I’ve been a software developer for a long time and I’ve always had an issue collecting my questions in a simple, usable, sharable way. This is important (to me at least) because often times I’m working on something that requires that I get answers to my questions from another person, very commonly the case when integrating two systems.
Recently I’ve been working on an Adobe FrameMaker connector for easyDITA and I ran into this problem again, except this time it was worse because now I’m not the only person recording their questions and issues.
I decided to look for a new solution. In the distant past I used Tomboy Notes, which is pretty much sticky notes for your desktop, not a great solution for sharing questions with others on the team.
More recently (about the last 3 years) I’ve moved to Google Drive. Google Drive is great for basic note taking and brain dumps, but listing questions or issues never felt quite right to me. Several things bugged me, and slowed me down.
First there is the formatting; I was always thinking about what heading style I should use, how much space to leave between each question, and what order to put things in. All this distracted me from my primary goal. Once I finally had my questions written down, I always felt that they were trapped forever in Google Drive, even with its great search capabilities.
Now, I think I’ve found a better way. I suggested to the team at FrameMaker that everyone continue to put basic programmer notes wherever they wanted to, but put their questions and issues into easyDITA as FAQs* and references.
They agreed, and the results have been wonderful. Now when I have to record a question I click “New”, add a FAQ, enter my question, and flag it as unanswered (“In progress”).
No extra mental effort. It’s searchable, trackable, self-contained, and accessible by the whole team. Not only that, we’ve now created a valuable knowledge resource that can be published with the general documentation for the FrameMaker connector, if we’d like.
It’s a simple change for sure, but it’s made my life a whole lot easier. Just another example of how working in a DITA XML CMS can help you find interesting little ways that structured authoring can improve your day to day work life.
* FAQs are simple specialized documents that easyDITA developed a while ago; they are not part of the basic DITA spec.