Wikis and Other Collaboration Tools

by Lorraine Carlson on May 7, 2012

I recently viewed Scriptorium’s webinar entitled, Collaboration: A hands-on demo using Confluence wiki by Sarah Maddox. I am new to the world of wikis and wanted to learn how an online collaboration tool might assist me as a technical communicator from the perspective of a technical writer.

Sarah’s hour long webinar is a great overview of what a documentation wiki looks like and how to get started. The webinar focuses on the importance of collaboration as a baseline for all documentation and describes how wikis can help an organization manage a single, centralized database for documentation that can be viewed and edited by all. (Note: A link to Sarah’s slides with notes via Slide Share is provided at the bottom of this post.)

In this webinar, Sarah highlights the concept of continuous publication with respect to the lifecycle of a document noting that the document’s “real life” does not begin until the product is released. It is the product release that triggers continuous publication through revision and updating by the technical writing team and SME’s to meet the needs of the users.

Continuous publication of documents is too demanding for small technical writing teams to manage on their own. Collaboration tools, if implemented with structure and managed with appropriate levels of permission, can be highly successful at driving this process with the technical writing team in the driver seat. Wikis are one of many collaboration tools used by technical communicators with both advantages and disadvantages.

Wiki (Pros)

  • Web browser editing with ease in publication (just click “save”)
  • Customizable interface using themes
  • Multi-channel collaboration via permissions, share by email, @mentions, email notifications, and RSS feeds
  • Web and social media integration
  • Add-ons and plug-ins to suit the wikis’ needs

Wiki (Cons)

  • Difficult to achieve version control across a suite of documentation
  • No ability for single-source publishing and topic-based authoring
  • Requires designated administrator to create “Spaces” (i.e., pages of logically grouped content for edit, update, review, and publication) and assign permissions to wiki users.

Interested in learning more about how technical communicators can use wikis to develop and deliver content?  Orange County STC will host Richard Hamilton of XML Press at the June 19th chapter dinner meeting where he will speak on Making Wikis Part of Your Development Process.

For a review of other collaboration tools, read David Kowalsky’s guest post on The Content Wrangler: Collaborative Authoring and Communication Tools Help Writers, Editors, SMEs Work Together

Slides: Collaboration: A hands-on demo using Confluence wiki (Sarah Maddox is a technical writer at Atlassian, makers of Confluence wiki and other software tools.)

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Fulgenzio Siciliano May 23, 2012 at 9:03 am

I’m not an expert when it comes to this. Didn’t even know this was possible. Useful read, appreciate your posting this.
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Tellervo Warelius May 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I found your website through a random stroke of luck. It helped me do my research on this topic. I have spent lots of time looking through your site. You have something good going here, keep it up!

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Rakesh May 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Thank you for this article. I aledary have a blog but I am interested in the idea of a blog with wiki. I have always thought that if someone could create a blog and a wiki together it would be THE thing. Please could you send me the address of one that I can look at. All you do in the article is ask if we’d like to create one, but as I aledary have a blog I would prefer to see one first. Many thanks from Fiona

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Lorraine May 30, 2012 at 5:34 am

Hi Fiona,

Thank you for your comment. I suggest visiting http://www.wikidot.com/ and peruse the “featured sites” from the home page to view a variety of wikis and how they are used. Hope this helps get you started.

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