Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mindtouch 2010 launch event

Documentation. We all need it but never seem to have the time to do it properly. Mostly because teams are too busy firefighting and don't fully understand the impact of documentation, and partly because there's not too many people who can write a full sentence without a TLA, backslash or semi-colon. Mindtouch have just released Mindtouch 2010 which focuses on delivering accessible, quality documents over the web. I went to their launch event on September 9th.

Knowledge Management - the capture, organisation and sharing of knowledge - is one of my special interests. Software for documentation, collaborative intranets, document collaboration, are all forms of knowledge management. It's very important because when it's done well, it really provides a boost to the team performance.

Mindtouch started life as the open source project 'Deki Wiki' about five years ago and since then has developed into a commercial platform for data integration and document collaboration. Mindtouch 2010 is aimed at people who need to write manuals for external and internal users. Mindtouch Platform v10 or Mindtouch Core (the open source version) are more like the wikis you may have used.

Like many launch events, it took place at a prestigious London location - in this case in the financial centre of London, a few steps from the Bank of England head office. While the location was fashionable the venue itself was not ideal for a such an event. It was situated in the basement of a  lovely building very close to Bank Underground tube station, so close you could hear and feel the rumble of trains as they passed every five minutes or so. It would have been much better to be in a venue with natural light and better air conditioning (even prestigious basements are not known for their ventilation qualities). However it didn't mar the event too much.

After a short introduction about Mindtouch the mic was passed to a 'technical communicator' from Brady PLC, an existing client. He spoke well about the challenges of creating documentation, justifying its value to the business and how they used Mindtouch. I happen to have seen and heard of Mindtouch before and know that they also operate in the same market as the very popular  Atlassian's 'Confluence' . So I had to ask, "Why Mindtouch instead of any of the alternatives?". "Ease of use" and "enterprise features" came the answer. I took more notice of ease of use as it wasn't clear what enterprise features were useful. As he explained, software that's easy to use makes for more adoption much easier.

The demonstrator took us few a couple of features however these weren't really the key features of the product. Note to Mindtouch or any other company: demonstrate the product through use cases and not individual features, it's much easier to get a feel for the product that way. The key features of this release were
  • Curation analytics - find out how customers are using the documentation. Includes stats likes ratings, most edits, views and following the activity of individual users. Some of this information is provided in a graph over time which is helpful
  • Adaptive search - search results make use of popularity ratings to modify search results.
  • File reservation - As well as storing a version of each document, an author can reserve a file so that it can't be edited by other users at the same time
  • Desktop integration - Microsoft Word document can be dragged and dropped to create Mindtouch documents
I can't give a detailed review because I didn't get to play with it myself, but it looked easy to use and the interface was pleasing which is a good start. If you want to know more check out their website or download it and give it a try.

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