Delivering Technical Information: In the Beginning Was the Typewriter...

Though I write specifically about Communications Suite products, it's clear that there's a general trend across Sun and the computing industry itself: Technical information gets served in a variety of ways nowadays. Not just limited to the traditional fare of product manuals, you can also have your info served up by email aliases, forums, technical articles, blogs, and wikis, to name a few. And where once the documentation chef was primarily the 'technical writer,' we're finding many cooks with all kinds of backgrounds stirring the info broth, forcing the technical writer to become more of an information manager than just the producer of books.

We in Communications Suite recognize that this new information landscape brings with it a certain confusion and Wild West atmosphere to what used to be a fairly calm endeavor (just go to the product docs repository (aka docs.sun.com) to find (if you can) the info that you are looking for.

My take is that publishing more information rather than less--especially when we recognize there are gaps in the product docs--is a good thing. Is this a problem? In general, I don't think so. I believe that the Comms community realizes that publishing venues such as blogs and wikis might not carry the same kind of sanctified stamp that a manual or an article carries, but the information is welcome nonetheless. An additional boon for customers: with these tools such as wikis and blogs, we no longer operate under the excuse of, well, it's too hard to push out new information to DSC between software releases. We can operate more in a continuous info release mode.

I also think that by putting information out in these less-official channels gives customers the chance to work on and solve problems as they arise, and to give the folks at Sun a chance to receive more feedback on where we can improve our information delivery efforts. And, where appropriate, we can fold in information from a wiki or a blog into the product docs, to give that information an official home and hopefully make it easier to retrieve in the future.

One valid complaint: how do I keep track of all this information from release to release? To help solve this issue, at least with tech articles and notes, you should refer to the Comms Hub Technical Articles tab, which now provides a complete historical listing of all our tech notes and articles. Part of my duties is to keep this index current and up to date.

Are we in the midst of a documentation/information revolution? From where I sit, in Tech Pubs, I'd say yeah, but it's a revolution that's still forming without any one clear leading movement. My hope is that customers will tell us more and more what works and what doesn't work--that is, we'll let the community drive adoption of the tools that are best at solving customer information needs.

Comments:

Delivering Technical Information: In the Beginning Was the Typewriter...

Whereas now, we have the QWERTY keyboard. We have indeed come a long way.

Posted by Paul Davies on September 18, 2007 at 02:59 PM MDT #

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Reporting about Unified Communications Suite Documentation, including news, Comms 101, documentation updates, and tips and tricks.

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