This month, meet Solen Guitter, Nuxeo’s main tech writer. She is the one behind Nuxeo’s documentation effort, a very important piece of the software puzzle!
Tell me about your role at Nuxeo. I’m the main technical writer for all of Nuxeo products, which means I write and manage all of the how-to documentation and installation steps on the web site. I also work very closely with the engineering team as they often write their own technical documentation and in this capacity, I don’t write, but I edit, clean up, and organize their documentation so that users can easily find new information and also pay attention to where it’s placed, making sure its location makes sense and corresponds to the subject matter.
Who is the main audience that you write for? We try to keep our documentation consistent for all of our users, whether they’re end-users, system integrators, developers, or IT managers who are considering choosing Nuxeo.
How long have you worked at Nuxeo? I’ve worked at Nuxeo since October 2005, so I’m officially one of the “oldest” employees now.
Did you focus on a specific field of study to work in this field? Yes. I started out studying translation, English and German to French. Afterwards, my school offered an additional technical writing program, so I stayed on to complete that, which led to an internship at Nuxeo.
You do some training for clients and partners, how often does this happen and do you think it’s helpful? I do functional training for clients mainly. Usually this happens at the beginning of projects when they need the most help. I walk users and developers through the features so they know what the platform can do and identify areas that they may want to customize.
It’s very helpful for both our clients and for us as it’s a great opportunity to see what features they find useful and see what areas they’re having difficulty with. They don’t necessarily have the same reflexes when it comes to using the product, so the training also provides us with feedback on usability.
Currently, I do about 3 or 4 trainings a year, but will begin doing training on Studio soon covering basic functionality and configuration.
How has the Nuxeo documentation evolved over the last 2-3 years? One way is that we started using Confluence, which is really easy to use, so not only does it simplify creating new documents, but it’s also more convenient for users to search and find the information they need.
We’re also trying to come up with ways to help our users expand the way they use our products, so right now we’re putting together short use cases or scenarios and then creating documentation that walks the user through the necessary steps. The goal is to have a technical cookbook with about 10-15 “recipes” that will help users start a Nuxeo project.
How do you go about gathering info to be able to write the documentation? The engineers tend to involve me as soon as they can in the process, so when they develop a new feature, they ask me to test it. As I have to play with it in order to write about it, I usually go through the installation process just like a regular user would and this helps me to identify any specific items that should be covered in the documentation, plus it allows me to find bugs. Of course, if there’s something I don’t understand I’ll consult with the developers and I always ask them to read the documentation after I finish writing.
When it comes to editing the technical documentation that’s written by the engineers, I usually have to consult with them more because I’m not directly playing with the feature. I have to make sure I understand things correctly and help convey this in the clearest way to our users.
Do you look at other companies and the way they present documentation to get ideas and/or best practices? Yes, sometimes. For instance, I’m a fan of the way Atlassian does their documentation, I think it’s very well done. I also take a look at documentation that my friends from university write, it helps me keep my skills sharp.
What are some of the tools you use to do your job? I mainly use Confluence. The developers use Javadoc, but I don’t use it as much. For the main Nuxeo web site, I do less writing, even if some small piece of documentation are needed here and there, for instance for downloads or trials.
There’s also documentation embedded in studio. It’s meant to explain features within the product but eventually we want a wizard of some sort to help users while they use the product.
What are some of the challenges you face? Finding time to do everything. As I mentioned before, I do some product testing and this can take up a lot of time depending on what I find during the process. At first, the engineers were very happy to have me test and now I think they get a little depressed as I usually identify something that they’ll have to fix. But, in the end, it’s a really critical step. Since I don’t know the features, I see all the little things that developers who have been working on the platform for weeks don’t and I ask questions that they normally don’t ask.
I just have to be confident enough to speak up and ask the developers for more information when an issue becomes too technical. For these situations, I just play blonde, and I suppose actually being blonde comes in handy. [laughs]
What do you like about working at Nuxeo? The spirit. Everybody here is focused and really into what they do. It’s satisfying to work with people who are so engaged and passionate about technology. And it’s a nice environment, we all get along, have lunch together, sometimes have beers after work. We’re all friends so it’s never depressing to go to work.
What do you do in your spare time? I dance ballet and also go to see ballet performances at the Opera. I think I’ve seen 4 shows in the last 3 weeks. I’ve been taking ballet since I was 4 years old and still go to the same ballet school, so ballet for me is also about seeing friends and having a good time. And, for the Nuxeo developers, well, I will get them to the Opera one of these days…it’s my own personal challenge!