Just a quick general comment/question and I must emphasize that I don't mean any disrespect whatsoever. I just wanna share a particular (and recurrinng) pain point. More and more, every time I get into discussions regarding a "community help" content solution, the conversation invariably turns to areas like:
Admittedly, my customer/partner base is rather engineering-centric (somewhat) and they love doing all their project-oriented stuff in Confluence (suppressing my disdain momentarily), but if they had it their way, we'd move all my RoboHelp content into Confluence and let the inmates run the asylum. However, I've kept everyone at bay by insisting that RoboHelp will at least offer some semblence of a compromise (commenting feature) and we'll all get the best of both worlds. But is this really true?
Considering the fact that the only thing I can offer my audience is the commenting feature, which I can only use if I convince my department to spend another $2,000 for RoboHelp Server, what does this extra investment really gain for me? In short, I'm running out of compelling arguments to let my customers and my management decision-makers continue its investment in RoboHelp.
I personally think this is a critical juncture for this product and technology because even though there's a lot of marketing-speak around the social aspects and functionality, I don't think it's quite enough. In fact, the marketing come-on is just ambiguous enough (and maybe I didn't see the fine print) that I thought I'd have the commenting feature when I bought RoboHelp 9.0, but have only now discovered I need to tack on RoboHelp Server as well? Seriously? That's never gonna happen.
So I'm now investigating open source and third-party solutions that can add commenting type functionality and if that doesn't work out, it might be back to the drawing board or looking at solutions like MindTouch that seem to "get it" a bit more than some of these more traditional Help Authoring Tools that still seem a bit too tied to the past.
In short, I wanna keep using TCS and RoboHelp . . . and am hoping there are some new features forthcoming in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Walt Disney Company
To answer your question - nobody here's going to know anything about reading the mind of Adobe when it comes to future development (because we don't work for Adobe - strictly user-to-user here). Even those of us who participate in prereleases can't talk about features because of NDAs.
However, I quite agree with you about hoping more social/wiki features are added to the product. I mentioned that very thing to RH guys on one of the monthly "have your say" times this fall. Right now you can only easily get commenting via locally-installed AIRHelp (I do seem to remember that browser-based will work, but only if done through RH Server).
Don't be too quick to "diss" Confluence - they're gaining a lot of traction in the software world with a cheap wiki solution and JIRA bug tracking. I believe it can support more moderated authoring (which sounds like what you want), but their RH import mechanism is virtually nonexistent and unusable (I had a shot at it once as an experiment & it would end up being a complete cut & paste job).
I guess I realized it was 99% users here, but I just wanted a forum to kinda use as a sounding board, if for no other reason, than to get the very response you just provided and see if maybe others are starting to experience the same sorts of things. And yeah, every once in a while, it seems like someone might drop by on these threads who might have some association with Adobe, though in no official capacity of course.
Anyway, my pushback with Confluence might be more due to the way I currently see it being used by our various engineering and development groups. If something hits someone's brain, it ends up on Confluence and the navigation always seems to be a mess (where I work). I love having content all self-contained within the RoboHelp environment, but I'd also love to be able to make it just slightly more interactive.
If you find some aspects of Confluence appealing, I gotta say that if you ever check out some of the stuff that MindTouch are doing, you might find them intriguing as well. Of course, my goal is to stay with the RoboHelp investment, but I'm starting to feel like a dinosaur even when I try and recite the company line about "community help" and "commenting" (but we'll never spend another $2,000.00 for server).
Weighing in with my own views on "social help".
I think commenting holds possible value, in that others can expound on what they were confused about or that the help author didn't think to include. But I would view this as simply an avenue for improving the help. I might hope that periodically the comments would be incorporated into the topics and purged or that another way to purge them would exist if need be. So for me, commenting is a +1.
On the other hand, I see zero value in topic rating other than providing a means for the users to have a warm fuzzy that they got to click a star. oooohhhh.... ahhhhhh.... (fireworks show comes to mind here)
I find it odd that folks actually WANT a rating system. It's as if the help author will later examine the topics and decide that if some don't have a high enough rating, they need to perhaps consider removing them. But what if topics aren't rated high because they are very obscure topics that provide the exact nugget of information needed to solve a rare problem? In my estimation, THOSE topics should have a much higher rating than your run of the mill and always accessed topics.
As far as allowing others to contribute (wiki format) I see that as an avenue for mass confusion. I used to work in a large call center. I would always be amused by what I refer to as "the fix of the day". We had a gentleman that was pretty good with computers and solving issues. He studied and stayed on top of the technology. This was when Windows introduced the FAT32 file system. During troubleshooting of an elusive issue, as a last straw, it was suggested that the call center rep have the customer check to see if the file system was FAT16 or FAT32. For about a month afterward, EVERY call resulted in the worker bees performing this unnecessary task over and over and over because "the guru" suggested it. In other situations, things would be red herrings. Someone tries one approach that doesn't really solve an issue. But during the process something else got changed that did actually fix it. So they mistakenly attribute "the fix" to the incorrect action. So in a wiki situation I see a very real possibility to disseminate flat out incorrect information that not only wastes time, but could also be potentially harmful. (First, let's fire up this FDISK program and reformat your partitions!)
I suppose I've said too much already. But you did say you were seeking opinions of others. I'm in the curmudgeon camp.
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Rick, I agree with your view on ratings - never really saw the value in "stars" or "likes" (you can tell I don't do Facebook); however, I think wikis/knowledge bases always need to be moderated/vetted in some way or the "garbage in/garbage out" scenario applies rather quickly.
I did look at Confluence out of interest, but found it didn't have the multiple versioning features we needed at the time. Atlassian does all their own documentation in Confluence and regularly review, ensuring relevent comments are added into the documentation, and replying to the commenter (and purging after a certain amount of time). I believe there are tools for controlling who can add what, and workflow functionality to ensure anything added is reviewed by an appropriate person.
So I believe it's possible to lock down the structure, layout and content, but still allow appropriate people to add information and comments, and review that information before publishing it.
The thing Atlassian do really well is engage with their customer base and I think that's one of the biggest "features" needed - if you add a comment you'll get a response saying thanks, and probably explaining why it was or was not added to the help. Maintaining that contact with your users will go a long way towards mitigating any grumpiness about locking down the content/not making it a wiki, I think.
Sorry for coming to this thread late. I have nothing to add to the excellent responses so far but there is a factual matter to correct.
RoboHelp Server is not a mandatory requirement. It is only required where all those commenting cannot access the same LAN and therefore require internet access to use the commenting feature. If all your users can access the same LAN, then you do not need RoboHelp Server. Our scenario is that each customer requires commenting but only wishes the comments to be shared by its own staff. We therefore set up the commenting on each customers LAN and that provided exactly what we want. If our customers did want to share comments with all other users, then and only then would RoboHelp Server be required.
There is more on my site about setting up commenting.
My concern about Wikis is that they have to be managed and that is not always done. Then the quality of the information can degrade if someone makes an incorrect or arguable change. At least with commenting, the orginal content is unchanged.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips
Just a side note, I implemented a quick & dirty feedback solution for a chap once using a dynamic button in the footer. It would display a feedback button, and when clicked would open a mailing window with a predefined subject (topic name and path) and recipient address. The user would just type his comment and send the mail. The recipient on the other hand had set up a dedicated mail address for this review and by sorting the subject lines could read through the feedback mails with reasonable effort.
This was for a friendly user trail, it was possible to tell the users not to change the subject or address. Not good for the world wide weirdos but maybe an alternative for a small review. Put the footer into a template and then you can switch it on or off.
I strongly feel that we should remain the specialists for writing documentation. I would not want neither developers nor end-users to directly edit content.
And to reiterate a small nuance for this feature . . . the Commenting feature does still require that the application be compiled/delivered via AIR . . . that is, the end user also needs Adobe AIR installed on their machine?
By the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank everyone for the feedback and various discussion points. It's always rather helpful to commiserate just a bit.
You apply to Adobe to get a free license to include the AIR installer with your AIRHelp output (this is for the locally installed flavour). The installer can be run silently as can the install of your AIRHelp. Our developers bundle it all together in their install package so it just looks like one installation process to the user.
There are hosters of free commenting functions intended for Websites which should also work for Webhelp - has anybody tried this? Embedding a hosted commenting window in the footer of a template would be a minmum effort.
I think the main benefit of rating features is to provide project managers with the good feeling of having a modern user support system. I am not convinced yet about the actual value for end users and authors.
I might imagine that this would possibly prove cumbersome. Here's why. With a footer, the code needs to always be the same and really never change. My thought here is that such a solution might require specific coding that identifies the topic its associated with in order to successfully propagate the comments or whatever. This would likely require each topic to have a slightly different footer. And if we change footer content at the topic level, RoboHelp senses it and prompts whether you want all topics using this footer to change or if it should dis-associate the topic from the Master Page.
I fall into a couple of very opinionated areas with these features. For ratings, I vehemently and rabidly am against them. I mean, seriously. All they do is provide the end user a warm fuzzy that the topic helped them. Eventually, ALL topics should become five star, no? All share equal value in a help system. In my world they would be "right out".
Commenting, however, could prove useful. But even then, I would want some central control over whether comments are actually seen by others. I've worked in a call center environment and that experience tells me that one should be very careful with dispensing information that could prove harmful to systems if you aren't sure what you are doing or why.
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in theory this integration should be quite easy. Providers such as
Disqus give you a script that you just paste into you html files. It
should read the name of each html file automatically via Java before
connecting to their data base. Concerning rating features we are
absolutely on the same page. It's just a hype.
I have not tried hosted commenting services in practice yet. It would be
interesting to see how well this works and to compare the various
providers, maybe when there is some spare time (e.g. when the next
32-day month shows up).
After giving the rating feature a second thought, maybe a "Help - I
could not solve my problem!" button would be thinkable. The rating
should not be visible to other users. A Script could notify the author
when there is a significant bad feedback on certain topics. Maybe the
users had misconceptions about the content, maybe the title is
misleading etc. But of course nobody needa "good" feedback because all
of our work should be good, as you point out.
There's a 29 day February coming up, there's your spare day.
The main problem with web hosted commenting is will all your users be happy for their comments to be seen by all other users. For software such as word processors that probably is OK. For some software though the organisations that use it would be happy for their staff to share via a LAN but not for them to share with competitors via the web.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips
We've thought about investigating some of these 3rd party Commenting-like solutions and one would think they provide functionality for some form of moderation or different user access levels where perhaps the odd user gets their comments published live immediately while others not so much.
Since our online Help community environment is inside the firewall (not external-facing per se, but still Web-based), this might be one consideration that we wouldn't need to worry about quite as much.
At any rate, I would think that in the case of inserting code snippets, one coud easily incorporate this into the RoboHelp Master Page (e.g. footer location), though it just sounds too easy or good to be true . . . undoubtedly, additional customization or dev type heavy lifting would likely be required. But maybe not.
It might warrant some additional investigation.
Well, the internal decision here at Disney has been made: I'll be moving ALL of my RoboHelp project content into a Confluence site. I lost the argument.
Whatever enhancements Adobe is planning for TCS or RoboHelp is now a moot point for me unfortunately. But hey. We're just a small company without a lot of brand recognition.
Good luck Adobe (if you're reading or monitoring). Good luck everyone.
Good luck with your new Mickey Mouse software!
(Ducking for cover now)
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Nothing I can do about it. I tried. Actually, I misspoke (or mis-typed). It's one project in particular . . . my brain meant to type ONE, but my fingers typed ALL. So not ALL projects, but it's setting a dangerous precedent for all the Confluence zealots here.
But I'm not the person moving the content into Confluence. One of the developers/engineers is doing it since I refused (long story). And yeah, from what he's done so far, it looks bland and kinda crappy, like most content in Confluence.
But again, Adobe is gonna need to do more in this collaboration/social business technology area, in my opinion. The Commenting feature (using AIR or buying RoboHelp Server) is not a viable option or game-changer.
I actually wish I could have just used a Jive plug-in (that Adobe uses on its Help pages), but that's a topic for another day.