read news articles, microblogs, and to browse users. Users can also comment, like, watch content, and save it for later. As such, it mirrors basic Confluence mobile functionality with the difference that it requires a mobile app.
With Brikit, you can view and search content, and like and comment from your mobile devices — no app required. Brikit also retains full styling on mobile devices. Simply use your browser for a view that is optimized for mobile. We also offer the ability to customize content on any page for mobile vs. desktop, as well as to create entirely separate mobile versions of pages, allowing further customization of content for mobile users.
Administration and Maintenance
Administrating and configuring Linchpin requires Confluence administrator rights in most cases. Companies considering Linchpin should be aware of three main aspects, all relating to the multitude of apps used for this solution:
1. Troubleshooting may become difficult
The issues which require troubleshooting can vary in their nature, frequency, and gravity; a macro may throw an error or a page may not load quickly enough, or, worse, a system error may prevent users from accessing one or all pages of your site. When one solutions uses 60+ apps, finding the culprit can become a tedious task. Unless the logs point you to the app that caused the error, admins may need to manually disable or uninstall all apps in order to find out which one caused the issue.
2. A multitude of vendors
Organizations that choose Linchpin are entering into license agreements with more than one vendor, which also then means accessing support from multiple vendors: Atlassian for Confluence-related issues, Seibert Media for Seibert Media-related issues, Comala for Comala Workflow issues, Midori for Midori issues, etc. Customers may end up spending hours or days with one vendor only to be directed to another.
3. Longevity and updates
When entering into agreements with multiple app vendors, customers need to look at each vendor to assess how critical the functionality they are offering is and how credible that vendor is. At least one of the apps that Linchpin includes in their offering is no longer active and no longer provides support or updates to their app. When organizations would like to upgrade to a new version of Confluence, they may find themselves waiting for one or more vendors to release compatible versions of their apps.
Administration & Maintenance becomes a lot easier when you are managing relationships with only one vendor: one agreement, one support channel, one relationship. In the worst case scenario with Brikit, administrators may need to disable and re-enable a total of five apps, all of which are managed by one vendor.
Linchpin checks a lot of boxes for companies looking to cover a multitude of use cases and for organizations that are geographically dispersed. The implementation, however, comes with a number of challenges for the regular user and for the admin. For examples, the editing experience on complex pages requires a lot of effort even for the experienced Confluence user, and managing an application with more than sixty apps likely will not be an easy task. At Brikit, our goal is to design beautifully crafted and organized workplaces for all users, regardless of their technical abilities, and we put great emphasis on user experience and maintainability. We encourage all organizations who are in the market for a new intranet to ask vendors tough questions and to do their due diligence once they've been wooed by a myriad of features. This goes for Brikit, Linchpin, and all other solutions out there.