Category Archives: Confluence

Want an XML schema viewer in Confluence wiki?

You got it. 🙂 Avisi have developed two nifty macros to display an XML schema (XSD) in tabular and graphic format on a Confluence page. The XSD Viewer is a new add-on for Confluence wiki, and the Avisi developers are keen for input from technical writers and others interested in XML schemas.

I’ve been playing around with the add-on, so I’d love to show you a couple of examples and tell you how to get it working for yourself. I’ve also chatted with Yanne from Avisi, who says that he and his team would love to have your feedback.

Example 1:  A purchase order schema

I’ve grabbed the sample schema for a purchase order from MSDN: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms256129.aspx. I’ve instructed the XSD viewer to start with the purchaseOrder element, and show a depth of 2 levels.

Want an XML schema viewer in Confluence?

Example 2: Graham Hannington’s schema for the Confluence storage format

Hehe, if you put Confluence and XSD in the same blog post, then ‘twould be remiss not to include Graham’s XML schema for the Confluence storage format. 😀

The XSD Viewer is using confluence.xsd, starting with the image element.

Want an XML schema viewer for Confluence?

One point of interest here is that the confluence.xsd file references two other schema files: confluence-ri.xsd and confluence-xhtml.xsd. All I had to do to make this work, was to attach all three XSD files to the page. This screenshot shows the attachments on the above page:

Want an XML schema viewer in Confluence?

Hiccups

A couple of times, the XSD Viewer has declined to show any rows in the table. I’m not sure why this occurs. If it happens to you too, it’s worth letting the Avisi team know.

My environment

I’m using Confluence 5.0.1, with version 1.1.1 of the XSD Viewer. I’m running Confluence on my Windows 7 laptop, and I’m using Chrome to view the wiki pages.

How to get your own XSD viewer

To make this happen, you need to do the following:

  1. Download and install Confluence, if you don’t already have it. You can try it for free for 30 days. See the Confluence download page.
  2. Download the XSD Viewer add-on and install it into Confluence. The add-on is also available for free for 30 days. See the XSD Viewer page on the Atlassian Marketplace.
  3. Create a page in Confluence.
  4. Attach your XSD file to the Confluence page, just as you would attach a screenshot or other file. See the documentation on adding attachments.
  5. Edit the page.
  6. Add the “XSD Image” and/or the “XSD Table” macros to the page. See the documentation for the XSD Viewer.
  7. Save the page.

Resources

Useful links:

Feedback so far

I’ve given Yanne at Avisi some feedback already:

  • At first the error messages were a bit too generic to be useful. Avisi have already followed up on this in the latest version of the add-on, which gives more specific error messages. Great!
  • Currently the macro autocomplete in Confluence is triggered by “XSD”. Suggestion: Add “schema” and “XML” to the list of triggers.
  • Add the option to add a border and other styling to the image.

The Avisi team like the latter two suggestions, and are waiting for more feedback before implementing them. Would you be interested in an XSD viewer in Confluence, and what requirements would you have for it?

Change management helping customers train their staff

For our recent major product release, we published a change management guide as a quick tool for customers to see what’s changed in the product. The document is called Planning for Confluence 5. This post describes how we went about designing the change management guide, and whether it’s working. I hope this information may be useful to other technical writers and change managers.

This week our development team released a major version of the product, Confluence 5.0, with many changes that will affect the way people work. We wanted to make sure administrators know they will probably need to warn their colleagues before upgrading the wiki. We also wanted to give a good overview of the changes that will affect people’s day-to-day activities.

Defining the audience

The release notes do a good job of describing what’s new in the release. That information is primarily useful to people who are looking to purchase the product for the first time, or renew their existing licences. The upgrade notes tell administrators what they need to know before, during and after the upgrade. For this release, we needed a way of telling everybody else what was coming. Enter the change management guide.

Many organisations, especially the larger ones, develop their own procedures and training material for their staff, incorporating guidelines on using our product. The change management guide is also intended to help the people who produce those guides, as it’s a good indication of the areas of major change.

Are people finding and reading the document?

I’ve put a link on the documentation home page as well as in the upgrade notes. I’ve moved the document to the top of the left-hand navigation panel, so that it hits that sweet spot where people look first and most often. I’ve tweeted about the document, and mentioned it on Google+.

Are people finding it, and are they sticking around long enough to read it?

This report from Google Analytics shows the traffic on the page.

Google Analytics report for the page

Google Analytics report for the page

Key dates:

  • The Google Analytics report covers the period from 10th to 28th February.
  • The software release date was 26th February.
  • I published the document on 18th February, so that early adopters could see it. (Views before 18th February were therefore all by Atlassian employees.)
  • The spike shows the highest number of hits on the date of release (26th to 27th February, in different time zones). The highest number of hits per day is on 27th February, at 486 views.

Interpreting the figures:

  • People have looked at the page 2,196 times over the 17-day period.
  • The number of unique visits to the page is 1,760 over the same period. So yes, people are finding the page.
  • People are spending more than 3 minutes on the page, on average. That would seem to mean they’re reading it, rather than bouncing straight out.
  • There’s a 57% bounce rate. In other words, people are reading this page and then leaving, without visiting other parts of the documentation site. That’s a fairly high bounce rate. For this page, I think that’s good thing. The target audience is people who already know what the product does. They don’t need to read the rest of the documentation. They just need to know what’s going to change.

Comparing this page to the Confluence documentation home page:

The home page is the most popular page in the Confluence documentation (apart from an anomaly: a page that tells people how to configure their Java home variable in Windows, which is not specific to our product).

Over the same period of time, the report for the documentation home page shows:

  • 12,140 page views
  • 9,431 unique page views
  • 1.12 minutes average time spent on the page
  • 27.8% bounce rate

My interpretation: The new change management page has a surprisingly large number of views in relation to the most popular page. (The number of views of the new page is about 18% that of the home page.) People are spending more time on the change management page than on the home page. People use the home page as a place to click through to other parts of the documentation (hence the lower bounce rate) but they leave the documentation site satisfied, immediately after reading the change management page. Yesssss! 🙂

Hehe of course, you could probably interpret the figures differently.

Designing the content of the change management guide

We chose to design the content around the concepts of before and after, which we termed “previously” and “now”. This is the primary difference between this document and the release notes. The focus of this document is on what’s changed, not on what’s new. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if there is a new feature in the release that won’t disturb the way people work, it doesn’t need to be part of this guide.

This screenshot (it feels weird taking a screenshot of a document!) shows a couple of the “previously” and “now” images we’ve used to illustrate the changes in functionality.

Change management helping customers train their staff

For the full effect, take a look at the document itself. You can click the images to zoom in: Planning for Confluence 5.

Easy to scan

We want people to find the information they need quickly. The page includes a number of pictures as well as words. Most of the pictures are annotated screenshots. The text is important too:  People will search the page (Ctrl+F) to find specific topics.

The page has consistency of terminology and structure. There’s a short introduction, telling people the purpose of the document. There are links to related information, in case someone has wandered in off the Internet and landed on the wrong page (“every page is page one”). The table of contents on the right tells people at a glance what’s on the page.

Plenty of headings mean people can scroll down and absorb the content easily. The structural design of putting the “Previously” sections on the left, and the “now” on the right, makes it easy to grok what’s happening.

Aesthetics

The page looks good. We want readers to have a pleasurable experience of the document, leading into a pleasurable experience of the product.

Feedback

Unsurprisingly, given the way life goes on a wiki, the page has turned out to be a handy place for people to comment on the release, and for the product managers to respond. Docs alive! 😀

New style for Confluence documentation – what do you think

To mark the impending release of Confluence 5.0, we’ve applied a new style to the Confluence documentation. It’s done by means of some snazzy CSS, created by Andrew Prentice, Valter Fatia and Paul Watson.

What do you think of the new look? We’d love your feedback on the styles, the way some information is hidden until you hover over it (try zooming your cursor around the page to find the hidden bits) and the contrast with the standard Confluence 5.0 look.

Our customised styles

We’ve applied custom CSS only to the latest documentation space on the wiki – that’s the documentation for Confluence 5.0. This space is using the Documentation theme, but with a lot of CSS on top:

Documentation space with custom stylesheets

Documentation space with custom stylesheets

The standard Confluence 5.0 styles in the Documentation theme

The documentation for Confluence 4.3 is on the same wiki, but we haven’t applied the custom stylesheets. The wiki is already running Confluence 5.0, so you can see the new 5.0 look and feel without any custom styling. The space is using the Documentation theme:

Documentation space with standard styling

Documentation space with standard styling

The standard Confluence 5.0 styles in the default theme

Just for completeness, here’s the Atlassian Training space, on the same wiki, but using the default Confluence 5.0 theme:

A space using the default Confluence 5.0 theme

A space using the default Confluence 5.0 theme

How do you add CSS to a Confluence space?

It’s all in the documentation: Styling Confluence with CSS.

Thoughts? 🙂

Confluence tip – how to hide child pages in the Documentation theme

This hint is for people who are using the Documentation theme in Confluence wiki, and want to hide the child pages that are shown at the bottom of every page. After all, the left-hand navigation bar in  the Documentation theme shows a page tree, including all parent and child pages. So it’s probably overkill to show the children at the bottom of every page too.

Confluence tip - how to hide child pages

To hide the child pages, add some CSS to the space. This is the CSS you need:

#children-section{   
display:none;   
}

I’ve tested the above CSS in Confluence 4.3 and 5.0.

To add the CSS to your space, you need space administrator permissions. Go to BrowseSpace AdminStylesheet, edit the stylesheet and dump the above code into the text box.

The documentation has more guidelines on using custom stylesheets: Styling Confluence with CSS.

Have fun!

The Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki has moved to a shiny new site

The Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki is a companion to my book about technical communication, technical writers, wikis and chocolate. This week we moved the site to a shiny new Confluence OnDemand server. Please take a look, sign up if you like, and also please consider changing any external links you may have pointing to content on the site.

The new address of the Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki is: https://wikitechcomm.atlassian.net/

The old address was: https://wikitechcomm.onconfluence.com/

What does the move to Confluence OnDemand mean?

Confluence, Tech Comm, ChocolateConfluence OnDemand is Atlassian’s new hosted platform. Our site will now automatically get the latest and up-to-datest version of Confluence. It’s currently running an early version of Confluence 5.0! So we’ll be able to play with the latest Confluence features before anyone else. If you’re interested, keep a watch on the frequently-updated Atlassian OnDemand release summary.

My seat-of-the-pants feeling is that the new site is significantly faster than the old one. 🙂

The hosted platform restricts certain functionality, primarily add-ons and customisations of the wiki. I won’t be able to install add-ons or plugins that are not pre-approved by Atlassian. This won’t have a big effect on people using the site. We no longer have the awesome add-ons from K15t Software for creation of ePub and DocBook exports. The Copy Space plugin isn’t there either. Gliffy, for drawing diagrams, is available in Confluence OnDemand, along with the add-ons listed here: Atlassian OnDemand Plugin Policy.

Existing content, redirects, and external links pointing to the site

This bit is for the 77 people already using the wiki. 🙂 All your pages, blog posts, comments and other pieces of information are safely on the new site. Please let me know if you spot anything amiss.

Atlassian has put redirects in place. If you try to go to the old address, you should automatically end up on the new site. The old site will be decommissioned in a few weeks’ time. There’s no scheduled date for the shutting down of the redirect service, but it’s probably a good idea to update any external links you may have, to point to the new site.

The book

The book is called Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate: A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication. It’s about developing documentation on a wiki. It’s also about technical communicators. And chocolate.

Do come and join the fun at the book’s wiki site: Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki.

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