RE: Wiki as a final output of the documentation?

Subject: RE: Wiki as a final output of the documentation?
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Lech Rzedzicki" <xchaotic -at- gmail -dot- com>, "Techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2009 09:42:14 -0500


Lech Rzedzicki asked:
>
> I am likely to be tasked with updating and revising some
> documentation which
> is currently stored in a wiki in a chaotic form.
> My task would be be to improve on the structre, usability etc
> and I know
> exactly what to do to make it better.
> However, I fear, that if I keep the final output in a wiki,
> it will quickly
> deteriorate into it's old, chaotic and poor form.
> Instead, I would like to write up a set of tasks in DITA, structure it
> nicely and publish it on a web page.
> Should the documentation need updating (which would likely be
> very soon), I
> would want to trigger a defect in bug tracking/version
> control sstem that
> they use for software being documented.
> So my idea would be a more static HTML output from DITA
> rather than wiki,
> but what this means is a lot more complicated process than
> what is in place
> right now - i.e. just updating wiki.
>
> What are your thoughts on this, which is likely to better in
> the long run?

My thoughts are:

- Wikis are nifty
- Wikis can encourage a lot of participation from people who know the
subject
- Wikis allow nuggets of knowledge to be revised and dressed up for
language, structure, etc.

But

- Wikis can encourage a lot of participation from people who don't know
the subject as well as they think they do
- Wikis need a "final arbiter" or "final authority", and they need that
person (or designate) to be on top of the beast, constantly, to keep it
from sliding in undesired directions. In a restricted-access situation,
you don't have to worry about vandals, but there's still an element of
control that's required.

People stop participating if the model is to hold all
submissions/changes for approval, and then the approval is not swiftly
and reliably forthcoming.

You can try to minimize your supervision requirement by locking pages
when you think they've reached perfection, but too many such locked
pages begin to dissuade general participation from the people whose
participation you need.

A growing, evolving wiki is a job for the overseer, and likely the kind
of job where you don't get vacation - or you get a lot of catch-up work
whenever you return from any little departure.

Where does the buck stop?

- Kevin
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References:
Wiki as a final output of the documentation?: From: Lech Rzedzicki

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