I've been working as a technical author for about 15 years, mainly in software but I've also worked in other areas such as hardware and OM document sets. My current role is with a British software house working in trading and risk management.
Three years ago we started using a wiki for all our client documentation as well as our intranet. Last year we acquired two other companies, both of whom used Confluence. After comparing the two systems we were using, we decided to use Confluence throughout the entire organisation. That done, we migrated our original wiki along with the two other Confluence instances into one brand new one. A great deal of thanks for the success of this project have to go to Clearvision, an Atlassian partner, who organised and oversaw the whole operation.
I firmly believe that Confluence is the way forward for technical documentation, and, having used wiki technology for three years now, I believe I have the
experience and knowledge to back this up. I intend to do this in the coming months as I describe and share my experiences and insights gained.
But First, This!
Last Monday, the 12th March, I attended Atlassian's Unite conference in London. This not only gave me first hand access to various Atlassians, including Mike
Cannon-Brookes (co-founder and CEO) but also to a huge number of people who are connected to Atlassian. They are connected because they are users like me, or are Atlassian partners. For example, Clearvision and Adaptavist.
The morning kicked off with a talk by Mike Cannon-Brookes that covered everything from it being Atlassian's 10th birthday (almost) to sending out their very first invoice, to where their tools are now and where they are heading. After that we got further insights from other Atlassians into Confluence and JIRA, which in my eyes are the core Atlassian products. What I really enjoyed about all this was the refreshingly straightforward way the company presents itself. It might be that they put their best face forward, but there is no BS here - something a lot of other businesses would do well to emulate.
Lunch looked excellent but I forsook the very long queue for it for a small salad. On the upside I managed to get myself a place at Mike's table (Atlassian had several tables manned by staff who were there to spit out advice and information between mouthfulls of lunch). Our conversation ranged from the enormous size of Australia, to the un-helpfullness of the weather, to promoting the use of Atlassian products to colleagues and senior management. It was refreshing to hear a CEO straight-talking instead of spinning and weaving.
The afternoon continued with a couple more talks about JIRA and building the Atlassian community in the UK, featured demos from a variety of clients that covered how they used Atlassian's products in their production systems, and gave insights into how they promoted the use of the technology to staff. This is something I'm keen to know more about as part of my role is to be the wiki evangelist, and although most people see the benefits as soon as they start using the software, there are a few you have to use velvet thumbscrews on.
Also, you might expect these talks to be primarily from software and technology businesses, which is true, but in fact manufacturing industries also use Atlassian's products. For example, we were treated to a lively talk from the world's second largest pump manufacturer in the shape of Ole Kristensen, the lead consultant at Grundfos.
The day ended with everyone hot-footing it to a nearby bar for refreshments and even more conversation, free food and business card collecting. Which demonstrates another thing Atlassian is very good at: community building - which is almost the primary function of all their products. Obviously, on such an occasion, you can't talk to everybody, but you can target a few people and build more personal relationships with them. For instance, I built on my existing relationship with Clearvision and various members of Atlassian's support teams, and launched a new one with Adaptavist. This resulted in getting
some very heplful insights into using their Community Bubbles plugin, (which we're using to build our client forum) plus the promise of some free support when I start setting it up.
All in all it was an excellent day and money well spent: I went home full of useful information, fired up with the knowledge I'd gained, and very pleased with the opportunities for various collaborations that had arrisen during the day and evening.
Now all I have to do is write up my nine pages of notes for my management report, fill in my expenses claim, and get the forum set up and working: life as a
technical author will never be dull again.
And Now For Something Completely Different
As of next week, my blog will focus more on how I use Confluence for technical writing and related matters. This means promoting the wiki and its usage to colleagues, technological issues, developing the wiki (structurally and functionally) support issues etc etc. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and ideas.