Collecting Agile Information

T.S. Eliot said that “Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” I strive to be a great writer. At work I call this theft of material re-use or re-purposing. It saves development time and allows me to focus on what information is provided and what form to use. When exploring new topics, it allows me to learn from others experience.

I am looking for information on how to integrate Agile programing processes and the course development and technical writing processes. I can find multiple examples of technical writers as part of the scrum, but so far I have not had any luck finding examples of training organizations and how they have to change to adapt to the lack of functional specs and the iterative nature of Agile. In a future post I will try to outline how Agile processes can make an information developer’s job more effective.

Here is useful information I have found on technical writers and Agile.

Tiffany Wood, Technical Communications Manager @ Techsmith, presented a paper called “Benefits of SCRUM for Technical Communicators” at the 54th Society for Technical Communicators Conference. In this presentation she outlined the advantages of adding the technical writer to the SCRUM.

Our User Assistance Benefits

  • Solidifies our role as user advocate
  • Shifts our focus to provide positive feedback early in the design process
  • Engages team in daily, focused communication
  • Participate in monthly demonstration to company
  • Development resources implement user assistance backlog items
  • Daily, visual reminder of user assistance
  • Changes to our title
  • Fast paced culture, chance for continuous improvement

Our User Assistance Challenges

  • Finding tools and creating a documentation architecture to support iterative user assistance development
  • Breaking down our work into 30 day chunks
  • Finishing user assistance during a sprint
  • Sharing resources on multiple scrum teams
  • Finalizing print production and allowing lead time for web publishing
  • Balancing act with other roles on the team

Sarah Maddox also included many sage words of advice in her blog series on The agile technical writer.

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Hello world!

WordPress.com begins each blog with a post called Hello world! This is the first program many people learn in almost every programing language.  It allows people to compare how different languages preform the same task.  I would like to use this blog to explore the way different ways that information developers, course developers, technical writers, and others perform a given set of tasks using different tool sets.

The first of two topics I will focus on in the coming month is how to rethink course development.  Many of us learned to rely on our instructors to stress what the students need to know and to make the information interesting.  Moving to self paced learning means relearning how to present information.  Slides of bullet points with no in depth analysis doesn’t cut it any longer, if it ever did.

The second topic that has invaded my life is how to create a course for a product that is being developed using Agile software development.  No longer do I have functional specifications, feature lists, or detailed front end analysis.  I still have to identify the number of development hours so we can bill the development group.  I still have to have a course description 90 days before the course is due so people can order it.  I still have to create a course matrix before development begins.  It is obvious that some of my processes and deliverables will have to change in the Agile world.  The question is Has anyone created best practices for course development in an Agile environement? If so, where do I find them?  If not, can we create them?