June 19 Meeting: Low-Friction and High-Velocity: Information Delivery in the Age of Interaction
Tuesday, 04 June 2013

Presentation Description:

Modern enterprise software development focuses on ease-of-use, self-documented UIs, and rapid iteration. These trends are changing the way writers do our jobs.

At our startup the focus for tech writing has moved from "concepts/tasks/reference at GA" to "write what users want and need to know ASAP". While concepts/tasks/reference are still needed, the priorities have changed because:

* Wikis allow users to ask questions directly and writers to update docs quickly.

* What constitutes a "software release" may not be fully known until the day it ships.

* The best SMEs are the ones who get their hands on the product and use it, not the ones who wrote it.

* Releases include "emerging" or "beta" features that are not yet fully implemented, documented, or supported.

* Writers are praised for responsiveness - active listening, fast execution, and wide communication - over perfection.

The upside is that you really know that you are writing what is needed by users - because they tell you what they need.

Dee and Pamela will discuss what it's like to work in an enterprise software startup where terms like "velocity" and "low-friction" apply to both the development and sales models. Now writers can focus can more on the user and less on the software.

About Dee Elling:

From pioneering automated continuous online doc updates to prioritizing examples as the most-effective content deliverable to deploying wiki solutions that involved customers in the content process, Dee Elling likes to push the boundaries of the status quo for enterprise developer documentation.

Dee raised quite a few eyebrows in the 1990s by insisting that a writer's first duty was to the customer who just found an issue in a "released" document, and that the writer should and could update that documentation right away. In the 2000s Dee proved that wikis could be an effective delivery mechanism for large-scale developer-oriented content. Now she is exploring how to most effectively deliver content for enterprise IT software that ships every few weeks with very little prep time for documentation, training, or collateral. In 2013 is it time to change the traditional doc delivery schedule?

About Pamela:

-  Pamela has many years of software development experience, split about equally between roles as a software engineer, when she designed, wrote, and tested business applications, and as a writer documenting all kinds of enterprise software.

- Her writing gigs have spanned both startups and large software companies. She has worked at Sun Microsystems (Java Developer tools, RFID middleware), BEA Systems (federal security certification documentation), Wind River (embedded OS for high security environments), MarkLogic (XML database server), and now, AppDynamics.

- Her writing experience includes traditional books using FM, online help, and more recently, structured, task-oriented, topic-based writing in XML.

- At AppDynamics, she is responsible for writing topics for a wiki used by sales engineers and partners in pre-sales. The wiki is also used by support, TAMs, and the training team.

- She is a proponent of Every Page is Page One principles as explained and promoted by structured writing and XML guru, Mark Baker. His blog is great reading: http://everypageispageone.com/about/