Dojo Masters - Collaborative Writing in Distributed Teams
John Hedtke, DoubleTallConsulting
4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 1
John Hedtke has worked in high tech for
over 30 years and has written documentation
and books for many leading software
products. John owns and operates Double Tall
Consulting, a company that provides writing,
consulting, and training services to private
and government clients in all fields. He also
runs a blog for people who want to become
authors at http://tradebookauthor.com.
When not otherwise occupied, John plays
the banjo, writes magazine articles, and
writes slogans for a button company. John is a
Fellow of the Society for Technical
Communication and serves on the STC’s
What this presentation covers
• Why you should collaborate
• Why you shouldn’t collaborate
• How to collaborate successfully
• Tools and resources
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 3
Why you should collaborate
• You need an entry point.
• You don’t have the expertise.
• You’ll learn something watching your
• You don’t have the time.
• You don’t have the energy.
• The boss says so!
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 4
Why you shouldn’t collaborate
• If you could do it just as well yourself.
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 5
For whatever reason, you’re going to collaborate on a project.
Here’s how to do it without friction.
4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 6
Plan the work
• Build a comprehensive documentation plan!
– Scope and purpose
– Project description and list of deliverables
– Detailed outline
• Use a strong documentation plan format. You
can download a doc plan template here:
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 7
Assign the work
• Attach someone’s name to every task.
– Content sections in the outline
– Creating online help
– …and so on
• Tasks don’t have to be sequential.
• Make sure every task is covered!
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 8
Do the work
• Get writing!
• Have regular meetings to report progress to
• Keep copies of everything.
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 9
Collaborating can lead to incredible friction even under the best
of circumstances. Here are some tips on how to avoid on-the-job
4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 10
Mind your boundaries
• Boundary violations are the single biggest
• Don’t get frisky!
– If you think you can do something better, discuss it.
– Don’t be a cowboy.
• Don’t be surprised if someone else gets frisky.
– Work it out.
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 11
Identify a decision-making process
• Figure out who makes final decisions.
• Resolve as many issues up front as possible.
• Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
• Play nice!
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 12
• Announce changes to one and all.
– Group emails
• Be excruciatingly clear.
• Don’t be afraid to swap assignments, but
make sure it’s okay with everyone first.
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 13
Tools and resources
Here are suggestions for a few tools and resources that will help
4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 14
Tools for collaborating
• A chat client (even if you’re all together).
– Skype is my fave but there are dozens of others
• Reliable email.
• Safe file-sharing.
– Versioning software (such as Perforce)
– Don’t use Google fileshare or DropBox
• Use the same software throughout.
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 15
Resources for collaborating
• Documentation plan template and info are at
• Book: “Managing Virtual Teams”
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 16
We’re about done. Here are your takeaways.
4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 17
Key points to remember
• Plan what you’re going to do.
• Don’t get frisky.
• Keep in touch with each other.
• Play nice.
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 18
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 20
Double Tall Consulting
2171 Kingfisher Way
Eugene, OR USA 97401
Feel free to email or write if
you have questions.