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Disrupting Documentation: Using Content Strategy to Change Corporate Communications

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Disrupting Documentation: Using Content Strategy to Change Corporate Communications

Somewhere under the surface of corporate technical documentation is a tectonic shift in the culture of content authoring. Close to the molten core of content chaos is the open source software sector, where dispersed and disparate communities author endless streams of community documentation. These streams are fed into the engines of enterprise technical writing to form the impressive tomes of knowledge that apparently nobody reads anymore. Until they have to.

In this journey, content author and startup advocate David Ryan traces his adventures as a writer working for the world's first billion dollar open source software company. A company where "we've always done it this way" is no reason at all, and constant innovation has led to the first fully end-to-end open source and topic-based authoring platform, the PressGang CCMS.

But of course, any new tool merely means the chance to discover new problems, new processes, and new opponents. If you're advocating for change in your own corporate structure, contemplating a shift to topic-based content development, or if you simply enjoy stories of danger and delight, you need to hear this. Come along to learn how a tiny side-project in Brisbane became the default global authoring platform for a company publishing over 800 titles in over 22 languages. Discover the secrets for surviving the leap across the skunkwork chasm. And hear how a gang of technical writers got away with it all.

Somewhere under the surface of corporate technical documentation is a tectonic shift in the culture of content authoring. Close to the molten core of content chaos is the open source software sector, where dispersed and disparate communities author endless streams of community documentation. These streams are fed into the engines of enterprise technical writing to form the impressive tomes of knowledge that apparently nobody reads anymore. Until they have to.

In this journey, content author and startup advocate David Ryan traces his adventures as a writer working for the world's first billion dollar open source software company. A company where "we've always done it this way" is no reason at all, and constant innovation has led to the first fully end-to-end open source and topic-based authoring platform, the PressGang CCMS.

But of course, any new tool merely means the chance to discover new problems, new processes, and new opponents. If you're advocating for change in your own corporate structure, contemplating a shift to topic-based content development, or if you simply enjoy stories of danger and delight, you need to hear this. Come along to learn how a tiny side-project in Brisbane became the default global authoring platform for a company publishing over 800 titles in over 22 languages. Discover the secrets for surviving the leap across the skunkwork chasm. And hear how a gang of technical writers got away with it all.

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Disrupting Documentation: Using Content Strategy to Change Corporate Communications

  1. 1. Using content strategy too change cerporate communications disrupting documentation
  2. 2. > What we (un)learned > Breaking the process > WTF just happened to docs? Agenda
  3. 3. What we will talk about... > How a team of content authors with a passion for content strategy created in internal startup project > How that project changed the entire way the world’s largest open source software company produces documentation* *(sort of) > Why this represents a shift from corporate process and red tape to customer engagement
  4. 4. What we won't talk about... > Basic theory about DITA, topic-based authoring, content re-use or single sourcing > How close internal disruption can come to getting you in how water > Why there are giant Scrabble pieces on the wall (and how often they fall on heads)
  5. 5. who am i?
  6. 6. no, really...
  7. 7. “World's leading open source services and solutions company” David Ryan
  8. 8. Tech Tidal is the community voice for the Queensland startup community. Metaset is a mobile video app and content platform to help journalists solve the problem of engaging and curating crowdsourced video.
  9. 9. 9 WTF just happened to docs?
  10. 10. Docs got deador more accurately, the days of capturing the details of product features have been replaced by an era of customer focus.
  11. 11. We built Pressgang CCMSa web-based Component Content Management System (CCMS) written in Java.
  12. 12. We also Broke everythingas in “totally f**ked s*** up” according to some people, but “changed the entire way that we produce documentation” according to others.
  13. 13. > end-to-end documentation tool > open source > WYSIWYG XML authoring > seamless publishing integration > content database > integrated content mapping > integrated localization > single sourcing > in-browser
  14. 14. hint: it's the middle bit
  15. 15. but: it's just the start
  16. 16. 20 Breaking the process
  17. 17. “I have an IDEA” > start with curiosity > collect inspiration from external examples > explore something awesome
  18. 18. checkthisout > find partners in crime that share your vision > don’t wait for permission > show your “thing” to both the fans and the jerks
  19. 19. this iscool > good gets noticed > awesome loves company > collaboration is momentum
  20. 20. “just howhardcan it be?” > move before fear and reality set in > focus on product and testing, and not on ego or worry > but yeah, it’s really (really) hard
  21. 21. assemble> people you love the team * *copyright World Events Productions *not a real photo of our team > and some jerks to challenge you
  22. 22. iterate “pingall, I'm going to bounce the server in five. Please save what you're working on” “mcasperson – can we get version numbers on the bug links?” iterate“can we have another Save Topic option for multiple new topic entries?” iterate iterate “I just had another idea...” alpha docs ------------------ ------------------ beta docs ------------------ QE review peer review ------------------
  23. 23. feedback “I don't know why but I hate it” NOOOOO!!! Love the per-topic bug links WOOOOOT!! :( :) A lot like DITA Better quality I trust you.
  24. 24. change in flight > Measure > Learn > Build
  25. 25. RELEASEIf you build it, test it. And keep building and testing until you are ready to...
  26. 26. 30 What we (un)learned.
  27. 27. over > build, measure, learn > get started by getting started > JFDI plandon't = > iteration is awesome
  28. 28. let them try everything > having an idea means testing an idea > buy-in from all members > eggs in different baskets > redundant processes = quick change
  29. 29. be painfully visible
  30. 30. know when to > business rules apply (within) > hire or reallocate dedicated champions > prepare to remember the “good old days” > “prototypes” become “products” growup > project team goes back to reality
  31. 31. measure? how can we really ? ? ? > death to vanity metrics > it’s okay to invent a hypothesis later (just keep testing) > but have a lesson learned
  32. 32. always be studying customers
  33. 33. iterate the prototype > unify voice together > unite the team > solve the simple > discover the complex [and then the most important thing...]
  34. 34. <!-- --!>
  35. 35. > What we (un)learned > Breaking the process > WTF just happened to docs? Agenda
  36. 36. Questions? Social? Next?

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