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Dojo Masters - Collaborative Writing in Distributed Teams

The powerpoints for a half-hour presentation on how to collaborate successfully. This presentation was based in part on my previous presentation and article, "Coauthoring without Homicide."

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Dojo Masters - Collaborative Writing in Distributed Teams

  1. 1. CollaborativeWriting in DistributedTeams John Hedtke, DoubleTallConsulting Fellow,Society forTechnicalCommunication 4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 1
  2. 2. Speaker Background 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 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 Nominating Committee.
  3. 3. What this presentation covers • Why you should collaborate • Why you shouldn’t collaborate • How to collaborate successfully • Tools and resources • Summary 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 3
  4. 4. Why you should collaborate • You need an entry point. • You don’t have the expertise. • You’ll learn something watching your teammates. • You don’t have the time. • You don’t have the energy. • The boss says so! 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 4
  5. 5. Why you shouldn’t collaborate • If you could do it just as well yourself. 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 5
  6. 6. Collaborating successfully 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
  7. 7. 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:!blank_d oc_plan.doc 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 7
  8. 8. Assign the work • Attach someone’s name to every task. – Content sections in the outline – Reviewing – Indexing – Creating online help – Releasing – …and so on • Tasks don’t have to be sequential. • Make sure every task is covered! 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 8
  9. 9. Do the work • Get writing! • Have regular meetings to report progress to each other. • Keep copies of everything. 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 9
  10. 10. Avoiding problems Collaborating can lead to incredible friction even under the best of circumstances. Here are some tips on how to avoid on-the-job mayhem. 4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 10
  11. 11. Mind your boundaries • Boundary violations are the single biggest problem. • 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
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. Negotiate changes • Announce changes to one and all. – Whiteboard – Group emails – Wiki • 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
  14. 14. Tools and resources Here are suggestions for a few tools and resources that will help you collaborate. 4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 14
  15. 15. 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. – FTP – 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
  16. 16. Resources for collaborating • Documentation plan template and info are at • Book: “Managing Virtual Teams” 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 16
  17. 17. Summary We’re about done. Here are your takeaways. 4/8/2014TC Dojo Open Session 17
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. Master Series: Questions Contact me at
  20. 20. Thank you! 4/8/2014 TC Dojo Master Session 20 John Hedtke Double Tall Consulting 2171 Kingfisher Way Eugene, OR USA 97401 Feel free to email or write if you have questions.