Oct 102007

A few thoughts on using new(er) technology to manage/maintain and collaborate docs and projects.

In my previous gig with a major Pharmaceutical company, I had taken on the onus of documenting the environment at the onset. That way I could learn the “whole picture” while creating good reference material. But the ordinary way of writing was both hard and cumbersome.

1) Old hacks and tricks in vi-edited text files on my workstation were hard to manage and were hard to distribute publicly.
2) Environment design, etc were pain-stakingly created with visio and took hours.
3) Word is a lousy product to use for technical documentation, imho.

So decided to try out a bunch of technologies. Set up two content management engines (both FOSS — Joomla! and Drupal) that were basically LAMP apps (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and were very powerful. Joomla! caught my eye due to the flexibility and out-of-the-box toolset it provided. Drupal was minimalistic and needed more effort to “mold”. I went on and created a couple of public-consumption web sites using Joomla! (http://www.medhajournal.com and http://www.invadingthesacred.com).

However, the most powerful tool that struck a optimistic chord in mine and the rest of the teams’ heart was a minimalist tool called Moinmoin (http://moinmoin.wikiwikiweb.de) that ran on a python-based engine, maintained the content without any RDBMS backing and was a breeze to setup and use.

With excellent markup tags, it has made documentation a breeze and we actually ended up creating a lot of docs using this tool and managing some multi-million dollar projects (infrastructure side) as well.

Of course there were the PM-drones who ran Project, GANTT charts, etc, and they have their own rightful place in the hierarchy of things in the PM framework. But to make a dreary task (that most admins fear) surprisingly easy, the Wiki was the perfect tool.

 Posted by at 7:26 pm