Atlassian is an unusual company, where we not only get to work on leading-edge software, but also enjoy tackling tough challenges at the forefront of our craft. This blog — about a regular work week — captures this element of our work.
9am: Coffee. I dig into documentation work for Confluence, which is my primary area of responsibility. I’m currently documenting a new WYSIWYG editor, which is a pleasure to write. This is because Confluence is a good platform for technical documentation; as a Technical Writer, understanding such a system comes quite naturally. The new improvements will actually cause the size of our documentation set to shrink, as the simple, clever new controls need less explaining.
10:40am: Team Standup meeting. An Agile thing, we hold this every day to share short and sweet status updates and news with our immediate coworkers. Our Technical Writing team collectively covers all commercial documentation for our flagship products, along with various younger, experimental and bleeding edge projects on the side. There’s seven of us on the team. Today, we talk about the JIRA “Doc Blitz”, a unique initiative where the developers of JIRA (our issue-tracker product) worked with the Technical Writing team to update a raft of screenshots in the product documentation.
2pm: I’m working on documentation for a configuration dialog called the gadget whitelist.
9am: I’m working on some security-related documentation today, so I read up on mitigating XSS exploits. Our resident security experts answer questions and offer helpful explanations via instant messaging.
2pm: Meeting with Bill, the Confluence Product Marketing Manager to catch up on the latest. Three brand new features and an update for our Team Calendars plugin are unveiled. Bill is a cool guy, he jokes about a page he created to track user experience bugs. He’s called it “Oops, I did it again!” after the Britney Spears song.
4pm: I pick up a copy of “Zak the Yak” for my children. It’s a kid’s book, a fundraising product for the charity Room to Read, that delivers books and builds libraries to the world’s most remote neighbourhoods, for the most neglected schools and their students. The first library they built was in the Nepalese Himalayas. Atlassian has designated Room to Read as the official charity our Foundation is supporting. In 2011 Atlassian had donated over one million dollars to the charity with a unique “Causium” fundraising drive, using the proceeds of our product starter licenses.
9am: I’m working on documentation for our brand-new product installer today, so I’m reading up on all the possible impacts this may have. The new system is much more streamlined and makes life relatively painless for our customers. Upgrading is potentially a one-click operation. This will allow me to reduce many pages of documentation down to a pleasantly small handful of neat instructions.
12pm: I discover a page on the intranet that showcases a software prototype that one of our senior developers has created in 20% time. An extension to an extension called “SpeakEasy”, it allows drag-and-drop redesign of all the visual elements of Confluence, our Wiki web application. Being the technological equivalent of introducing a Gatling gun to a cro-magnon archery battle, it is blowing people’s minds. This generates a lot of excited comments on the page. This will definitely have a transformational impact on the gulf between developers and those working with them.
2pm: I’m working on the Early Access Program Release Notes for Confluence. The EAP release allows people to try out a pre-release version of the product to help evaluate any problems with upgrading it in their local environment.
9am: I’m doing some investigative work on how we can incorporate some qualitative feedback mechanism on our documentation. We do collect user comments, but they are not directed or collated into any kind of report we could use to automatically identify problem areas. One of our support technicians has created a fantastic Confluence plugin that can do this work, so we’re busily engaging with him, finding out everything we can. He’s super helpful and happy to see his creation being used.
11:00am: Videoconference meeting with our marketing guys in San Francisco. We are working on a glossy introductory document concept for time-poor businesspeople. Our marketing team are endlessly finding ways of more effectively engaging first-time users of our products, and improving their Atlassian experience. They work really hard to improve all their customer-facing materials, and are engaged in helping make documentation better as well.
2pm: I’m writing some documentation to help people make the transition to using our new Editor in Confluence. We’re doing a big push with public communications, video and migration documentation to make this as smooth as possible.
9am: I’m working on some support-related maintenance queries that have been raised by customers. We have a great opportunity terms of in having a direct line of contact with our support teams, and end user customers if we so desire. With this solid feedback, we’re able to get much closer to providing the ideal documentation for people using our software.
10:40am: We hold a Tech Writing meeting to discuss our current push to innovate in how we create documentation. We bring up a multitude of interesting topics such as social media engagement, conditional inclusions of content excerpts, personas, story-driven documentation, blogging, doc sprints and innovation sprints. Our team is a super-smart collection of software industry gurus, so it’s always fascinating to be in the room listening when their collective brainpower is unleashed on a problem.
2pm: A big discussion kicks off on the intranet about an origami design we are publishing for the next release of Confluence. The origami is a printable design that people can construct themselves, which is really a platform for showing various short-cut key tips for the radically new user interface we’re delivering.
Interested in joining the Atlassian Technical Writing team? Click here – we’re hiring!