That Was The Week
Another fairly quiet wiki week as I've been doing on a lot of writing for the latest release, as well as preparing for the next using the info coming from the Agile meetings.

We're still inching towards 4.2: I think that should be with us this coming week. To that end I've been studying all the changes Atlassian have made and have set up a page listing the updates and who should be interested in what changes. 

I'm not trying to dictate to our users who can use what - in fact everyone can see the full list, so can look at what they want. What I've done is to suggest which departments the changes affect the most, and the updates that will be of most interest too them. In other words, to supply a level of focus so that people can see what's most important to them, rather than wading through a list playing spot-the-benefit. 

I find that making a person's ability to use Confluence easier is the best way to get them to become more active within the wiki.

While I was looking through the updates, I came across an enormous list of functions that are either already available in the current version, or will be with 4.2. 

Although I like to think of myself as a fairly experienced user, there's clearly a lot that I wasn't aware of. Which is great: now there's even more to play with. BTW, if you're reading this and you're my boss, I mean 'there's even more functionality that will help make me even more productive.'

This list is called the 'Full Features List 180 features.' And comes with this helpful advice: Get comfortable.

Tip of the Week
A brief look at one of Confluence's many functions.

Name: Status Macro
Available from: Insert/Other Macros

Have you seen the coloured Status macro that you can use to label a page's content? They come in four colours (grey, red, yellow and green) so you can use them to show an easy-to-see view of, for example, a task's status. You can add your own custom caption too. So you could use red to mean 'on hold', yellow for 'on going' and green to mean 'finished'.

You can also use them to help organise your tasks in your own way. For example, I might have finished a piece of writing that's been sent for review. To save me having to trawl all the words on a page looking for its current status, I could add a yellow label at the top of the page saying 'Sent for review'. Which means I'll be able to see the page's status almost as quickly as it can load.

I'm not sure if there's maximum number of characters you can use as I gave up counting at 100. That's not very practical as you can't use line breaks, which means it extends across the page without breaking.

Which isn't very handy, but I suspect that Atlassian didn't design it with that in mind.
That Was The Week
At the moment I'm involved in a lot of writing, both for our new release, which is for clients, and the Sprint releases, which are still internal. So I'm doing a lot less wiki work (boo hoo).  Or am I?

Well yes, there are (still) only so many hours in the day, but there's still plenty to do on both sides of my job. For example, we're still integrating the existing systems and users from the companies we recently aquired - which means investigating how we'll import data from another wiki and integrate Sharepoint, and discussing how all this is going to be achieved. Fortunately Confluence and Sharepoint can do this, though it's too big a topic to discuss here (and I've never done it) but you can find out everything you need to know here.

Living In Exciting Times
I've been having some great conversations with new colleagues about using the wiki to bring all our disperate documentation together, how to manage corporate standards, agreeing what these are, what kinds of docs are we creating, and who is producing the docs in the first place.

Although there's a mountain to climb on this front - and just identifying those who might be involved is a challenge - what I know is that there are more than a few people who see the value of using Confluence to share and collaborate. So I'm expecting to get much busier on the documentation management front over the coming months. 

Not only will the effort needed go on the docs themselves, a lot of energy will be spent on encouraging people to us the wiki. I won't pretend that take up isn't on the slow side at times, but once people begin to use it, once they see the advantages and benefits for themselves, then you find they (very quietly) become fans. 

To this end, I've set up a global docs space which all those involved in this area will use as the hub of all our activities and communications. The plan is to draw people in by getting them to use it without making a song and dance about it. Apart from using the wiki to keep all our thinking in one place, I'm also going to use it to eliminate using email by making sure we all use the Share and @mentions functionality. Just imagine: more results and less emails - bliss!

So watch this space - and feel free to offer advice!

Feet Up On The Desk Time
My copy of Sarah Maddox's book Confluence, Tech Comm and Chocolate, finally arrived yesterday. I've only glanced at it but it's stuffed with useful info. And given Sarah's experience as both a programmer and tech author, you can't go wrong buying this book if you're interested in using wikis and documentation. I'm just wondering about how much of my working day I can justify spending reading it.

Upgrade 4.2 Is Go!
Yes, we're just about to upgrade to 4.2 and I'm dead excited about that! It's full of great new features and improvements which are not only going to make my life as a tech writer easier, but also a lot more fun. I can't wait to get my hands on the new Editor and to see how the What's Popular voting buttons will enable us to improve our user content.

Another benefit of upgrading is, as mentioned in last week's blog, that we'll be able to link JIRA and Confluence. For me, this means better access to the info that I need for my documentation, but it will also benefit development and testing, because they'll have also have easier access to the same info. This means, for the first time, that we're all able to use the same info in one easy-to-find place. 

And just to make that even easier (have to stop using that word...) we'll all be able to use single sign-ons to access both systems. An additional bonus is the fact that we will be able to share the plugins that both JIRA and Confluence use between each other. This means you only have to have the plugin installed in one to be able to use it in the other - how neat is that?

Atlassian have also been busy working on the new Atlassian Marketplace, which, if I understand it properly, is pretty much a one-stop shop for all plugins. It should ensure that not only are plugins easy to find, but they will also be compatible with the latest version of Confluence. This means that when you upgrade in the future, you won't have to wait for the plugins you use to be upgraded too. Which cuts out a lot of hassle or not being able to use a plugin until it has also been upgraded and is compatible. And how neat is that?

That Was The Week That Was
Actually, two weeks owing to being laid low by both a persistent cold and toothache - not an ideal combination.

Confluence Calling JIRA
For those of you who don't know, JIRA is Atlassian's bug/development-tracking software. At the moment they are two seperate entities, but as of JIRA V5, we'll be able to link them. As I've only just started using JIRA, I'm not sure what all the advantageous will be, but the connectivity will definitley mean sharing information, which should benefit us technical writers. I assuming that we will be able to port data from JIRA into Confluence (and vice versa) which means we should have easy access to information that we can use as background materials and/or the basis of our writing.

If you're using both, you'll also be able to raise a JIRA issue straight from Confluence, which will speed up the process as you won't have to swap between programmes. Nice. It's this sort of thing that really sells Atlassian products to me, and it's something that a lot of other software houses could learn from. 

Although we're only trialling JIRA at the moment, I'm really looking forward to using it: I'm sure that joining the systems will benefit our documentation by opening up all sorts of information that wouldn't have been available to us in the past.

Why Atlassian is to Software as Apple is to Design
I've stolen this headline from an excellent article on Atlassian from the Forbes website. The article, written by Mark Fidelman, draws parallels with Atlassian's success with that other runaway phenomenon, Apple. As comparisons go, this is a pretty good achievement for a company that's only been in existance for ten years.

I think this is an excellent article for a number of reasons, one of these is the way it highlights the Atlassian attitude and mindset of nurturing both clients and staff. To quote the artcle:

"In business and in life, success breeds extraordinary performance and extraordinary performance breeds more success. Nothing demonstrates that more than Atlassian’s culture. With a 100% Glassdoor ranking, Co-CEOs Scott Farquh and Mike Cannon Brooks, have created an organizational culture that nurtures employees, customers and suppliers. And it’s paid off."

Personally speaking, having spent the last 38 years working for a wide variety of businesses, I think most of them would be transformed overnight if they adopted Atassian's methodology. Sadly, too many have little regard for their employees. In fact if they spent as much time nurturing their staff as they do looking after share-holders, they'd be surprised at how much motivation and production would rise. 

Unfortunately many workers feel disenfranchised and have little sense of ownership. It's amazing how little it would take to change this for the better.

What's this got to do with using Confluence I hear you ask? Everything. I love using Confluence because of the the thought and care Atlassian put into their software. And one of the  main reasons Confluence is so good, is because the people who put it together give a damn. And they give a damn because they know Atlassian gives a damn about them.