In July, in a sharp break from tradition, the Army began encouraging its personnel — from the privates to the generals — to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of the field manuals that give instructions on all aspects of Army life. The program uses the same software behind the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and could potentially lead to hundreds of Army guides being “wikified.” The goal, say the officers behind the effort, is to tap more experience and advice from battle-tested soldiers rather than relying on the specialists within the Army’s array of colleges and research centers who have traditionally written the manuals.
If you need the collaborative aspects of a Wiki combined with DITA's modular topics and publishing capabilities, then DAISY might just be the system you need--and it's free. DAISY provides WYSIWYG editing for Wiki pages that can be combined to publish books, either in a PDF or as a single HTML page.
Recently I’ve been working on a simple calendar project that uses a wiki for documentation. Although I’ve heard a lot about using wikis for documentation, and have even used them in the past, I ran into a few surprises this time.
As wikis mature, we’re using them for more complex business cases such as technical documentation, business analysis and project management. It’s becoming more and more interesting, if not essential, for wikis to support the import and export of content to and from other formats. Most wikis allow you to convert their pages at least to PDF and HTML. But what of other formats, and what about tools for getting content into wikis as well as out of them?
If we can solicit user participation in a Web 2.0 knowledge community (a volunter wiki documentation, for example), we might have a powerful means for creating high quality content. But how should this process work?
A question that technical communicators frequently ask about wikis is "How do I get the documentation out of a wiki?" A simple answer: "Don’t worry about it." Because the wiki is the delivery method.
Previously I thought wikis might be limiting because the formatting options seemed so primitive--either bullets or numbers or headings, and not much else. Now I realize that I have so much to learn. I’m only on stair three of about a hundred stairs.
Is it possible to use a wiki for technical documentation? Yes, most definitely. I started working on a wiki two years ago, with no prior experience of wikis (apart from the occasional encounter with Wikipedia) but with plentiful experience of technical writing. I’ve learned a lot and I’d like to pass on some tips to you too.
A wiki can be a Frequently Asked Questions repository, much like the knowledge bases in their heyday in the late 80s. My favorite line from the blog entry has to be its closer: 'It's about a different way of thinking around how to interact with the community.' And that is what I have explored with my wiki presentation, about how to build community with a wiki and be an active member of that community. But what are other uses of the wiki?
While the effort to provide more interactivity and power to the end-user seems to suggest that we open up a wiki to allow them to add and edit content, the basic idea of a set of edited documentation is now challenged with a social network of participating customers, all of whom may now edit, add, and delete content. How social can you go? This article is an attempt to look at the process of evaluating the use of a wiki for end-user documentation, if such a thing can exist. Are the two types of customer content — wikis and end-user documentation — mutually exclusive?