TCANZ 2010 day 2 – Tools for collaboration, management, and delivery of information

I’m attending the TCANZ Conference 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand. Rowdy Bristol gave a session on “tools for enabling collaboration, management, and delivery of information on the web”. These are the notes I took during the session. All credit goes to Rowdy. Any mistakes are mine.

Rowdy started with a hilarious sequence of slides outlining the problems that “Simon” encountered when he started as a technical writer at an organisation, and the quest for tools that “Simple Simon” would find easy to use.

These are the tools that Rowdy covered in this presentation. They are the tools that he chose for their simplicity, and that he and his team currently use at Gemcom:

  • Microsoft SharePoint – Caters for the communication needs of all employees. Supported by IT. It forces you to tag all content, and uses the tags to present the information in nicely sorted lists. Randy and his team use it as the delivery tool for training, and to host information like the documentation tasks in progress.
  • MadCap Feedback Server – Rowdy designated this the best thing since sliced bread, the single best collaboration management and delivery tool. Rowdy uses it to communicate with internal and external SMEs and stakeholders, prototype new ideas and get feedback and usability information. Next year they plan to set it up to receive comments from users out in the field as well. Management is very excited about this project. Feedback Server also gives you an analysis of search results, so that you can see what people are searching for.
  • Seapine Surround SCM – Offers content management, source control and version control. This is a very simple piece of software to use. The support staff are very good too. You can check files out, work on them, check them in, and set up workflows to prompt other people to review the work. You can link to issues in TestTrack (see below).
  • Seapine TestTrack Pro – For issue tracking and your agile backlog. The team uses it to track requests for improvements to the documentation. The developers use the agile methodology. The backlog is an invaluable tool for interacting with product managers to determine what’s important for the next release.
  • MadCap Flare – For information management. Rowdy chose Flare after evaluating a number of other tools. Usability-wise, Flare is very simple.
  • DITA – For information management. Rowdy has tweaked it a bit, using different topic types from the standard task, concept and reference. Very simple to tweak.
  • Google Analytics – Usage statistics for online content. This is just fabulous for getting information about your users.
  • The combined set of tools to schedule tasks and run batch files to build the documentation system daily, making it available on the feedback server daily. Now the writers just need to check out the content, modify it and check it back in. Then it is built overnight. They can also trigger an instant build of part of the documentation if necessary.

During the rest of the presentation, we saw the tools in action. Thank you Rowdy for an interesting display of the documentation authoring and publishing system at work.


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 3 September 2010, in technical writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Once again, thanks for sharing, Sarah. I hadn’t heard of some of these tools, so I get an opportunity to broaden my scope. I love how, with blogs and tweets, we can be in more than one nation at a time. Say “Hi” from Florida to the fine folks at the show.

    • Hallo Tristan,
      It’s a great pleasure, and thanks for adding a comment to my post! It’s nice to hear that people are finding the summaries useful. I agree, it’s awesome that we can all share the tips and ideas we pick up from conference speakers like this.
      Cheers, Sarah

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