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Conversation and Community (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. Juli 2009


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Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation, 2nd Edition
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Amazon.com: 4.8 von 5 Sternen 4 Rezensionen
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A very timely book 4. August 2009
Von Jeffrey M. Osier - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Anne is a technical writer who has done a considerable amount of work with FLOSS Manuals in documenting the OLPC laptop, and is obviously well-versed in both open-source documentation and social media. The book is designed to give technical writers and other information developers an overview of the tools and techniques available now for documenting products and communicating with end-users through social media and other non-traditional methods.

As a technical writer and community manager, I am exactly the target market for this book, so it is no wonder that I think it is an excellent resource that is long overdue. What surprised me was the depth with which she covered her subjects, the extensive yet highly selective quality of references in the book, and the sheer number of strategies that I hadn't yet encountered even as a professional in this area.

The most important point Anne makes in the book is that documentation as we know it is changing dramatically. Practically all of the basic tenets of technical documentation are in question. Users depend far more often on advice from random strangers via mailing lists, community forums, and search engines than they do on the technical documentation that comes with the product. I have seen this to be true even for highly technical concepts and tools. This is not news to anyone who has ever used Google to find the answer to a technical question rather than looking in the docs, but it was fascinating to see that phenomenon addressed in such a way that my opinions of it were actually changed. Like many technical writers, I have a lingering fear that I will someday be obsolete and that my job of communicating technical issues to users of technology will be taken over by amateurs in ad-hoc communities. Anne gently reminds us that it is the quantity of information that is skyrocketing, not the quality, and that our jobs as technical communicators are more important than ever in making that information "findable", even if that means abandoning what we traditionally think of as documentation. What I took away from this aspect of the book was the overwhelming necessity to make human connections, even in technical documentation, an idea that resonates strongly with my own role as a community builder. Chapter 3 spells it out best as "Defining a Writer's Role with the Social Web".

The book catalogs the available tools and strategies from several different viewpoints based on documentation strategy---in other words, use cases---rather than simply providing an annotated list. Anne specifically points to references and in-the-trenches stories that underscore her points in a very effective way. The subject that brought me the most "aha!" moments was that of wikis. I use wikis on a daily basis, but there were certain aspects of them that I had overlooked. There were so many interesting references in all sections that I felt compelled to stop reading the book and follow them, which is not a criticism of the writing but rather of the sheer amount of information out there. The consistent, confident, professional tone kept me riveted to the book, but I am now going back over every page and following links.

I highly recommend this book to both technical communicators and those involved in social media and community. My copy is going straight to my boss' desk.
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent Guide to Community-Enhanced Product Documentation 10. August 2009
Von Stewart Mader - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
The major premise of this book is that expectations for documentation have shifted from bookshelf to search. This means your documentation is no longer the sole, authoritative source of information, and people won't go through it in your intended sequence.

Instead, you need to update frequently to stay at the top of search results, invite the community to interact with you and their peers, and use the results of that interaction to inform further development of the documentation.

The book includes a good reference guide to the major concepts and tools that technical writers might consider using. Anne's use of terms like syndicated content in place of more technically specific terms like RSS reinforces the theme of thinking abstractly about uses before getting caught up in the nuances and details of specific technologies.

Regarding wikis, examples in the book focus on public-facing sites like wikiHow, the World of Warcraft Wiki, Adobe Labs, Apache, and SugarCRM. This makes sense in the context of sharing documentation with a community, but it's also important to keep in mind that external audiences shouldn't always have the ability to directly edit the contents of wiki pages.

The commenting or threaded discussion capability on wiki pages can be a more useful means of interaction because it reduces the risk associated with making content editable by anyone, and it can focus peoples' interaction on asking questions, getting clarifications, and suggesting improvements.

The book spends a considerable amount of time defining the roles that technical writers can play in a community participating in the development of documentation. Anne suggests that there are two distinct roles for technical writers: Sage on the Stage (instigator of conversation), and Stagehand (enabler of conversation)

An instigator, she says, can spark activity by introducing a hotly debated topic or decision and soliciting feedback. Where the instigator draws out responses from the community, an enabler of conversation makes sure that enough information is available to community members so they can offer authoritative, informed responses to issues and questions raised by others.

Whether playing the role of instigator or enabler, Anne says technical writers must listen to the conversation to bring ideas, requests, and needs into the process of refining and updating documentation. These two factors - high quality information and a high level of discourse - establish the community as a worthwhile, useful place to interact, and encourage people to come back when they need new information.

This section of the book reminded me of ongoing conversations in higher education instructional design and educational technology circles about the shifting role of the college professor or teacher from "sage on the stage" to "guide at the side". Curriculum development and technical writing are certainly similar in that both aim to develop materials that teach people how to do something well, and both can benefit from involving the learner in the ongoing refinement and evolution of those materials.

The role for technical writers is expanding into one that can involve significant community interaction and management in addition to simple producing documentation. To be clear, not all technical writers will want to do this, and in large communities a dedicated community manager may be a better option. However, those technical writers that directly manage communities or work closely with community managers have an opportunity to tap into a rich resource.

An engaged community can guide the evolution of documentation into a resource that goes far beyond the traditional notion of bookshelf documentation or "guides for dummies". This is the era of guides for smart, discriminating, highly engaged people who place high value on information that they can both use and help to evolve. Conversation and Community is an excellent guide to making the most of this opportunity.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A clear view of the future of documentation 28. September 2009
Von Craig Haiss - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
When I heard this book was in production, I was excited. Anyone who writes documentation for a living has likely been asking the questions it addresses, and has wondered what roles will be available to technical writers as Web 2.0 becomes more pervasive and community-generated documents become widely available.

The author does a great job of getting readers up to speed on the technologies that are shaping the documentation industry. This initial material may be review for some, but you can always skip past it if you don't see any Web 2.0 tools that are unfamiliar. Next, the author demonstrates her experience and knowledge by asking exactly the questions writers need to consider when stepping into community-generated documentation. What roles can the writer play in such communities? How can a writer get involved in a community and provide authority without threatening the openness and non-corporate feel? How can writers assess whether their community efforts are having a positive impact?

Gentle provides insightful answers and detailed suggestions based on her experiences with FLOSS Manuals, corporate blogging, and other Web 2.0 endeavors. The tips she provides in the latter sections of the book are golden, and I plan on re-reading them a few times and sharing the ideas with others in my field.

As the barriers between writers and consumers fall and transparency becomes increasingly vital to the success of products, this book provides the guidance writers need to be successful. I consider it an investment in my career, and will highly recommend it to others.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Broad Overview of Tools and Best Practices 3. November 2009
Von Ryan Pollack - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Should you buy this book? If you're a technical writer (or technical writing manager) and have been wondering how wikis and other social media trends could impact your product's documentation (or vice versa!), yes. Anne walks you through the existing and emerging tools, technologies, best practices, and things to consider when you mash up the worlds of social media and product/technical documentation. It's a vast landscape which means there's a lot of information in here, so to fully digest it you might need to read the book twice. While helpful, the broad scope means you won't get a huge amount of detail on every subject. And the subjects on which you do get detail match up with Anne's experience (such as book sprints), which may or may not match up with your own needs. Thankfully, the text is peppered with external resources for further, more detailed reading.

But even at a high level, the book's sections serve as checklists of things you should think about when thinking about releasing documentation on social media platforms. This design means you can use the book to offer assurance to outside parties (managers, legal, marketing, R&D, etc) that you have a plan and aren't just jetting off into the wild blue yonder. Further, a lot of the tips can be applied to non-work, non-technical-writing situations, such as if you wanted to start a blog or join an existing online community. So with these additional use cases, the book's even more useful.

(This review was based on a copy provided by XML Press. Further, my blog is excerpted on pg. 130)
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