Herding kitty bits...managing a dispersed document collection

Subject: Herding kitty bits...managing a dispersed document collection
From: mmcgraw -at- qualcomm -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 17:49:37 -0700

My technical pubs group has been given the task of replacing an existing
document management system. The tool we're looking for seems to be
different from other doc/content management systems discussed in posts
that I've found in the TECHWR-L archives.

Let me briefly explain our current system.

The documents we "manage" through our current system are created by tech
writers, engineers, department support folks, vendors, and customers. And
they're dispersed in a very large networked UNIX system. Some are grouped
in Tech Pubs' folders, but many others are tucked away close to the
systems or datasets they describe.

Our current document management tool is available only to our UNIX users.
It's really a collection of links that point to probably a thousand
documents of various types (PDFs; Frame, Interleaf, and text docs; HTML
pages; and even some Bristol HyperHelp docs). Our "tool" is a single-page
FrameMaker file that makes use of reference page flows and Frame's ability
to use various kinds of hyperlinks. The result is a series of 3-level
pull-right menus with links at any level able to start Acrobat or Netscape
and to display the desired documents.

Our current doc management tool has several limitations that we'd like to
1) Because the "tool" is a FrameMaker file, it's only visible to UNIX
users through FrameViewer. For PC users we'd have to buy copies of
Frame--an impossible task given the number of users.

2) The current tool has no search capability. Users must either know where
to find the link to a document they want, or they have to 'hunt and peck'
through the many pulldown menus to find what they want.

3) The tool is very awkward to update. We have to directly edit the ref
page flows to add, remove, or change a link.

4) Access control is a problem. Security is based on UNIX "permissions"
when we'd like more control over who gets to see links and documents.

5) User tracking is entirely absent. It would be useful to track who views
a document and when docs are viewed both for security and to discover
documents that are no longer useful.

We'd like to find a tool that:
1) Fixes all the above limitations and:
a) Is available to both UNIX and PC users.
b) Provides search, at least of the link name text.
c) Makes updates and changes very easy.
d) Provides better access control to documents (and links if possible).
e) Provides user tracking.

2) Is an existing Web-based tool.

3) Can run as a "gadget" inside our new division portal--that is,
individual users can have the document system available right on their Web
home page. Next best option would be a Web-based tool that users can
launch or log into.

We realize that whatever we do, many or most of our legacy documents will
require some conversion to a format viewable on both UNIX and PC platforms
(i.e., not FrameMaker, not HyperHelp).

Many thanks to anyone who can provide a suggestion or pointer to a tool
that meets at least some of these requirements. If you know of another
discussion group that might provide some help (such as a web tools group)
that information will be very welcome too.

Oh, and about the "kitty bits"...people often say that managing technical
writers is like trying to herd cats. So if the cats create lots of little

Please direct replies to mmcgraw -at- qualcomm -dot- com -dot-

Mike McGraw
Staff Technical Writer
San Diego, California


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