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8 Nov 2017

new manual site

in Technical Blog by Kae Verens

Last month, we proposed writing a book to explain how to use FieldMotion, but realised that a much more useful reference would be similar to WikiPedia, where every subject has its own article which we can expand as we need to, with links branching off to related subjects.
In the late 90s, a company I worked with used an internal documentation system called “WikiWikiWeb”, which was written in Perl – a hard-to-read programming language which I’m glad to never have to touch again! The WikiWikiWeb software had been created only a year or two beforehand by a programmer, Ward Cunningham, who based his ideas on Hypercards, which was invented on the Mac. Wikipedia is an example of a WikiWikiWeb implementation.
The idea of a collaborative encyclopaedia or internal documentation store that has links off to other related subjects is useful, because people don’t think in straight lines. I’m sure you’ve found yourself on Wikipedia many times, intending to read about stress concentration in vertical structures and finding yourself clicking on interesting bylines until you have to stop yourself at 3am when you realise you’re studying the usage of Bulgarian wedding songs in Japanese anime soundtracks. Or is that just me?
Up until recently, we were using Google Drive for sharing documents internally, but they’re really not very useful for that purpose. I have friends in Google who refuse to use it themselves because it’s really not fit for purpose. You upload a useful file that you think people should be able to reference easily. But how to share it? You need to individually share it out to people, but that’s not the end of it – how do you organise the files? The address is different for each person so there’s no easy way to make a link that can be embedded in a web-page, and even if you did, you now have two systems to take care of – Google Drive and the system you use to organise the files.
By using a Wiki, you create a central repository of knowledge which any member of staff can update at will, and it acts as its own reference. Each “document” in a wiki is a plain text file that can contain links off to other articles of interest.
In FieldMotion, we have two wikis – we have an internal Wiki which is for writing about internal processes, and an external one which we intend to be read by customers and will contain information about all aspects of how to use FieldMotion. Very soon, if you ask us a question, we will either point to a wiki page, or we will create a wiki page and then point to it 🙂
The wiki (which I’ll link to as soon as we’re ready with it) will serve as an answer to any questions that come in, but it will also be a source of new knowledge.
In our internal wiki, we keep a list of new features, so that our own workers are aware of all the new things that FieldMotion can do. We will do something similar on the new public wiki so that all our customers are aware of the features of the system.