GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkA Constructive Idea For The IBM Lotus Wiki-cum-Redbooks
08:31:34 PM

Since my response to Volker's post about the questions raised about the Lotus RedBooks during the Meet The Developers session at Lotusphere elicited an "ouch!" response, I feel that I should follow up a bit. Note that I truly do hope that the "ouch!" was caused by the sting of sincere truth, more than by the fact that my words were sharply critical; but however they were taken, I don't feel obligated to soften my position. I do, however, believe in being constructive when I can, and since my key point was the "lack of evidence that there is actually going to be a timely and effective way forward", I think it appropriate to offer some suggestions about what I think would be effective..


To recap the issue: Lotus used to sponsor RedBook projects, in which a team of customers, business partners and IBM employees would come together and produce a book-length work that presents a deep-dive tutorial on some aspect of a Lotus product release. The end product is a free downloadable PDF, also available as a real printed book, and frequently also available on a collection CD at Lotusphere. The strength of the RedBook process is that there is a goal, a sponsor, and a team that brings together top-notch technical talent and some writing skills, along with professional project managers and editors supplied by IBM. IBM also provides access to systems, software and tools, and (limited) access to the true subject matter experts in the engineering group.


The problem with RedBooks is that the process is time-consuming and somewhat expensive, so not enough RedBook projects get done and the ones that get done may not be timely, and because of this Lotus has decided to stop producing RedBooks. Instead, a community-based information publishing process will be rolled out, via a set of wikis, as a substitute.


My criticism was of the fact that very little information has been given about how IBM intends to give this new process the same strengths as the old RedBook process, or to provide new strengths that exceed the old process. I also criticized the incongruous fact that while timeliness of information delivery is a major stated goal behind this change, no time-line for getting the new process up and running had been given


So, let's get constructive!


Content is king. A goal for the content is queen. The best way to kick-start this new community process will be to give it an initial dose of content, and to set a goal for building on and improving that content. So, my suggestion is to start with past RedBooks, and set a goal of bringing them up to date -- and more!


To begin, import the old RedBooks into a wiki. In any given subject areas, use the most recent RedBook -- even if it is several releases old and out of date. The point here is that they will be brought up to date.


Break each RedBook up by chapter, section and subsection into wiki pages, construct indexes and set up previous/next page links. Pay a couple of temps to do the job if necessary. Label every page with a banner that says:


This content may be out of date for Notes and Domino 8. Please click here to find out how to join our community process for bringing it up to date.


... Or something like that.


Then do a basic wikification pass over it. Turn every single Notes/Domino technical term into a link, and every single reference to a feature, to an option, or to a setting. And create stub pages (with appropriate banners) for each and every one of these links. Doing this will result, eventually, in the best of both worlds: development of sorely needed up-to-date narrative and tutorial content and comprehensive complementary reference content. Of course, standards for these reference pages will be needed, so that they are consistent, so that they will have working links to the relevant formal on-line documentation, etc.


Then, bring on the community! For each of these imported RedBooks, assign a Lotus sponsor/coordinator to recruit a team from the community and have them make and document (inside the wiki!) a plan for updating the content and moving it forward. Let each of these teams recruit additional writer/editors/reviewers from the community, split up the work on chapters and sections as needed, and track (within the wiki!) their own progress.


Finally, give the community the ability to submit plans for developing whole new areas of content, and establish a process for lining up internal sponsors and bringing on new new teams to start branching out the content into areas that have never been covered by a RedBook before.

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Comments :v

1. Ben Langhinrichs01/28/2008 11:08:58 PM
Homepage: http://www.GeniiSoft.com/showcase.nsf/GeniiBlog


An excellent idea! I don't know whether it could work exactly as described, but it would be a good way to seed the process. I'd gladly donate my Midas product for contextual linking, which would make such issues as creating the reference links and stubs easier. I hope that the IBM reads this and thinks hard about this suggestion, as it might be one way to get the ball rolling in the right direction.




2. Richard Schwartz01/29/2008 12:46:15 AM
Homepage: http://www.rhs.com/poweroftheschwartz


Thanks, Ben. And BTW: I should add that anyone else with a constructive suggestion related to this (similar to, complementary to, or completely different from my own suggestion) is more than welcome to post it here.




3. Mick Moignard01/29/2008 07:45:08 AM
Homepage: http://www.mickmoignard.com


I really like this idea, of breaking up existing content into small self-contexualized pieces, importing that content and then wikifying it. I'd suggest that there's a product in this, too. I have the issue that the project I'm on has documentation everywhere, in all sorts of uncoordinated places - Notes databases, shared drives, all sorts of horrid things. I'd already started exploring wikifying this stuff with Ben's wiki over at www.openntf.org, but some sort of organised and maybe scripted crunch and import process would be pretty cool and very useful. If I had the time, I'd think about doing itmyself, but in the meantime.....




4. Richard Schwartz01/30/2008 08:44:41 PM
Homepage: http://www.rhs.com/poweroftheschwartz


Thanks to Volker (http://vowe.net/archives/009148.html) it's apparent that parts of IBM have already adopted a model similar to what I've described!




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