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In my job, I work with many emerging and recently emerged software technologies from many vendors.  It is often difficult to resolve issues with these products as there isn't a large body of knowledge available.

What I've been found incresingly over the last year or so is that most of the documentation and certainly support is coming through blog entries. I can appreciate that Q&A and out of the ordinary things that don't make traditional support documentation is perhaps best communicated through blogs as they are globally indexed and searchable by Google and Windows Live Search (and others).

More recently, I've been noticing that 'formal' documentation released with products has been on the decline while the product developers blogs are containing more and more of this documentation.  What I am suspecting is that 'releasing' things requires a degree of rigor, review and testing.  This applies to documentation as well as software.  However, developers who have strived over the last 5 to 10 years to increase agility in their software practices are not experiencing the same agility in their documentation review practices.  Thus, it is easier to document in a blog which is less rigorously scrutinized than in a formal support document.

Will this trend continue?  I'm not sure, however, there are some downsides to this blog documentation model.  The reviews that formal documents get are there for a reason - improve quality and accuracy of the matirials.  I'm more comfortable following a producedure outlined in a formal product document than I am in a blog, especially when the consequence of the information being incorrect expands beyond my own perspective.  For example, when performing some maintenance on a server product, I'd much rather have the vendor documentation formally than a blog entry.  Also, blogs tend to live forever.  However, products evolve making previous entries invalid or incorrect.  WIthout blog authors being very specific as to which version of their software their advice applies to, the reader is left 'guessing' based upon the date of the blog entry.

What are your thoughts?  I'd really like to know.

Posted on Friday, August 25, 2006 7:39 AM Stuff | Back to top


Comments on this post: Are blog entries replacing documentation?

# re: Are blog entries replacing documentation?
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Yeah, especially where TFS is concerned this is very true. For now, that's fine because we want to get going with TFS, but by the time we get to v.next it might be a better idea to code and document at the same time. The normal practice for IT shops is to deliver the software WITH documentation, so why not for the bigger shops like MS?
Left by Thys on Sep 13, 2006 3:46 AM

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