RE: MediaWiki Demo

Subject: RE: MediaWiki Demo
From: mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005 10:14:30 -0400

Jerry Muelver and Lou Quillio had a lot of good things to
say about using Wiki technology for collaborative development
of Customer docs, development docs, etc.

This sounds like a case of starting from scratch on a new
project. I recall my own transition (a couple of years ago)
from PDF/print documents authored in FrameMaker to Help
authored in RoboHelp. It took about three solid months
with lots of overtime to convert (mostly re-chunking and
re-thinking the organization and flow, and re-indexing) ]
plus some additional time to incorporate the changes for
the new release of the product. I didn't attempt to charge
any of the overtime because the changeover was mostly my idea
and I wanted to offer a fait-accompli.... i.e., it's always
easier to beg forgiveness afterward than to obtain permission

So, I was wondering if you lot have any tips on getting there
from here. "Here" for me is currently RoboHelp WebHelp.
It's controlled by me, with me chasing after developers,
project/product manglers and other people who have their
own priorities, and requirement-and-spec documents that
tend to be finalized just about the time that I'm wrapping
up my customer docs... in other words, the environment that
most high-tech techwriters work in. :-)

I'm interested in both the "physical" aspects of setting up
the Wiki -- would it be sufficient to just grab a 5-year-old
PC, stick it in my cube on a network drop, fire up the Wiki
engine and send out an e-mail? We don't have mySQL running
for any reason, in-house, so I don't think there's an
experienced mySQL dba. There are only really a dozen people
at this location and perhaps five or ten at remote locations who
would need to participate in the first Wiki-mediated documentation
attempt. (Other people and projects would be roped in later if
the first one went well.)

Or do I need to get IS/IT co-operation, perhaps real server space,
and other resources.

Is there any easy way to make existing html-based content
available in a Wiki (like a conversion/import versus taking
each of a couple of thousand pages one at a time and stuffing
it into a Wiki hierarchy roughly equivalent to the way it was
in the Help system)?

Once it had been massaged, beat-up, revised, renewed, edited,
expanded, etc., in the Wiki, would you publish with the Wiki
say putting the engine on your external website with your docs...
or would it need some export/conversion back to a format like
WebHelp (and how would it then acquire the organization, ToC,
index, and other integrated features of useful help? Oh,
and the company branding, too. They're getting picky about that.

>From back here, in the shadows, it sounds like a great idea,
and what I need is a bit more comforting detail on implementation
before I have the courage to leap in and drag my company
with me. (Ok, a LOT of implementation detail, since I'm a "lone"
writer at a Canadian branch of a big-ish American company, meaning
that I'd need plenty of tricks in my bag when I start pushing
string and herding cats, most of whom outrank me). Still, I've
enjoyed just about every encounter I've had with Wikis, and I
really like this notion as long as I can see a way to attempt
crossing the chasm in fewer than two bounds... :-)

Hopeful cheers,


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