One of the reasons I believe wikis are the future of documentation is their ability to be collaborative. But what does collaboration mean in technical documentation and for technical writers?
At a basic level it's simply the ability for several people to work together on one document or set of documents.
Ok, that's not exclusive territory, there's plenty of tools out there that will do that. But in my opion there is a big difference between those sorts of systems and a wiki. The collaborative advantage wikis have I'm talking about is that people are more likely to contribute new documentation and ideas.
For example, in the last few weeks we've had new user documentation added by both the development dept and consultants. In fact the content from the consultants started out as a 90 page Word doc which they then re-wrote for the wiki. That's right 90 pages of free, at-the-coal-face technical writing that I would have done, as a lone technical writer, 'some time in the future.' Which means at any time in the future, or not at all.
Another example are the minor updates the Support dept frequently makes to the user information. They not only update the content but expand it as well. Which helps our clients and internal users alike.
This 'many hand makes light work' approach brings several benefits to both the company and clients, for instance:
- The quality of client facing info is improving all the time.
- As the technical author, I can focus on writing new development etc.
- Staff feel empowered to make changes and suggest ideas.
On a more global scale, in a multi-national company such as ours, exposing all our docs internally means our offices around the world can see what the other are producing. This has helped us to see where we can make improvements and to unify both our processes and the look of all our documentation.
So using a wiki has not only helped remove data silos, but because people feel empowered, they are motivated to both suggest new ideas and to improve quality.
All these things provide a much more positive and collaborative mindset which benefits colleagues, the employer and clients. It's a win win win situation, which is not something you can say about a lot of other systems is it?