Re: WordPress for Technical Documentation

Subject: Re: WordPress for Technical Documentation
From: jimmy -at- breck-mckye -dot- com
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2013 23:51:06 +0000

The Wordpress community and blogosphere in general is already very eager to give you the "pros" of Wordpress, so I won't bother. Instead, let me run through the "cons".

Firstly, Wordpress is not built for serving large amounts of traffic, or sites with a large volume of content. Being a PHP application, it can't exploit multithreading, which puts a low ceiling on its performance outside some rather specialized configurations. And being designed for blogging, WP is not built to index and efficiently traverse the large bodies of content that a tech comms team might put out. If you're expecting any kind of large-scale demand during the lifetime of your knowledge base, then Wordpress may be a poor solution.

Secondly, Wordpress' popularity makes sites using it a target of attackers, who run scripted automatons that roam the web in search of obvious WP hosts, then try to execute various known exploits in order to gain access to the site and modify its content for advertising purposes. Wordpress doesn't have to be a liability, but it must be updated religiously, even when updating breaks third-party add-ons.

Which brings us to the third drawback - the brittleness of plugins. Most of Wordpress' capability comes not from the software itself, but rather a rich ecosystem of independently authored add-ons that provide everything from e-commerce functionality to public Q&A forums. New plugins are introduced almost every day, but the quality and reliability of these add-ons can vary. Some add-ons only work with certain versions of Wordpress, and others can disrupt one another if poorly written. The barrier-to-entry for writing plugins is typically quite low (and there's no review process as such), so it's hard to trust the less common add-ons, and because most authors are hobbyists, they're free to abandon their plugins at a moments' notice. If you need something outside of WP's core capabilities to serve a business-critical requirement, then you are making yourself very vulnerable.

Fourthly, the more general weakness of Wordpress is that it just isn't built ground-up for technical communications. Features like structured authoring, author management, content curation, version control and translation management aren't supported out of the box and rely on hacky, trial-and-error plugin configuration. If these features are important to you, you may be better served by something built ground-up for your specific context.

In some ways, you might compare Wordpress to Microsoft Word. Yes, Word *can* do everything - from bake sale flyers to 400-page aerospace docs - but it's going to involve a lot of tugging, and there's only so hard you can pull before things start to tear.

On 2013-01-13 18:37, Bill Swallow wrote:

WordPress isn't just a blogging tool, as you noticed with all the add-ons.
It's primarily used as a blogging tool, but you can build any kind of a
site you want with it and manage it fairly easily. It's very easy to create
pages, turn blogging functions into Q&A or other documentation via nested
categories and smart tagging.

Here's a great post that hits many of the pros and cons for using WP for
tech docs:


http://enjoytechnicalwriting.com/2012/06/06/wordpress-as-technical-documentation-platform/


On Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 1:44 PM, John G <john -at- garisons -dot- com> wrote:

My company is very Cloud-based, Agile, forward looking and thinking, and
generally has a high cool factor. We have been using Frame and RoboHelp but
the time has come to shed the old tools and adopt new more responsive tools
for our documentation. We are integrating all of user support under
Zendesk, and our docs have to be able to co-exist with, if not be a part
of, the Zendesk world.

We've been looking at various tools and it looks as if we have two
finalists - Confluence and WordPress. Personally, I am leaning toward
WordPress as it seems to have lots and lots of add-ons, is widely used, and
will fit our distributed working environment.

The question I am sticking on is - can a blogging tool really handle a full
enterprise technical documentation department's needs? Just to throw in a
few more must haves, we translate into four languages, release frequently,
and cross-reference between applications.

Anyone out there using WordPress to do "real" technical documentation? If
so - what are the pros and cons?

Thanks in advance,

JG
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Writer Tip: Create 10 different outputs with Doc-To-Help -- including
Mobile and EPUB.

Read all about them: http://bit.ly/doc-to-help-10-outputs
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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--
Bill Swallow
Writing and Content Strategy Consultant
http://www.linkedin.com/in/techcommdood
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Writer Tip: Create 10 different outputs with Doc-To-Help -- including
Mobile and EPUB.

Read all about them: http://bit.ly/doc-to-help-10-outputs
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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online magazine at http://techwhirl.com

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public email archives @ http://techwr-l.com/archives
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Writer Tip: Create 10 different outputs with Doc-To-Help -- including Mobile and EPUB.

Read all about them: http://bit.ly/doc-to-help-10-outputs
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-
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