A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Gentle, Anne

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Advocate for Community Documentation

Let’s say that the most driven and driving developer on your team, who also happens to be a popular blogger, comes to you and asks why your end-user documentation doesn’t allow comments or ratings. Rather than stammering something about Wikipedia’s latest scandal, or reaching for imperfect responses that sound like lame excuses, do your homework and learn best practices from others who are implementing social web content that is conversational or based on community goals.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Documentation>Wikis>Social Networking


Agile Across the Enterprise

One of the Agile Manifesto’s basic balance equations is valuing working software over comprehensive documentation. This line of the Agile manifesto can be confusing to some supporting roles in an Agile development enterprise. As technical support staff, trainers, and content creators, what are we doing to fit into this Agile methodology, and what’s working well? Let’s explore some old habits that need to die, and some new rituals to fill that space.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Agile


Agile Across the Enterprise: Prioritizing Value in Support and Training

I have been a technical writer on Agile development teams, and working in tightly collaborative environments has taught me a lot about adding value in the customer’s perception. I still remember being challenged by Michael Cote when we were at BMC Software. He asked, “Why does it take three days to get a PDF out for review? Why aren’t technical writers using wikis for documentation?” Those questions prompted quite a bit of research that finally resulted in my book, Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation.

Gentle, Anne. Agile Executive, The (2009). Articles>Management>Collaboration>Agile


Are Structured Authoring and Wiki Opposing Forces?

There are two camps in technical documentation. There’s the “quick web” folks who connect easily and author easily, and then there’s the “structured quality” camp that requires more thoughtful testing and time spent on task analysis and information architecture.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2007). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>Wikis


Can DITA Train Writers? Or Does it Require Too Much Programming?

Because writers have to immediately place the information they want to record into one of these three types of information, they are being trained on how to write in a task-oriented, performance-based manner, via DITA. I am especially interested in this “training” for wiki authors and talked about the idea at our recent presentation.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Education>Technical Writing>DITA


Choosing a License for Sharing Documentation Content

What issues and legalities do we as Technical Communicators or Wiki Administrators need to be aware of as we move towards collaborative authoring projects and so forth, especially when documenting open source software?

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Documentation>Intellectual Property>Open Source


Clearing the Air on Cloud

Consumer users have been reaping the benefits of the utility model in cloud computing for years — at the application as a service level. It is developers and IT who are using cloud computing in a transformative way now. IaaS and PaaS allows them to develop, test, deploy and run apps that can scale on enterprise grade technology, all without having to pay the capital expense for the underlying infrastructure. This is creating a new cloud economy and truly represents the democratization of computing.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Technology>Collaboration>Cloud Computing


Collaborative Authoring: Tools and Costs

I’ve been working on some collaborative authoring scenarios for our Agile teams – we’re going from 5 people to 47 people in total who could author external or internal documentation within our two week sprints. Turns out, we likely represent some trends in the enterprise.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Content Management>Writing>Collaboration


Community and Documentation   (PDF)

This chapter explores the idea that a small group of people who have a sense of belonging in an online community may provide content much like a technical writer does. Regardless of their background, education, or training, more people are becoming providers of technical information on the web.

Gentle, Anne. XML Press (2009). Articles>Documentation>Content Management>Social Networking


Comparing RSS Feeds to Social Networks

Jakob Nielson and his research group, Nielsen Norman Group, have done it again – letting us know how users are actively perceiving and using social software for different business tasks. This research is important as the social web evolves so that we, as web content creators, know the best ways to present and offer different types of information, especially for corporate sites.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>User Experience>Social Networking>RSS


Consistency and Community-Generated Content

I’ve been collecting examples of wildly inconsistent writing lately. I’m not sure why these have stuck out to me, but when I think of book sprints and community writing events, consistency is an important, though sometimes difficult, goal and outcome.

Gentle, Anne and Janet Swisher. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Documentation>Style Guides>Wikis


Content Curation: A Manifesto

A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online. I think that professional writers and technical writers should consider a move towards this role. We already search for and find the best content, sift through loads of content, discard poor content, and publish the most worthy content whenever a software release goes out. This description also sounds like something a content strategist would do as part of their analysis of the content.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>Technical Writing


Content Strategy and Web Writing

Boy, it must be getting harder and harder to be a web writer. I’m reading Content Strategy for the Web, and the web writer job description is intimidating! The quote that stuck with me talks about the Web Writers Real Job: problem solvers who write well.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Web Design>Writing>Content Strategy


Corporate Collaborative Authoring

The idea of a Book Sprint is that you can get lots of documentation written in a focused amount of time with the right team and some amount of content already in place. Gathering people in the same room when possible is extremely helpful and motivating as well.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Agile>Documentation


Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Reading List

Here’s a reading list for DITA materials when you’re just getting started. I’ve been fielding some questions via email and IM about DITA lately, and pulled this blog post out of my drafts. I hope it’s helpful.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2008). Articles>Bibliographies>XML>DITA


DITA and Wiki Combo

What are your thoughts on whether wikis could be used for end-user technical documentation? I'd imagine that a more structured wiki based on DITA content (which may have already been created for end-users) might work well for technical documentation. Have you seen any good examples? I'd love to see a well-done example.

Gentle, Anne. BMC Software (2008). Articles>Content Management>Wikis>DITA


DITA for Publishers with Eliot Kimber

DITA enables iterative design and development – when you come across something more sophisticated than the “norm” you just keep adding features – and interchange is always ensured.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Interviews>Publishing>DITA


Documenting Open Source Software

I love reading different community perceptions of both FLOSS Manuals, where we write open docs for open software. I’m also lurking on mailing lists and forums where open source projects are figuring out documentation needs for their users. Forgive me if I ramble a bit, but I’ve been thinking about these concepts lately while discussing them with other writers.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Open Source


Email Feedback Mechanisms for Online Help

Email has become a universal conversation mechanism for business to business notification, customer to business communication, you name it. If you’re not doing so already, you can add email links so that readers can send emailed feedback to your technical documentation team. With advanced mailto markup you can automatically enter a subject line, indicate who the email will go to, as well as enter courtesy copies and blind courtesy copies to additional people. Your inbox should not be overwhelmed with feedback emails, but a link should give customers the feeling that their comments are collected and concerns addressed. This is conversational documentation at its simplest.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Documentation>Help>Email


Embracing the Un: When the Community Runs the Event   (PDF)   (members only)

With the explosion of Web 2.0 come two new kinds of community events: BarCamps and BookSprints. Gentle and Swisher share their experiences with these unconferences.

Gentle, Anne and Janet Swisher. Intercom (2009). Articles>TC>Community Building>Social Networking


Exploring Information Design and Development

Known to write a script or two to automate repetitive tasks like help builds, she also likes to write posts about XML-based information models like Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). She often experiments with online help technology, enjoys writing blog entries, and wants to find new ways to use communication to help people understand technical solutions to complex problems.

Gentle, Anne. BMC Software (2007). Resources>Information Design>Documentation>Blogs


Focused Communities

Community purposes vary as widely as the people who comprise a community. You know that participants on Twitter Moms are not the same people as those hanging out on Dad Labs community, instinctively. But what are some of the factors that differentiate communities?

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Social Networking>Community Building>Online


Getting Started with DITA

A brief overview for a couple of fellow Austin writers who have asked me recently how and where to get started with DITA.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2007). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


Going into Listening Phase

I’m going into a listening phase for a client, where I observe their customers and partners habits online. I thought I’d write up some of my techniques.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Interviewing>Advice


How to Substitute Your Custom CSS When Using DITA Open Toolkit Transforms

When you want to use the DITA Open Toolkit transforms but you want to use your own CSS, here's how to substitute your CSS for HTML Help (CHM).

Gentle, Anne. BMC Software (2009). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA



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