The New Traditional Process Short long development cycles Dynamic, community-sourced Static “official” documentation products Collaborative Gathering content Writers must be in close touch with sometimes isolated from product developers Write/Review/Publish/Edit/Repeat
Trends that are Changing the Process Web 2.0 (and beyond): New, varied sources for content How can I keep track of—much less control—the flow of content? Agile methodology: “Just in time” development Hey, what does that do to my doc plan?
Web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 Web 1.0: One-way information flow –Static publishing –No interaction Web 2.0: From publishing to participation –Information sharing and collaboration –User-generated content –The community Web 3.0: Marketing buzzword, or unrealized vision? –“Intelligent Web 2.0” –Semantic Web, personalization, intelligent search, mobility (Source: J. Leigh Brown and Peg Mulligan)
Web 2.0 and Publishing From publishing to participation –Doc sprints, FLOSS manuals –User-generated content augments and even supplants the “official” documentation The concept of the community
Web 2.0 and Publishing Example: Adobe Community Help
Web 2.0 and Publishing If you build it, they won’t just come You have to –Invite participation –Make it easy –Give prominence to UGC
Web 2.0 and Publishing You need a content strategy –Creating content –Delivering content –Governing content
The Content Strategist “Curator” – not “gatekeeper” Keeps the big picture in mind Manages content throughout the content lifecycle Enforces a strategy that’s repeatable
The Agile Manifesto We value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan That is, while there is value in the items on the right… ….We value the items on the left more.
An Agile documentation project Small, tightly knit teams –Scrums –Writers have to be fully involved Modular writing –Focused on major needs of the user –Topic based
An Agile documentation project User stories –They drive the product and the docs –Basis for your audience analysis Short development cycles –Sprints –Geared to being flexible –How quickly can you publish?
An Agile documentation project The doc plan is subsumed by the content strategy
Principles for Writing in Agile From Anne Gentle’s Just Write Click blog Only deliver things that an actual customer would find useful. List and prioritize all tasks that get you incrementally closer to your goals. Understand the business goals. Ask questions and seek details. Deliver something that the team considers to be done, shippable, and customer- ready.
An Agile documentation project New wine into old wineskins? No. New wine into new wineskins. (St. Mark 2:22)
Web 2.0 and Agile: Challenges Reviews are often ad hoc and very limited in scope How to edit What to do with legacy information How to plan for localization/translation
Challenge: Reviews Very few SMEs involved Hard to squeeze into the iteration schedule Topic-based reviews don’t provide the big picture
Solutions: Reviews Make sure that Tech Pubs is a full member of the team Find a champion Conduct targeted reviews You might need a special “big picture” review Keep track
Challenge: Editing Editing can’t be a one-time event A comprehensive edit isn’t possible Writing teams might not know each other – or the editors Content comes from nontraditional sources
Solutions: Editing Editing as an ongoing process Topic-based editing The editor is still part of the team – working closely with PM and content strategist Style guides are vital
Challenge: Legacy Content Easy to overlook in sprint-based reviews Reviewers don’t see new and changed content in context Scrum team members don’t have time to review old content
Solutions: Legacy Content Don’t skip the content inventory! Content is best reviewed by an experienced SME Review can be done at any time Help the SME by laying out the ground rules
Challenge: Localization Scheduling translation Handling changes to the product content
Solutions: Localization Break the translation into pieces Align the translation schedule with your iterations Take advantage of the processes your software developers are following
Evolving a set of best practices We’re still learning Let’s share the things we learn What new trends are coming?
Resources Bailie, Rahel: “Rahel Bailie Provides A Content Strategy Primer,” Sept. 2009 (article at http://thecontentwrangler.com) Gentle, Anne: Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation Halvorson, Kristina: Content Strategy for the Web Hamilton, Richard: Managing Writers: A Real World Guide to Managing Technical Documentation Sheffield, Richard: The Web Content Strategist's Bible: The Complete Guide To a New and Lucrative Career for Writers of All Kinds