RoboHelp and MediaWiki

December 13th, 2006

One of my primary requirement tools is Macromedia’s RoboHelp. RoboHelp is best known for creating help systems and documentation and has great features such as the ability to separate information into individual topics, tie the topics to an independent table of contents, and then publish the results to multiple formats. However, RoboHelp has some serious drawbacks once the initial document has been completed.

My product design documents, average 300-500 pages for a medium sized Business Process Management project. The document includes process models, user interfaces (requirements and mock-ups), system interfaces, alerts, events, etc. For each process step, I create a RoboHelp topic page that contains the Description, Requirements, Unit Test Script, and associated page Help text. I then build a relevant table of contents and publish using the webhelp format (see image)

RoboHelp Standard Menu

RoboHelp Standard Menu

and to Microsoft Word. The web format is used as a quick reference guide and Microsoft Word format is used during face-to-face review sessions and official delivery. Almost all my contracts specify delivery of documentation in Microsoft Word. MediaWiki topics and web-enabled the table of contents to duplicate the Webhelp navigation.

The downside of RoboHelp is change management and collaboration. Clarifications, re-engineering, and other changes can occur every time the document is opened, especially when you have 100+ user interfaces, 20-30 system interfaces, and a dozen or so processes and sub-processes. There is no better method to capture changes then to have a pen and the printed document. While updating RoboHelp topics are quite easy, viewing changes can really only be accomplished in Microsoft Word via a document compare redlining of the prior version. This is a bit taxing for the initial document delivery, but completely unworkable during the software design and construction phase of the project. The project team grows exponentially and many small changes and clarifications are realized. Capturing the information simple and republishing documentation is a nightmare. Even more of a nightmare, is the need to license RoboHelp for each user. There is no way I would ask my clients to provide RoboHelp licenses to the whole project team or ask engineers and developers to learn this application just to keep the documentation up to date.

Of course, if you can work in a full web environment Wikis are the near-perfect collaboration tool. Easy enough to use so engineers and developers are not burdened when entering notes and comments, plus providing history, redlining capabilities, recent changes and related links functionality.

For my current project, I converted the RoboHelp topics to

MediaWiki Home Page Example for Projects

MediaWiki Home Page Example for Projects

Added benefits included image history capabilities and the RSS feeds on the recent changes page. I have subscribed to the RSS feed via my NewsGator RSS reader and can quickly review all changes as they occur. With respect to image history, we use a simply 4 digit file naming protocol (1234.jpg) for the User Interfaces. For each design iteration we simple upload a new User Interface snapshot using the same filename, overwriting the old image. When viewing the history, we can cycle through each mock-up while reviewing the requirements changes. Very powerful when trying to recall why you made changes a month later. We do the same steps for the process models.

MediaWiki Image Upload Page

MediaWiki Image Upload Page

Blogtonix

October 12th, 2006

I am researching new wiki software platforms and came across Blogtonix.  http://www.blogtronix.com  The site surfaces postings from various blogs theirs and others – but contains no information on buying their software.  I will try to contact Vassil who seems to be the the main contact person.

Kiko bought by powerjoe1998 for $258,100

August 26th, 2006

The Kiko eBay auction is over and powerjoe1998 won with a whopping $258,100 bid.  The last 20 minutes were pretty active between ogijun and powerjoe1998 with some new comers eladsr57, marchino, wswire, crossing the $150,000, $200,000 and $250,000 bids respectively. 

I will be interested to know who the bidders were and how they plan to leverage the code.   At IntelliCal we had established 5 potential revenue sources for calendaring.  We should have talked with Kiko a while ago. 

—————–

Kiko eBay History

User ID Bid Amount   Date of bid
powerjoe1998( 3 ) US $258,100.00 Aug-26-06 10:17:29 PDT
wswire( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days) US $258,000.00 Aug-26-06 10:17:52 PDT
macrhino( 36Feedback score is 10 to 49) US $200,000.00 Aug-26-06 10:17:32 PDT
powerjoe1998( 3 ) US $165,967.00 Aug-26-06 10:14:17 PDT
eladsr57( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days) US $150,051.00 Aug-26-06 09:54:21 PDT
powerjoe1998( 3 ) US $147,132.00 Aug-26-06 10:12:12 PDT
ogijun( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days) US $113,777.00 Aug-26-06 10:11:49 PDT
ogijun( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days) US $113,537.00 Aug-26-06 10:10:47 PDT
ogijun( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days) US $113,327.00 Aug-26-06 10:10:10 PDT
powerjoe1998( 3 ) US $113,118.00 Aug-26-06 10:08:28 PDT
ogijun( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days) US $74,903.00 Aug-26-06 10:05:50 PDT
ogijun( 0 ) New eBay Member (less than 30 days)

DC area Web 2.0

March 23rd, 2006

March 15, 2006 was the first DC area Web 2.0 event put together by Stowe Boyd and Dion Hinchcliffe. Two local web 2.0 players. The meeting was sold-out and well attended, I would say about 50 people. The meeting had three parts, one the state of web 2.0, the organization of the DC 2.0 group, and demos of some “local” companies. Where local was from Baltimore to North Carolina.

Demo Highlights (in order of presenting)

Greg Greshman from Blogdigger. Blogdigger is providing structure around blogs to create local communities and groups.

Greg Narain of SyncPeople.com presented xposted.com. xposted is a market exchange for content. Writers and content providers can upload articles and pieces for buyers to find. Content can be public or private. Target market is associations and small businesses who need related content. From the xposted website: provides resource-starved conference staff with a vibrant marketplace to browse, negotiate, and purchase content for their increasingly important blogging presence.

Zi from ZiWiki. ZiWiki which allows individuals to build and edit a website using wiki type technology. Themes and modules allow for customization.

Andrew Brooks and Matt Howard from SMBLive. SMBLive is a hosted service to provide users Intranets, extranets, or Project Portals. Their software is built upon Microsoft SharePoint, so it integrates nicely with most organizations, Microsoft Office applications.

Clarence Wooten from CollectiveX was very slick. It enables groups to quickly setup a collective workspace for file sharing, shared calendars, and discussions. During the presentation, I heard from another attendee – why can’t we get ours to work as nice.

Near-time a hosted service combing blogs, wikis and other modules. It was the first wiki that I saw that started to add additional structure to the wiki pages. Each page can be tied to a Category and a Tag.  I have been looking for a Wiki with structure for my requirements gathering and validation project. More on this later.

Swamped

March 23rd, 2006

I have been swamped on several projects and my blog has suffered considerable. I kept some notes on items I wanted to blog about and will try to post a few of them, even if they are dated a bit.

RFC 4324 Calendar Access Protocol (CAP)

December 21st, 2005

RFC 4324 Calendar Access Protocol (CAP) was officially published today by the IETF. CAP will provides a universal methodology for implementing real-time calendaring.

CAP permits a Calendar User (CU) to utilize a Calendar User Agent (CUA) to access an iCAL-based Calendar Store (CS) and manage calendar information.  In particular, the document specifies how to query, create, modify, and delete iCalendar components (e.g., events, to-dos, or daily journal entries).  It further specifies how to search for available busy time information.

The speed of posting

December 20th, 2005

In about an hour of posting my Salesforce.com was down entry, I received a call from Stacy Cowley of IDG asking for an interview.   The article was posted on Computer World Australia and TMCnet about an hour later.  The saleforce watch reference and I are the only two sites to be mentioned?  Anyone else out there effected? 

As mentioned in the article – service was restored for me about 4:40 p.m. EST and I backup and synced my data.

Salesforce.com

December 20th, 2005

Salesforce.com has been down for most of the day.  No information at all on the outage.  Only one other posting from Sales Force Watch.  Why can’t the company put up a simple web page with update information?

Typepad (which I use for this blog) was out earlier this week and was quick to provide information and updates.   While I can live without typepad for a day or several, it is hard to work without Salesforce.com.  Today, I was doing follow-ups to the good folks I met at Syndicate last week. 

Is this the fate for all of Web 2.0?   Productivity losses tied to other companies failures?   

Syndicate Conference

December 13th, 2005

I am at the Syndicate Conference in San Francisco doing the first demonstrations of IntelliCal’s  calendaring products. Reactions have been great to date and we were able to prove our interoperability with Tantek Çelik hCalendar to iCalendar converter. Tantek posted the Syndicate Conference sessions and tracks in hCalendar and we subscribed to them in our forthcoming product.

Good timing for the announcement later this afternoon on Structured Blogging in which IntelliCal is a participant. 

We will be launching soon…… :)

BPM and Scheduling

December 8th, 2005

MimiYin of OSAF has hit upon the next generation of calendaring in her Negotiation and Scheduling post.

"Ideal scenario:" I want to schedule a meeting. I know right from the start who needs to come to that meeting. I have access to everyone’s free-busy info and it is clean and accurate. The client software automatically picks the next available time-slot, I click Send and it drops auto-magically onto everyone else’s calendars…and another angel gets his wings ;o)

She goes on to frame the issues very well. This is an area that we have been working on leveraging Business Process Management (BPM) applications which provides the rules, collaboration, work-flow and multiple system coordination with our calendaring and scheduling background.

The following is a scenario we wrote with respect to a public opening of a procurement proposal for one of my clients.

Background: Public organizations follow formal procurement rules and for large purchases, these entities issue Requests for Proposals (RFP). In most cases, responses to RFP include a technical proposal and a separately sealed financial proposal. As part of the process, this organization holds a public opening of the financial proposal which all participants may attend. Participants include internal staff and external parties. For a particular organization only the internal project manager and the internal procurement officer are required to attend all others are optional. This event occurs after the technical proposals have been opened, evaluated, and the evaluation approved.

1. The BPM application tracks the status of the procurement and when the technical proposal has been approved, it automatically checks the free/busy of the conference rooms, the project manager and the procurement officer and then issues a meeting request.

2. The project manager and the procurement officer using their existing calendar client; accepts, delegates, or counters the request.

3. Once a date/time has been accepted by the mandatory participants, the BPM application issues a meeting request to all other participants, including the external bidders.

4. Responses including delegations are tracked and available to the internal staff to print the official sign-in sheet.

5. The day before the meeting, the information is passed to the security system for day badges to be issued.

The above scenario highlights how BPM can be used to assist with the scheduling of events. Mimi’s fuzzy time-frame options would be very helpful with #2, as this part is still a negotiation.