Posts tagged ‘Web 2.0’

Using social networking for documentation

I have recently been reading a fair bit about how social networks are being used for technical communication. It’s a hot topic, and although some companies’ tech writing teams are already joining in conversations with users on Facebook, LinkedIn and their own user forums, how they include this kind of content in their documentation is what they are currently trying to get their heads around.

You may have already heard the term “Web 2.0” thrown around. It is the term that has been associated with websites that allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media kind of dialogue. Or as Wikipedia so clearly puts it, “Web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web.” Right…

From personal experience, this type of communication and user-influenced documentation has been seen in the online gaming world for some time.

Customer service-wise when players need help, they go to the game’s official website forums to ask the question. Then, more often than not, it is the other players that answer the question before any of the official game developers get a chance to. This happens regardless of how good the how-to documentation is. I think the thought process is along the lines of “why spend time researching when I can just ask?”

Additionally, as time goes by, these forums begin to replace the how-to documentation. The sea of discussion threads will appear very messy at first, but there will be a search function to tidy it up. Using keywords, you can filter discussions to often find exactly what you are after. And not only that, you can read an entire conversation that has already taken place about the issue or feature. If the conversations are too dated, that is when you may have to refer to the almost redundant how-to documentation. Or alternatively, you could start a new discussion…

Here are some examples I have come across recently of this growing Web 2.0 trend:

Writing procedures in Facebook

2morodocs talks about this very interesting concept. Some of the main advantages I gleaned from this were:
• Format – the Facebook layout bodes well for procedure writing
• Updates/changes – if your product is evolving, you can ensure everyone knows how and why as soon as it does.
• Customer service – as well as being able to provide real-time support (procedures are easy to write), by providing hints and tips you can also provide people with information they need, before they even know they need it.
• Relevance – by including regular features, you keep your product fresh and in peoples’ minds.

Hosting documentation in a wiki
There are two types of wiki, open and closed. Open wikis allow anyone to submit content, most famously demonstrated by Wikipedia, while closed ones only allow employees or specified users to add content. An open wiki can present problems, which mainly stem from managing and hosting the “crowd-sourced” content. Wikipedia does this by keeping the entire website level (there is no hierarchy or website architecture), but hosting business documentation this way is another matter. This is why the majority of businesses using a wiki for documentation (or thinking about doing so) are using a closed version.

I did find an example of an open wiki however, which uses a wiki called Confluence (there are numerous wikis that have been developed – i.e. Wikipedia uses MediaWiki). The company, Atlassian, developed the wiki themselves and this example is the wiki for their software application CROWD:

Including tips via Twitter
Websites can contain a text box that displays a continuously-updated list of tweets. It will recognise recent tweets containing a predefined word and display them. Anyone can write a tip and have it show on the page, which, when added to the homepage of a documentation website, gives it that freshly updated feel.
I found a good example of this while browsing Atlassian’s wikis. Their JIRA wiki has one:

Living documents – getting users involved
Sarah Maddox, a technical writer for Atlassian, gave a presentation recently at the WritersUA 2011 conference. Considering the work they are doing in this social networking field at Atlassian, I thought a link to the run down of what she said might be appropriate:

“At Atlassian, we’ve been using social media in various ways, to make our documentation a living, interactive hub where people can find the answers to their questions, talk to us, talk to each other, and use the documentation as a tool to help each other.”



May 23, 2011 at 9:11 am 2 comments

Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch

McKinsey Quarterly recently published an interesting article covering ten tech-enabled business trends to watch. I summarised these below.

Trend 1: Distributed co-creation moves into the mainstream. Distributed co-creation means gaining value from your web community (followers, influential bloggers, etc.) by getting them involved (giving feedback, sharing ideas, asking questions, reviewing and rating products and services). To do this successfully, an organisation needs to gain and maintain the trust of their web community.

Trend 2: Making the network the organisation. Organisations can optimize access to sought after skills by setting up internal or external networks using web technologies.

Trend 3: Collaboration at scale. Using Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, etc.), organisations can reach better collaboration between their knowledge workers. To do this successfully, an organisation needs to understand how knowledge work takes place (information pathways, employee interactions, etc.).

Trend 4: The growing ‘Internet of Things’. This term refers to assets (such as cars) becoming elements of an information system (e.g. by having a sensor installed in a car that collects vital information). Organisations need to explore ways on how to use assets to collect information and data.

Trend 5: Experimentation and big data. Big data includes customer data from public, proprietary, and purchased sources, web communities and smart assets. Organisations need to understand the value of experimentation (a ’test and learn’ mind-set ) and learn how to access, capture and analyse data.

Trend 6: Wiring for a sustainable world. Sustainability has already become a performance metric for organisations. In future, organisations will also need to manage the environmental impact of their IT (e.g. by using green data centres, reducing the number of servers, etc.). At the same time, IT will help to use resources in smarter, more efficient ways.

Trend 7: Imagining anything as a service. The key word is cloud computing which, simply put, means to access computer resources provided through networks, rather than running a software. Web-based Software as a Service (SaaS) allows organisations to access and use services, and to market their own services to potential and existing clients.

Trend 8: The age of the multisided business model. One example is the “freemium” model: Organisations (such as Flickr or Skype) provide free services to a large number of users while charging a smaller number of users for premium services. Organisations need to investigate whether they could benefit from a multisided business model – because if they can, so can their competitors!

Trend 9: Innovating from the bottom of the pyramid. Technology has gone global and reached emerging markets. Local entrepreneurs and businesses best understand the needs of these markets and are able to respond with innovative approaches. This new type of competitor not only challenges the players in the developing markets but also in the developed ones. Organisations need to understand how best to tap into the local resources.

Trend 10: Producing public good on the grid. This refers to the role of governments and the use of technology for creating new types of public goods and improving access to and effectiveness of public services. Areas that are already impacted include, for example, mass-transit systems, law enforcement and education. Open data initiatives and new forms of collaborations will make public policy making more transparent and efficient. Public organisations will need to embrace new approaches to creating, delivering and managing public goods.

For the full article, go to (login required).

I would like to thank Robin Van der Breggen, Managing Director of Mavim New Zealand Ltd, who shared this article through LinkedIn.

September 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment

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