Archive for the ‘Collaborative Authoring’ Category

Problems with Collaborative Authoring Projects

It should be pretty cut-and-dry to us what the benefits of collaborative authoring are (namely two things: 1) input from several different authors and 2) rapid production rates for content).  Every business that can afford them wants those benefits, but that’s just the point–costs shoot up when you move from single-source authoring to collaborative authoring.  On average costs jump from four figures to five.  That cost jump scares a lot of people, and even the well-to-do businesses are still stingy.  So far programmers and tech writers have tried handling the problem by producing free software (e.g. Mediawiki and Drupal).  You can find a quick list of programs and figures on Anne Gentle’s blog.

If you want to do some collaborative authoring, Mediawiki is probably your best bet.  It’s a name I’ve heard tossed around for a while now, and it seems to have Tom Johnson’s approval (maybe I should have asked first?  I know he’s using it right now  because he was assigned to do so for a given project, or conditions to that effect).  The big benefit is it’s free for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap; it’s capable of doing it’s share of work.

Single Source vs. Dynamic Source

I recently became aware of a conversation among technical writers: single vs. dynamic source.  Tom Johnson and Michael Hiatt cover the topic at length, and pretty soon a podcast of the two interviewing will exist.  My goal is to expose you to the discussion.

Single sourcing means you create all your content in one place (e.g. in Flare or RoboHelp), publish the finished product, and go back periodically to update it. That’s worked for a long time, but since the world changes, so do our methods.  Now that the world is so connected, something more along the lines of dynamic sourcing is possible.  I say “more along the lines of dynamic sourcing” because there isn’t a formal system for that quite yet.

Dynamic sourcing will take over because it makes it easier to address all of the issues that arise with any given program. The term, dynamic sourcing, means your finished product is always changing (and it’s always changing because anyone can contribute to it).  Instead of having one person discover all of the issues associated with the product, several people can contribute their ideas to better it.  In short, dynamic sourcing will take over because of the “two heads are better than one” principle.