MindTouch Technical Communications Suite: An Answer to Boring Manpages

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 24, 2010

It's unlikely that many people would argue solid documentation is crucial for open source projects, but it's also one of the most overlooked. It's not that teams deny its importance, it's often simply a matter of resource allocation. Community projects can't spare developer talent to work on manpages, and enterprise projects sometimes put documentation far down on the line item budget.

Open source collaboration software vendor MindTouch stepped up with a grand solution this week with its launch of the MindTouch Technical Communications Suite (TCS), a full set of tools FOSS project teams (or any team, for that matter) and businesses can use to put together product documentation in about the time it takes to refill the office coffee pot. MindTouch TCS is available today and per-author licenses can be purchased via the company Web site.

In addition to its collaborative document management features, TCS also includes user forums, question and answer integration, and social profile and blogging tools, all of which can be fully moderated in the backend of the publishing platform. It's what a wiki and social networking site would be if they got together and had a love child.

Unlike most one-dimensional online product documentation, the very nature of TCS encourages community contributions. Users themselves help drive the solid documentation a project needs in order to succeed and grow -- in turn freeing up the development team to do what it does best.

Sounds great for the user community, but where's the incentive for a business to deploy TCS? According to MindTouch, "Online documentation has proven to be an effective way to increase new customer acquisition, shorten sales cycles and even lower support costs. Our customers report that their TCS-driven documentation communities drive over half of their new site visits and lead generation." Indeed, online publisher CompleteGuides.net launched its latest book using the TCS platform and credits it for helping sell more than 800 copies within the first 48 hours of the book's release.

The release of MindTouch Technical Communications Suite really comes as no surprise since company co-founder Aaron Fulkerson is vocal advocate of rock solid and user-friendly product documentation. In a guest post for Forbes.com, he shared his reasons why. "The importance of product documentation was punctuated for me in a recent conversation I had with the head of an e-learning department at one of the world's largest software companies. I was shocked to learn documentation for one of their products was still being shipped as a 10 DVD set. A customer would consume this content from the in-product help menu that would insist the customer 'insert disc 6.'

It's hard not to laugh."