I gave a webinar this week for Scriptorium that will be available online titled “Documentation as Conversation.” The fact that it’s recorded lets you avoid scurrying around rearranging meetings in Outlook just to attend it. It sold out which was great to hear, but I like that the message and conversation continues through the recording. One of my fun examples was the Wordle visualization of my tags from the social bookmarking tool, del.icio.us.
During the question and answer session, someone mentioned they felt like social media made her feel like we’re becoming paleontologists. I think she referred to my many examples of how to “stalk” your users to learn more about them and their goals, especially if you document software. I search for my product’s name in Indeed.com job listings as well as look for job titles with my product’s name in LinkedIn to learn more about the people I’m writing for. I wrote up the technique in this blog post, Find your user’s vocabulary and use his or her key terms as keywords.
I also had a follow up email saying that people want to know, where should my team start conversations? Or where should we focus our time if we do start? In my book, I talk about phases: Listen, Participate, Share, Build a Platform. I think you should start with listening and monitoring what’s already being said. Next, start by commenting on blogs or by blogging yourself. A baby step towards blogging is to blog on an internal site, behind your firewall, just to limit your audience if that makes you more comfortable.
Also I’d recommend trying out tools that are already installed that you don’t have to maintain and install yourself. For example, I started justwriteclick.com on wordpress.com and paid $10 a year to map my domain name. When I knew WordPress was a good fit for me and my blogging and site needs, I went ahead and found an ISP and installed WordPress myself. And two years later, I’m hooked on WordPress and I’m even attending WordCamp Dallas in a few weeks.
Sharing content is the next step, and the final step is providing a platform for users to bring their own content in. These steps take time but you will learn valuable lessons along the way and hopefully avoid any stumbling or disastrous results. It’s okay to fail, though. You learn new lessons with each attempt and approach.
So keep an eye out for the recording of the webinar, Documentation as Conversation. The price remains at USD $20 and you get to schedule listening to it any any time of the day. It’s an hour long and if you do listen to the recording, feel free to contact me via email with any questions. I am looking forward to hearing even more feedback!