To Blog or Not to Blog

A Sun colleague emailed me in good spirits the other day, asking, in effect, "Why are you blogging information and not authoring and posting information in the usual way, such as through docs.sun.com?"

Indeed, his complaints were to the point:

  • Blogs don't 'order' information like a product document does.
  • Blogs are harder to search and retrieve information from.
  • You can't link to blog entries as well as you can to other sources of information, again, like product documentation.
  • Finally, blogs increase information overload, giving yet one more place to go digging for information.

What my colleaque was hitting upon is this problem that I summarized back in 2005 as twofold: Information is not just books anymore, nor is Sun's doc repository, d.s.c., set up to handle that fact:

My response? Really, we're still experimenting, and as of today, we don't have the final answer for information. Nevertheless, it occurs to me, doesn't the answer lie with my colleague himself, as well all info consumers? Those sites and activities that they hit upon and find most useful should be the focus of our (Pubs) core efforts, our "onestop" or "firststop" sites. We still don't know yet what users are using most, or will use the most. So, like my Sun colleague, I encourage readers of this blog to let me know what you like and don't like--hub, bigadmin, wiki, FAQs, forums, blogs, and so on--so that we'll have more clues on what to provide. Yes, d.s.c. is an antiquated, slow, frustrating repository, but for now, we have to live with it and find suitable workarounds.

Okay, with all that, here's what I wrote back to my Sun colleague:

- Information is not just product docs any more; that is, it's not just manuals getting published at docs.sun.com. Information is now manuals, blogs, podcasts, webcasts, Flash presos, tech articles, and so on.

- I'm hoping everyone starts using the Communications Suite BigAdmin hub as the external 'one stop,' located here:

http://www.sun.com/bigadmin/hubs/comms

If you notice, I've tried to pull together news, docs, downloads, and community efforts like blogs into this one site. This is the Sun official way to have an external 'one stop' stopping site.

- Blog material does find its way to more official publications. For example, I did a couple of entries on using Comms Suite for emergency notifications; these entries then found their way into the following article:

http://www.sun.com/bigadmin/features/hub_articles/sms_support_msg_server.jsp

This link is on the Comms BigAdmin hub. So again, I urge folks to refer to this site as the external one stop you mention.

- I'm also working up an external Comms FAQ, which could help with the problem you posit, as well as encourage customer and partner participation in the information knowledge delivery and sharing process.

Still Googling

And yes, google seems to still be the way to search Sun sites for pertinent hits. Indeed, check out google.com/coop to set up your own personalized search engine. One of our writers has done so, with the following results:

Taking a cue about Google's new service, I created a new search engine exclusively for docs.sun.com and performed a dry run on the search string "installing communications express."

The differences were appalling.

docs.sun.com gave me 9 search result. None of them were relevant. The first link was a release note which was unnecessary.

whereas search docs @ sun http://www.google.com/coop/cse?cx=008276993630416602221:ez6u3ogtzio (the search engine I created using Google) gave me 40 links starting with the most relevant links straight to the pages where installing Comms Express is mentioned.

For the same search, docs.sun.com took 45 secs, whereas search docs @ sun took 0.36 secs.

Try search docs @ sun http://www.google.com/coop/cse?cx=008276993630416602221:ez6u3ogtzio yourself to know the difference.

Comments:

One bad thing about blogs is that you don't usually update them, correct the mistakes, remove the obsolete entries, which you would do with a regular doc. I often end up adding "2007" as one of the words of my google queries, to avoid old entries, but I still get the blogs that say things that are plain wrong. On the other hand, newer things get documented way faster through blog posts, that don't have to be as formal and complete. So in my opinion, blog posts are a good thing, but in many cases people should think after posting about the possibilities to integrate the content into a formal documentation.

Posted by Marc on May 31, 2007 at 05:03 AM MDT #

The reason I was complaining about how slow docs.sun.com is that docs are great, when you can get to them. To me it feels like having a great product and then refusing to sell it.

Posted by Mikael Gueck on May 31, 2007 at 06:13 AM MDT #

Mikael, Glad to hear that the docs are good, just the delivery is bad. I hear rumblings this is being \*looked into\* but so far haven't seen anything yet.

Posted by Joe Sciallo on May 31, 2007 at 06:31 AM MDT #

Hey! Can we expect docs.sun.com to become a wiki in a not-too-distant future?

In the past sun's docs for sotftware weren't exactly accurate or didn't reflect changes in NEW versions of the product. I remember we had a hard time with Portal Server... this has changed recently but there are still some bugs in the documentation.

Maybe a wiki allows for faster change and community participation

Is it true? Did Portal Server go open source? Check it out!

Posted by Oscar on May 31, 2007 at 06:45 AM MDT #

It's in pilot mode now, but soon, you'll have the external wiki to add to your dilemma. :-)

Posted by skrocki on May 31, 2007 at 06:48 AM MDT #

I'm signed up to pilot Comms info on the Sun external wiki as well. Agreed, this is the way to go to address your issues, Oscar.

But if that doesn't work out, I've got another ace up the sleeve. Stay tuned for details.

Posted by Joe Sciallo on May 31, 2007 at 06:58 AM MDT #

Joe

So far, I've noticed that such conversations about the pros and cons of blogging in the corporate world and by technical writers, etc., is an endless loop.

The conversation usually ends back where it started and nobody is convinced of anything. What you've got going on with your blog and the Communications Suite BigAdmin hub seems to be a sound system of communication and interaction with the community.

It seems to me that you're working out the kinks where info might slip through the cracks. Something that many of us can look to as a model. I've found that also looping the blog in with the respective product forums helps, too. I know you've done that as well.

Anyway, it's an ultra marathon, too early to tell anything, for sure, yet.

Posted by John Domenichini on June 01, 2007 at 07:00 AM MDT #

Post a Comment:
  • HTML Syntax: NOT allowed
About

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

Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today