Tag: <span>Content Wrangler</span>

One of the reasons DITA has gained so much traction in such a short space of time is that the people behind it are taking advantage of the internet to publicise and drive it forward. With that in mind it’s great to see them open the new DITA Maturity Model out to the community:

This community is designed to bring the DITA Maturity Model to life, applying the “Wisdom of the Crowds” to the evolution and refinement of this approach to DITA adoption. The premise is that none of us is as good as all of us. The DITA MMC is an evolving resource that will grow and change over time with your active participation and contributions.

Definitely a good usage of the social media tools available at the moment.

One thing that struck me, taken from the Content Wrangler coverage, is a simple reason as to why more people are considering a move towards DITA-based content:

Enterprises looking to fast track their content strategy and minimize the risks of a big-bang initiative are choosing DITA–one of the most popular information models to suit today’s content–rich, multi-channel environment.

For some reason I hadn’t quite figured that out, but if you are putting together a business case built around DITA then it’s worth investigating this in more depth. That said, this is definitely one of those “so obvious I hadn’t considered it” moments!

The maturity model also highlights one of the reasons that DITA is proving popular even if it isn’t the best standard to be using for every circumstance. Quite simply, it’s because it’s young, new and (this is the important bit) is being developed in plain view of everyone on the internet. Admittedly I’ve not gone looking for DocBook or SD1000 resources but as they are already fairly mature they seem to be struggling to keep up with the pace of development around DITA. If DITA is the cool kid on the block, DocBook is definitely the wise old sage, stooped on the corner.

Social media on the internet thrives on participation and with DITA still growing up everyone has a chance to get involved and influence things, and that helps generate buy-in, which drives more improvements, which increases community buy-in… and so on.

So, even if you aren’t interested in DITA but are interested in how social media (online communities, web 2.0, whatever you want to call it) might help you and your company, it might be worth while checking out the maturity model and see if the same … erm… model.. can be applied to what you do.

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The timing of this post, and the announcement by the Cherryleaf blog that they’ve created a Facebook group for technical authors, is completely coincidental. However there does seem to be a genuine move towards online communities, or perhaps it’s just the latest fad?

It’s an interesting time to be building an online community, and I’m lucky that I can pull from the past ten years or so that I’ve had an online presence.

When blogging first started there were few tools available, but in a short space of time they started cropping up all over the place and these days there are many different ways you can post to your blog (as well as many different ways/places to host it). The same seems to be true of the current rise of “social networking” sites.

Places like MySpace and Bebo focussed on the network surrounding one entity, whilst FaceBook and LinkedIn focus on central groups, and finally services like Ning allow you to build an entire specialised community which can then focus in on central areas of commonality.

I have a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook profile and I’m a member of a Ning community, and for me they represent different things. Ohh and please don’t be offend if I don’t “friend” you on any of those websites, I do try and keep that sort of thing under control.

For me LinkedIn is, in essence, a smart contact manager that allows me to find other people related to previous places of employment or study, whereas Facebook is something I dip in and out of and which I primarily use to keep in touch with friends and other personal/social goings-on. Ning, specifically the Content Wrangler community, is very much focussed on my profession and is a good way to interact with my peers across the globe.

I’m wondering if my perception of these sites are common? The reason I ask is that whilst creating a group on Facebook or LinkedIn is very easy, perhaps the usage of such sites needs to be considered. There has been a lot of chat about companies starting to “lever” these websites, alienating users/customers. So it definitely isn’t just me that has a fixed idea about for what these websites should be used.

I’m in the midst of trying to build an online community for the technical users of our product, and I’m very conscious of the unwritten rules and presumptions that go hand in hand with how people act online, and which boundaries need to be respected. It’s a balancing act, that’s for sure, but a fascinating one.

A phrase I spotted online the other day rings true: “someone hit them with the Web 2.0 stick”. I’m a big fan of Wikis, blogging and online communities, and I think they offer some excellent ways to be part of the conversation, but perhaps we all need to step back a little and make sure that the tools we are using are the right ones for the job.

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The boom of the internet is better documented elsewhere but the one key and founding principles is the ability to converse with anyone, anywhere in the globe. From the early days of IRC and email, onto graphical websites and instant messaging through to the current swathe of, for want of a better phrase, Web 2.0 services.

Twitter, blogs, social bookmarking, and online communities are the current rage but, do they work?

I’m a member of several email lists, swapping emails with a large number of people on a range of topics. I spend a fair amount of time filtering out topics which don’t interest me, and over time I’ve come to recognise various people by name. However email, whilst great for sharing information, is a limited when it comes to building communities.

Understanding who you are conversing with and the additional interests they have helps build trust, helps build better conversations and helps build communities. Transferring that kind of interaction online means we can better leverage shared experiences and hopefully make it easier to find other people with the same, unique, slice of knowledge and interests.

It’s only now, pulling together all the available technologies that such online communities are possible.

And the good news is that we, as technical communicators (content professionals) now have such a community.

Scott Abel, aka the Content Wrangler, has launched the Content Wrangler Community website and, having signed up and started using it a little I have to say that it is well worth a look. There are already several hundred members (825 at present), and these early adopters have started forming focussed groups, all of which relate back to our profession. In the words of the website:

Network with peers. Find jobs. Share information. Start a blog. Upload and watch videos. Join a group. Begin a discussion. Learn about software. Find events. Ask for help. It’s all here. Become a member. It’s free!

It’s safe to say that “social networks” aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d strongly urge you to check it out. Despite only having been launched a couple of weeks ago, it’s already proving popular and, as the conversations start and people start to find clever ways of using the various features available then it’s only going to get better and better.

Visit the Content Wrangler Community website today, sign up and join in!

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