Tag Archives: blog

It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It

I haven’t gotten any user comments on the articles that have posted to the community wiki after blogging about it. But, just for argument’s sake, I do get comments from users just after I start together the review draft of the product documentation (which are based on the wiki articles). Do I incorporate the user comments as part of the product documentation as I would review feedback from the project team? Or should I just collect the user comments and have the product team review them for completeness and accuracy (as is done with bug reports)?

In other words, should a documentation wiki for an open source project be considered as complete and accurate when the product documentation is available separately? Or, more to the point, can a documentation wiki replace the need for separate product documentation?

My past experience working on open source documentation projects is that, while community wikis are a valuable opportunity to solicit feedback, they cannot replace the need for dedicated writers to create the required task, reference, and conceptual documentation. In other words, someone has to bake the cake before others can get a taste.

Perhaps the ideal role that community wikis and blogs can play will be to provide forums to discuss how to fill the gaps in the product documentation over the life of the product, perhaps starting with planning and deployment issues (at the beginning of the product lifecycle) to upgrade and migration issues (when the next product release is available).

PS

Originally posted on blogs.sun.com by J. Aseo on 10/31/08.  You can find a summary of the effort needed to support the Project SocialSite community wiki (with an eye towards creating documentation for a future commercial release) on my wiki.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest…

I wrote my first blog about my issues with blogs and wikis (specifically blogging to arouse user interest in an early draft of an article). So…after a full month of revisions incorporating feedback from the project team after first posting my article to the wiki, I think the content is now “complete” (or at least it incorporates everything that everyone on the team can think of). Then comes the deafening silence of no responses from the community…kind of like that saying “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

At first, I’m more than a little discouraged, because wikis are supposed to be this wave of the future that will bring about the age of collaborative documentation and forever break down the walls between professional technical communicators and the user community, But perhaps I’m just being skeptical–it took 20 years before desktop publishing moved from the realm of graphic designers to everyday users. Things take time, and good ideas like wikis will eventually move from the realm of computer geeks to everyday users.

So, I guess I’ll just continue to keep posting articles, being well aware that community feedback may be slow in coming (if at all at first). But if you plant a seed, and the seed grows up to be a tree, then someday that tree just might make a “boom” and someone will be around to hear the sound.

PS

Originally posted to blogs.sun.com by J. Aseo on 10/31/08.  You can find a summary of the effort needed to support the Project SocialSite community wiki (with an eye towards creating documentation for a future commercial release) on my wiki.

Not Ready for Prime Time

So, I post to the community wiki an early draft of an article that is barely more than topic sentences with no real detail. Then I get an edict from the project team to post a blog to the community to encourage feedback. I thought the blog I wrote was pretty innocuous, until the one of the project engineers and the engineering manager realized that I’m blogging about features that really isn’t ready, and that the community would have little interest in providing input and feedback. So, after I had (unsuccessfully) spent two weeks of asking the engineers for feedback on the article before I first posted, I managed to get enough additional detail to post a revised draft that may have enough content to actually pique the interest of the community and actually get feedback.

So, the process of collaborating with the community on open source documentation is somewhat hindered by the fact that evangelism of the community often occurs at the same time (to drum up support). It seems to me like a situation of putting the horse before the cart. You may just need stable software builds (with real features) before you can write articles that you can circulate to the community for comment.

I guess the devil is in the details.

PS

Originally posted to blogs.sun.com by J. Aseo on 10/31/08. You can find a summary of the effort needed to support the Project SocialSite community wiki (with an eye towards creating documentation for a future commercial release) on my wiki.