Collaboration And The Social Web


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Collaborative authoring tools about with wikis leading the way. Describes the FLOSS Manuals toolset, including book sprints.

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  • Author of the book, Conversation and Community: The Social Web for DocumentationI’ve had a lot of interesting collaborative authoring experiences plus I’m embedded on an Agile team and I’d like to share.Michael Cote challenged me to find good end user doc wiki
  • TaggingThe collective set of tags is known as a folksonomy - a taxonomy created by everyday folks. Where taxonomies are strict and rigid, a folksonomy is flexible and allows for any term. Both are powerful. clouds are a visual method of displaying tags that are used most often. Tag clouds use a larger font size or bold to indicate which terms are used for more content. Or, alternatively, some tag clouds could show the most popular terms based on recency of that tag being used.
  • Have you already implemented an online help system with dynamic updates, or are you still tied to software release schedule? As customers become more accustomed to the immediacy of blog updates, they may increasingly expect updated content more often. Stupid RSS tricksFind out the "Buzz" on blogosphere with RSS – aggregation of information is crucial for this goalGet updates to classified ads based on a search or a category (example: craigslist)Follow group conversations (example: Yahoo Groups, which offers RSS feeds for conversations)Package tracking (example: ebay resellers say this is a useful tool)Product newsletters (again, RSS as an email alternative, still requires customers to opt-in, but they can choose not to be notified via email)Calendars to get RSS notification for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.Higher education (notification for course information)Create specialized searches with RSS notification for competitive intelligence and other specialized informationSearch for job leads on with RSS notification – has this feed running in the sidebar
  • Let’s talk about the vocabulary you can build up for social networking technologies. Some of this will be a review for some of you.
  • These are the classics of collaboration. Follow the rules. Be on time. Be professional. Share.Offer candy or chocolate.Interesting side note – more submissions to STC Intercom about “how to get info from SMEs” than any other unsolicited article topic. We know how to do this part.Exercise – design a transportation deviceTransport people between 1 and 10 miles per hourStop on demand Carry at least one person Restrain at least one person (so they don’t fall out) Look nice Now imagine if I told you: Work alone! Don’t look at your neighbor’s paper! No collaboration! No talking! You’d each have a nice drawing at the end of a five minute period.Now, if I had you gather back together into workgroups, and you took the braking system from one design, the propulsion system from another design, and the restraints and aesthetics from another design, what would you get?
  • Agile development practices –Communication tools borrowed from the gaming industry offers voice interaction Video conferences Creating “ball points” example – went from 1 “ball point” to 5 to 50 due to iterations and learning from experience plus being willing to experimentDefine crowdsourcing: delegating a task to a large diffuse group, usually without monetary compensationIterations involve retrospectives – what went well? What would you change?(photo is a Bog oak floor in Denmark)What are some of these collaborative tools? Wikis are one. Other methods involve getting to know each other and your readers.Social bookmarking – show WordleSocial networking - Facebook, LinkedIn (search LinkedIn for your product’s name)
  • Communities gather around a concept or common goal not around a collection of content (although content does plays a major role, it is not the impetus for the community).What is a wiki? Let’s explore them over the next few slides.
  • Wiki is a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked (often databased) Web pages.Based on permissions, users can edit pagesBasic code is either wikitext (ascii based markup language) or HTML code - A wiki allows a group of people to collaboratively develop a Web site with no knowledge of HTML or other markup languages. Anyone can add to or edit pages Not just Wikipedia, your enterprise wiki is not Wikipedia
  • Enables simultaneous editsGive customer a voice and view pointLiving, breathing, changing documentation
  • Crowdsourcing is the term for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call. Twitter mosaic -
  • eBay wiki, now defunct, originally said their goal is to reduce support phone callsOpen source wants open documentation Apache wiki, One Laptop per Child wiki, FLOSS Manuals free documentation for free software
  • from Wiki for DummiesDon’t go on wiki suicide missionsWikis don’t have magical powers. They cannot create camaraderie where none exists, nor can they streamline an out-of-control operation. They are not powerful information magnets, nor will they make your team better writers, more organized, or more intelligent. In short, without a strong guiding hand, wikis are useless.starting a wiki was in reality just a procrastination attempt—put off the real work of collaborating and cooperating with each other by distracting yourself with wiki engine research and selection and installation
  • We’ll explore these four over the next few slides.
  • What will your customers receive in return for their contribution?Borrow a point system from your customer support forums, perhaps?Points can be traded in for t-shirts or registrations to user group meetings or conferences. -
  • Attachment to a group and belongingTara Hunt’s book, The Whuffie Factor, talks about ways to inject happiness into your applications. A sense of belonging makes people happy.
  • EfficacyReciprocityReciprocityReputationReputation
  • First and foremost: Build a sense of communityAdaptations on a theme - comments, wikislices, internal wikisOnline forumsFeedback from customers always looping to your source filesListen: for product name, search for product name Infoslicer at
  • OLPC chose a wiki as an open source solution to offering information to developer volunteers initially, but end-users also need documentation in their wiki.Mediawiki and Floss Manuals, which runs on contains all information about the XO laptop, but FLOSS Manuals contains targeted information for certain audiences. The structured nature of the wiki would let us re-use content for different audiences such as kids, parents, school admins, or teachers.Since they started with it from the beginning, the only changes I observed were my own learning and building of mental models for the use of wikis for information storage.Looking at, which patterns or anti-patterns are in place? The Invitation pattern is a nicely done people pattern. They also have a nice Starting point on the OLPC wiki. And Welcoming is definitely a part of their best practices, even though it’s very difficult for them to keep up with the interest in volunteering.Have you done anything to encourage one pattern or squash out an anti-pattern?I know there have been acts of Vandalism on people’s talk pages, but those just get reversed immediately by a very on-their-toes administrator. I guess the act was in retaliation for an answer someone gave in an FAQ. I also see a little bit of ThreadMess going on with some development-oriented pages.
  • The original Book Sprint was invented by Tomas Krag, who wanted to get his friends together to write a book for wireless networking in the developing world. He thought he’d buy a stack of plane tickets, get everyone together to figure out the book’s outline, then send everyone home to write. What was unexpected is how much they got done just while in the same room together.
  • Twitter status updates can also update your Facebook statusHash tags build Twemes – Twitter themes at Now that is fully featured, hash tags are searchable.You could use an RSS feed subscription to publish microcontent on another online help system – tips and tricks.
  • Collaboration And The Social Web

    1. 1. Collaboration and the Power of the Social Web<br />Anne Gentle<br />Willamette Valley STC chapter <br />October 2009<br />
    2. 2. My Story<br />Senior technical writer at ASI<br />Blogger at Just Write Click Started researching wikis at BMC Software Working on the FLOSS Manuals wiki and community<br />
    3. 3. Tagging<br />folksonomy, taxonomy, tag clouds, social bookmarking<br />Examples:,<br />
    4. 4. Syndicated content<br />podcast, blog, weblog, vlog, video log, RSS, subscription, feeds, aggregation, news<br />
    5. 5. Shared content<br />Blogs, community content, user-based content, user-generated, publishing, participatory media, screencasts<br />
    6. 6. User -generated, Community-generated, Company-generated<br />In my eighties, my best friends are in their fifties, and I have many friends at university. It keeps one young, and up with the vocabulary. That’s terribly important, especially for a writer. <br />. MaryWesley<br />
    7. 7. Information Sharing<br />Co-location, email, IM, interviewing<br />The classics of collaboration. Follow the rules. Be on time. Be professional. Share. <br />Photo courtesy<br />
    8. 8. Cooperating<br />Agile development practices : iterations involve retrospectives – what went well? What would you change?<br />Crowdsourcing<br />Computer supported (social web enabled) <br />Photo courtesy<br />
    9. 9. Community<br />Photo by Anne Gentle<br />wiki, user-based content, crowdsourcing, comments, discussion<br />
    10. 10. What’s a wiki?<br />Created in 1995 <br />Makes web pages quickly<br />Cross-platform, cross-browser<br />Photo courtesy<br />
    11. 11. Wiki growth<br />Enables simultaneous edits<br />Give customer a voice and view point<br />Living, breathing, changing documentation<br />Photo courtesy<br />
    12. 12. Collaboration benefits<br />Encourage crowdsourcing <br />Scalability  goes up and up<br />Offer online identity <br />Photo mosaic created with <br />
    13. 13. Wiki matching<br />Return on investment by reducing customer support calls<br />Sometimes a customer forum isn&apos;t enough<br />Open source products often use wikis <br />Photo courtesy<br />
    14. 14. What a wiki can’t do<br />Don’t go on wiki suicide missions (Wiki for Dummies)<br />Don’t put off collaborating with wiki engine research<br />Photo courtesy<br />
    15. 15. Motivating community contributions<br />Reputation<br />Reciprocity<br />Attachment<br />Efficiency<br />Photo courtesy<br />
    16. 16. Reputation<br />Will your customers appear expert in your product if they contribute to your wiki? This type of motivation is especially important to consultants. Make their contributions shine so that they will return with more scenarios.<br />
    17. 17. Reciprocity<br />What will customers receive in return?<br />Can you borrow a point system?<br />BMC Developer Network example: points can be traded in for t-shirts<br />
    18. 18. Attachment, belonging<br />How will customers feel part of your team or part of your support team, if that motivates him or her?Association with a cause -<br />Photo courtesy<br />
    19. 19. Increased sense of efficacy<br />How will customers save time or money by contributing to your wiki? Consider a knowledgeable expert who feels she answers the same question via email over and over again.<br /><br />
    20. 20. Test yourselves – Which motivation is in play?<br />I like to see which online forums have the quickest response times to questions.<br />I help out on the message boards because I know I’ll have a question that I won’t be able to answer, and I will get help when I need it.<br />When I was new to this technology or tool, someone helped me, so I want to help others who are just starting out. <br />I’d like to switch careers so I make sure my online answers are sharp and quick. <br />To promote and grow my consulting business, I’m learning more troubleshooting techniques by helping out with the scenarios that people bring to the community.<br />
    21. 21. Do you have to use a wiki? <br />First: listen. Then: participate, join a community<br />Feedback loops to your source files<br />Photo courtesy<br />
    22. 22. Wikislices<br />Adaptations on a theme - comments, ratings, wikislices, internal wikis, online forums<br />
    23. 23. FLOSS Manuals wiki<br />Why did you choose a wiki? <br />What type of wiki are you using? <br />How are you using the wiki? <br />What changes have you seen as a result of using the wiki? <br />
    24. 24. Book Sprint<br />FLOSS Manuals wiki and community<br />OLPC and Sugar Labs<br />Firefox and more<br />Photo by Anne Gentle<br />
    25. 25. Nov08: <br />Internet Censorship, upstate NY<br />Mar09: <br />Firefox,<br />DocTrain West,<br />Palm Springs CA<br />Apr09:<br />PureData,<br />NYC & Berlin<br />July08: Inkscape, Paris<br />Feb09: <br />Digital Foundations, NYC<br />Mar09: <br />Command Line,<br />FSF Annual Mtg,(Boston)<br />May09:<br />CiviCRM,<br />Truckee CA<br />Aug08: OLPC, Austin TX<br />FLOSS Manuals Book Sprints<br />Timeline courtesy Janet Swisher<br />Many lessons learned along the journey<br />See for a manual.<br />
    26. 26. Welcoming<br />Introduction<br />My Page<br />Sponsor<br />Naming conventions<br />Patron<br />Seed it<br />Acknowledge Goodness<br />Page Maintainer<br />Recognition<br />Barnraising<br />Patterns<br />
    27. 27. Best Practices<br />Establish a working draft area and a “published” area (or wiki) <br />Understand differences between community-generated and company-generated content<br />Write a wiki style guide<br />Give training on the wiki and a sandbox area<br />Maintain rules for arbitration<br />Offer original content, update content<br />Beware of spammers, and back up often<br />Join the community, be a genuine contributor<br />Recruit reviewers <br />Maintain categories <br />Watch recent changes<br />Expect small percentages of contributors and value them highly (90-9-1)<br />
    28. 28. Resources<br />Wiki tools research at<br />Wikipatterns website for adoption and people patterns<br />Meatball wiki<br />Anne Gentle’s podcasts on<br /> - technical writer at Confluence<br /> – wiki category<br />FLOSS Manuals at<br />
    29. 29. Discussion<br />Questions?<br /><br />Contact:<br />
    30. 30. Presence<br />Twitter, Pownce, BrightKite, poke, superpoke, status<br />
    31. 31. Future Collaboration<br />Google Wave<br />Agile-like doc sprints<br />Remix<br />