Friday, August 27, 2010

Video for Atlassian Voice of the Customer

On August 26th, I was able to present my experience managing Confluence at my company with Atlassian's Voice of the Customer webinar series. You can check it out below or along with other videos on Atlassian TV.

 I had a great time and there were some wonderful questions at the end. Be sure to check it out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Webinar for Atlassian Voice of the Customer Series

I have the absolute pleasure of sharing my knowledge of using Confluence at the next Voice of the Customer Webinar for Atlassian. You should register today!

From the announcement:

This Thursday, an Atlassian customer is going to share how they use Confluence. This is a must see webinar to learn about wiki adoption within an organization.

Charles River Analytics ( is a small research & development company delivering innovative solutions through intelligent systems. Please join us as Brad Rosenberg shares 1) how his company uses Confluence for knowledge management and team project collaboration, and 2) how a small group fosters wiki adoption, engagement and support. This is a must-see for any small business considering Confluence as a wiki solution or just looking for ideas on how to improve their practices.
I'm really excited to share some of my experiences with the Atlassian Community.

Embedding Internal Streaming Videos in Your Organization with Confluence

At my company, we run a seminar series where presenters get to show off some of the cool stuff they're working on. Often, these are outside speakers sharing their latest research. We also use it as an opportunity for our own staff to share knowledge with the company or use it as a broadcast mechanism for informing staff about a new policy or procedure.

This sort of thing isn't new, pretty much all organizations do it. Google posts their technical talks online and shares it with the rest of the world.

The trouble is, within our company, if you're not available to be present for the talk, you've lost out. Well, that's not cool. What if it was really critical to what you're working on? Or, what if you attended, but can't remember that one brilliant point the speaker made? What about new hires who weren't around at the time of the talk? Why does that knowledge have to be lost?

Quite simply, it doesn't. We recently started recording our seminars, purchasing a Flip Mino HD for the task. Simple to use, it produces wonderful videos in clear h.264 encoded MP4 files.

But here comes the problem, where to put these videos for everyone to find?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A HOW-TO Guide Recipe

Recently, the Confluence Guru made a call to action for Confluence templates. Similar to Bill Arconati's request, the desire is to collate templates for the upcoming release of Confluence 3.2, which will feature bundled templates and a new template marketplace. Much like my recent post where I provided a meeting notes recipe, I'm happy to share some of the knowledge I've gained at my company for the benefit of others. So, here's a HOW-TO Guide recipe for Confluence.

People use enterprise wikis for a lot of things, such as letting project teams collaborate or creating product documentation. However, across any organization there are always policies and procedures that need to be followed to accomplish things. There's a process for filling out a timesheet, requesting vacation time, or setting up VPN client software. Sometimes in an organization, these are well-documented and easy to find. Usually, however, they're not, requiring you to go ask Bob in Accounting or Christine in Human Resources how to perform a task. That is, if you're lucky to know who to ask. Often, you'll jump from person to person until you figure it out (or possibly not!).

This is where a wiki can come in handy. You can use it to help organize these step-by-step procedures in a common location and keep things up to date. Having them stored in a common place means even your newest employees will know where to go to get answers to questions they have.

At my company, this is the HOW-TO Space. The HOW-TO space features a single home page that indexes and organizes HOW-TO Guides. From that home page, you can also add a new HOW-TO Guide or Request a new HOW-TO Guide. When you add a new HOW-TO Guide, we use the following template:

A General Purpose HOW-TO Guide
Template Content:
{panel:title=Table of Contents|borderStyle=solid}
This section should provide the overall purpose of the HOW-TO Guide. (e.g. intended audience, lesson)

h1. Requirements
* This short section should outline the requirements of the reader to use the guide.

h1. Instructions
# This section provides step-by-step instructions for the reader to follow to perform the particular act described in the HOW-TO.

h1. Tips & Warnings
* List any particular common difficulties that the reader may come across

h1. Related
* Link to any related HOW-TOs or External Links
Let's do a little walkthrough of this template. First, we pop in a nice table of contents at the top. Next, we provide a purpose of the HOW-TO, such as "This HOW-TO will inform full-time employees how to fill out their timesheet" which will also be the excerpt if we ever include it in another page. Next, it's a good idea to provide a set of requirements, essentially prerequisites that the user should have either done before or have at-hand (e.g., have an account with the timekeeping system). Now comes the meat, a set of instructions that go through a step-by-step process. You can then follow this up with any tips or warnings, as any process is likely to have. Finally, finish things up with a set of related HOW-TOs or other resources that might come in handy. You can replace "Related" with either the {related-labels} or {contentbylabel} macro to dynamically generate this piece. Or, you can actually use my own user macro, the {related-content} macro, which combines them both. If you're not a fan of user macros, I'm currently in the process of turning {related-content} into a full-fledged plugin.

So there ya go, a nifty little recipe for creating HOW-TOs. It's become really useful at my own company and likely to do well at yours.

You can even go so far as to create a HOW-TO on HOW-TO Write a HOW-TO!

Do you have a similar space or template at your company? Share how you document policies and procedures in your organization in the comments!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Organizing Your Wiki Content - Part 3: Labels

In Part 2 of Organizing Your Wiki Content, we demonstrated how page hierarchies can provide a natural way to organize your wiki content. But what if your content doesn't flow so nicely? In Part 3, we discuss Labels.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Meeting Notes Recipe

Recently, Bill Arconati of Atlassian asked what templates people in the Confluence community are using for the upcoming Confluence 3.2 release. I was happy to oblige and I'm interested to see what other suggestions he received.

At my company, one of the ways we use Confluence is to organize our meeting notes. This can be advantageous for several reasons. First, having a common product at the end of a meeting can be useful to use as a reference point a few days later after everyone has probably forgotten what was decided. Furthermore, it can be useful for someone who couldn't make it to the meeting to get caught up on what they missed. Additionally, the transparency of putting it on the wiki means those who might be interested in the meeting content can find it indirectly, promoting knowledge discovery. This has the additional effect of providing a passive way of keeping upper management informed of what's going on. However you slice it, having a shareable record of what went on is beneficial.

Meeting Notes Page

So, what's the best way to organize your meeting notes? Well, first of all, you want an easy place to access them. At my company, we have many projects being worked on 2-3 person teams. On our Confluence installation, each project either has a page in the Projects space or has its own individual space. This depends on whether it's a simple project or whether the project team wants to make use of advanced features such as blog posts or permissions. Either way, each project has a homepage. We begin by creating a child page of that homepage for meeting notes and adding the following content:
h1. Current Meeting

h1. Meeting Archive
Each child of this page will then be an instance of Meeting Notes. This page will collect those pages, placing the most recent one (either upcoming or the next one scheduled) under its own heading and the rest of the pages in reverse chronological order. As I recently discussed in Part 2 of the Organizing Your Wiki Content series, Page Hierarchies and the {children} macro can be used in interesting ways. Once you start adding meeting notes, this page will start taking on this form:

Meeting Notes Template

Okay, so now we have a page that organizes our meeting notes, but what should our meeting notes pages actually look like? At my company, we use the following template:

Meeting Notes

General Meeting Notes template

Template Content:
h1. Purpose
{excerpt}A simple summary of the purpose of the meeting{excerpt}

h1. Agenda
* Agenda Item

h1. Attendees
* Link to attendees

h1. Meeting Notes

h2. Subtopic

h1. Action Items
* Add Action Items

Let's walkthrough this template. First up, every meeting should have a purpose. It doesn't need to be anything complex, but this is a good way for your meeting attendees (and anyone who comes across this page in the future) to know what this meeting is about. We wrap this content in the {excerpt} macro in case at some point in the future we want to include that information as an excerpt in another page or as part of a report. Next up, we write out the agenda. It's always a good idea to have an agenda for a meeting, just to keep yourself on track and identify what is in and out of scope for the meeting. Before the meeting occurs, you can invite the attendees to add items to the agenda itself (I usually send a link to this developing page in a Meeting Request in Outlook). Following the agenda, we have a list of attendees. Here, I like to link directly to users on the wiki when I can. You can always update this list after the meeting occurs to know who was there and who wasn't. This leads us to the bulk of template content, the meeting notes themselves. I try to break these out by subtopic, each corresponding to an item on the agenda. Then, we sum everything up with the action items from the meeting, which summarizes who needs to do what based on whatever was decided. Additionally, usually at the top of this template I place the {toc} macro to provide a table of contents. This is a helpful addition so visitors to the page can drop down directly to a subtopic in the meeting notes or jump to the action items. Finally, I personally don't find adding a meeting_notes label to the template to be that useful, but you could add one if you so desire.

Using this template, your Meeting Notes will start looking like this:

So there you have it, a useful Meeting Notes recipe to use in your organization. You can spice it up however you'd like. One way you can do this is by using the {add-page} macro in Customware's Linking Plugin in the parent page to create a link to add a page using the Meeting Notes template directly. This makes things easier for your wiki users instead of requiring them to select the Meeting Notes template when creating a new page independently. Additionally, you can use the Reporting Plugin to change up how you organize your meeting notes if you're not a fan of the {children} macro. The Reporting Plugin will give you alot more control into how to display those meeting notes.

Do you use Confluence to organize meeting notes? If so, do you use a similar method or do have an alternative? Share your techniques in the comments!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Organizing Your Wiki Content - Part 2: Page Hierarchies

In Part 1 of Organizing Your Wiki Content, we discussed how you can use direct linking to organize your wiki content in a natural way. However, one of the major issues with direct linking is it's static, forcing you to incur overhead to keep the content current. Instead, we'd prefer to organize our content in a dynamic way. Page Hierarchies provide a simple way to do this.