Now we are five

Cherryleaf was founded 5 years ago tomorrow. It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing potential company names, selecting an accountant and getting the legal documents drawn up.

From the beginning, we were aware that we needed a business model that would work in a increasing global, internet connected, world. I’ve just started to read Grant Leboff’s book “Sales Therapy”, where he provides a model that is pretty close to ours:

Focus on the customer.
The relationship comes first (not the transaction).
Focus on the sales/buying process, not the outcome.
Fulfill customers’ goals, i.e. solve problems.

Our approach is to build relationships – to be known, useful, liked and trusted – and, of course, to solve problems.

MadCap Lingo Beta offer

Just received an email from MadCap software announcing the beta programme for their latest application, a translation tool called MadCap Lingo.

“MadCap Lingo offers an incredibly easy-to-use interface, complete Unicode support for all left-to-right languages, and a rich list of industry-first features for assisting translators throughout the localization process—including a built-in translation memory system and support for Google’s translation service.”

Features at a Glance:

XML Support
• Pure XML content creation
• All project files XML-based

Translation Memory
• Differences highlighted when new version uploaded
• Built-in translation memory system (Lingo Server)
• Connect with third-party translation memory systems

Translation Editors (side-by-side)
• Topics (visual mode or grid mode)
• TOCs
• Index keywords
• Concept keywords
• Glossaries
• Variables
• And much more!

Multi-Language Support
• Fully Unicode enabled
• Double-byte support
• Extended language support (Eastern European languages)

Ease of Use
• Translate text using integrated Google service
• Create source documentation in either MadCap Flare or MadCap Blaze
• Generate translated documentation from MadCap Flare or MadCap Blaze
• File list window (no need to guess which files require translation)
• Visual document structure display
• View and edit multiple docs simultaneously
• Customizable user interface

Does user documentation belong inside or outside the firewall?

We’ve been involved in arranging a video interview with a candidate currently working in California. The client has been considering flying the candidate to Florida to use their video conferencing room at their office there or booking a couple of hours at a video conference facility in California.

We suggested “You could just both install Skype, attach a Web Cam and chat for free”, but not with much expectation that they would do it. Skype(*) is a tool that can give corporates the heeby jeebies. It’s one of those things that Leon Benjamin called in his book (Winning by Sharing) “outside the firewall” and “in the Green Zone”.

Leon wrote:

“In a meeting with another brand, Thomas and I were talking about the latest web sites of interest and their features, particularly social software sites and how convenient they were for a variety of different reasons. The executive had heard of some of them but noted that he couldn’t access any of them from work because they are blocked by the company firewall, deemed unnecessary, alien and un-productive. Prior to this explanation, the executive said, ‘We don’t get this stuff in the green zone’…I thought the green zone was outside the corporate firewall and the definition of freedom, and the red zone was where you are straitjacketed, confined and only able to access what the company deems safe for you. I didn’t want to appear dim. Once again we were talking at cross-purposes. Our value systems and definitions of freedom and confinement are often diametrically opposed to those of employees working inside large corporations.”

This attitude can also be reflected in an organisation’s view of user manuals and online Help – that any comments from users or other partners are “outside the firewall”. From a technical perspective it’s now possible to get users participating in documentation. MadCap Flare can enable users to add additional information to Help topics. AuthorIT enables you to draw user modifications into your project files. What is unclear is whether the Corporates, in particular, would be happy doing this.

(*Disclosure – Skype has been a client of ours.)

XMetal Author 5.1 due out soon

News from JustSystems: – A preview of XMetaL Author 5.1:

* Support for DITA 1.1 Authoring

* Enhanced Publishing

Integration with the latest versions of the DITA Open Toolkit and RenderX XEP FO engine.
Enhanced PDF output for bookmap publishing.
Extended configuration options for PDF publishing, providing better control over output without XSL-FO programming.

* Improved Transclusion Feature
For DITA conrefs and other transclusion models, XMetaL Author 5.1 has redefined the way that transclusions are handled in the editor.

XMetaL Reviewer:

” What is offered with XMetaL Reviewer is the ability to make any part of your documentation available for review via the web at any time. As this process is carried out over the web comments can be used to have a Real-Time, Instant Message style discussion between interested parties anywhere in the World. This can potentially save a vast amount of time at the end of the Documentation Process”

Which vendor wins the battle of the Help Authoring Tools?

With the recent releases of new Help Authoring Tool versions for RoboHelp, AuthorIT and Flare, plus the release of Quadralay’s ePublisher 9.3, does this affect which Help Authoring Tool you should purchase?

What I find interesting is the different ways in which the tool vendors perceive the issue of creating user assistance. If you want to create great online Help, with paper being a secondary consideration, you will probably prefer RoboHelp or Flare. If you have a team of people writing, you will probably prefer AuthorIT or ePublisher. If you need to translate the content, then all four of these tools have strengths in their different ways. If you want to generate XML, then Flare, ePublisher or AuthorIT.

The best approach is probably to create a statement of requirements for your situation and then use this as a benchmark when considering each tool. Here are a few factors to consider:

The need to localise content.
How many writers will be involved.
Whether you are creating new content or re-using existing content.
If you need single or multimedia output.
Your view of users and the feedback they might provide.
How much content you might be able to re-use.