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.
Much documentation and training is delivered in one direction—the writer provides content, and the user consumes it. Perhaps this is one reason that technical communicators are looking for ways to create a conversation. It’s easier to address user problems when you can ask follow-up questions and get details. In a one-way delivery, you have to hope that what you provide will cover what’s needed. In a conversation, you can constantly get more information and react accordingly. Still, in an instant message, chat, or forum conversation, it can be hard to be clear.
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?