Documentation as Code

Tom Johnson has written two interesting posts on his blog on the “Documentation as Code” concept:

Documentation as Code can be interpreted in a few ways. Tom describes it as being able to store the documentation with the code:

From a technical angle, Etter argues that one should embrace lightweight markup languages, use static site generators, and store content in version control repositories with engineering code.

An other interpretation associated with this is that documentation should be seen as a design problem; it should be seen as part of the product (and seen in a similar way to the software code), rather than an add-on. If the documentation is stored with the code, it can mean that the requirements for documentation can be more closely linked to the code. When a requirement for a new feature is raised, so can a requirement for the related documentation. It can also mean that content that’s embedded in the UI, presented as on-boarding screens or presented as online Help, can be considered as different potential solutions to each user need.

Documentation as Code is a topic we touch on in our advanced technical writing training course. It’s an approach that we may see growing in popularity.

General Data Protection Regulation – will this affect online Help?

Yesterday, I saw a presentation by Hazel Southwell on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will be implemented on the 25th May 2018. The impact in its data privacy and protection rules seem likely to affect pretty much every website, with the threat of hefty fines for those that do not comply.

Organisations providing personalised Help content, by storing information in cookies or monitoring the behaviour of users living in the EU by tracking their digital activities, will need to comply with the GDPR regulations. In particular:

  • Businesses will have to adopt governance and accountability standards and meet their data privacy obligations.
  • Clear and affirmative consent to the processing of private data must be provided, and the relevant information must be laid out in simple terms.
  • Organisations need to consider the risks of transferring data (such as the storing of cookies or IP addresses) to countries outside of the EU.

One solution is to require users to log in to see information. However, this may be an unpopular and impractical solution for many users.

Microsoft publishes its REST API Design Guidelines

Microsoft has published  its REST API Design Guidelines to the API community.

Microsoft API guidelines sample

According to Gareth Jones, Principal API Architect, who announced its release:

“The effort got started from hearing two key points of feedback from customers:

It should be easier to get started with Microsoft APIs – Developers wanted to be able to run the curl tool against an API endpoint and get a human-readable result in just a few minutes

APIs for Microsoft cloud services should be consistent – Developers didn’t care that an API to work with an Azure virtual machine and an API to work with a user’s Office 365 documents were developed by different parts of the company, they were both from Microsoft and developers expected consistency

One of the goals of the effort was to find the right balance of detail in the guidelines. We wanted a document that sufficiently codified best practices, but was also approachable for individual contributor engineers and technical product/program managers.”

Microsoft is a member Open API Initiative, which has been spun out of Swagger.

According to Gareth Jones:

“These guidelines represent a multi-year, cross-company, collaborative process aggregating the collective experience of hundreds of engineers designing, operating, and running global scale cloud services from across Microsoft; and listening to feedback on our APIs from customers and partners.  We have attempted to incorporate those learnings along with industry best practices in the API space to create guidelines that API teams across Microsoft use on a daily basis.”

“It’s our hope that by contributing ours to the community conversation, we can add to the body of community knowledge and reusable content so that anyone can draw upon more collective knowledge when looking to set standards and guidelines within their organization.”


Policies and procedures writing course – 11th October

We’ve scheduled another of our policies and procedures writing course. It will be held on 11th October, in central London (WC2). 25% of the available places have been snapped up already, so book early!

Cherryleaf’s policies and procedures course teaches your staff how to write clear and effective policies and procedures, in a straightforward and efficient way. It is popular with staff from charities and the NHS, although it will benefit many writers of policies and procedures.

New Technical Author Lead vacancies in Cambridge

A client is looking to recruit two new staff:

“You’ll be working as part of a team that mentors and coaches the developers and user experience specialists to improve their technical writing skills by providing style guidance and feedback. This role requires you to be the proactive subject matter expert for user interface writing and technical documentation, and to be able to introduce new ideas and practices to the company.”

See: #4174 Technical Author Lead, Cambridge, £40-£60K DOE

Cherryleaf launches WriteLessons

WriteLessons, from Cherryleaf, provides you with access to a range of courses in technical communication. You have access to all of the courses contained within WriteLessons, which you can take at your own pace.

writelessons screenshot

Currently in beta, we’ll be adding extra courses over time. At launch, it contains:

  • DITA fundamentals
  • Single sourcing and content reuse training course
  • Introduction to content strategy
  • Documenting REST APIs
  • Managing technical documentation projects

You have access to all of the courses in the collection under a Netflix-style subscription plan.

See: WriteLessons

We live in interesting times

Although our blog is primarily about technical communication, Brexit is such a seismic event that it’s likely to affect technical writing companies and Technical Authors, amongst others, in the upcoming months and years. From a trading perspective, 2016 has, so far, been a very good year for us. However, we are allocating some time to prepare for whatever Brexit might throw at us in future years.

We’ve now identified two countries in the EU where we can establish a second sister company in short order, and various staff members are looking into obtaining a second passport (British, Irish or Spanish, depending on their personal circumstances). Depending on what the lawyers advise, it is likely the sister company would have the same shareholders and directors, but be a separate legal entity. In many ways, Cherryleaf could have its base anywhere in Europe. However, the UK is home, and we hope it can remain that.

Minimising the impact of Brexit on our clients in mainland Europe

We’d like to reassure Cherryleaf’s customers in mainland Europe and Ireland that we aim to minimise the impact on them as a result of UK’s decision to leave to the EU. The UK will remain in the EU for at least two years, and there should be little effect if the UK is able to negotiate access to the EU’s single market.

We are also looking at establishing a second company in either Ireland or a country in mainland Europe, so that we retain our legal and operating presence within the EU, should that not be the case.