WIKI: An Effective Paperless Approach to Software Documentation

For years, WIKIs have proven to be very collaborative and efficient tools in edit and presenting web-based information. A wiki is a web application that enables it’s users to collaboratively modify, extend or delete any of its content that may include text, images and videos. A famous example of a website that heavily adopts WIKI application is a one that you’ve likely visited today, Wikipedia!

WIKIs have been widely used by various websites to store information related history, movies, lifestyle and many other searchable topics. However, it wasn’t until recently that the benefits of using of them in software development have been fully grasps.

If you were involved in any IT project, chances are; you are well aware of how much documentation matter to that project. You might also be aware of how documentation can be a waste time if not done properly.

The highly demanding activities of programming often force developers to contribute to several aspects of documentation that may include user guide, requirement gathering, analysis, design and implementation. Documentation, after all, is looked upon as the best way to communicate and preserve the understanding of each developer about the system being developed.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tools built solely for the purpose of documenting software development. Yet most of those tools fail to prevent the inadequacy of documentation techniques used by project teams, something that not only introduces difficulties in the overall development process but also risks the success of the entire project.

There are plenty of other reasons of why many of these tools wouldn’t prevent developers from send a report to a printing machine, from the lack of an accurate full text search to lack of sharing feature. In the end of the day, they don’t standout much from paper. But then paper means a lot of writings.

Unfortunately, most programmers hate doing too writing (writing that human can understand). Writing, nonetheless, the most effective form of recordable communication, and it’s the only way to properly document any project. No other ways around it. Yet, the majority of developers don’t see any short term benefits on from writing documentations, they often simply focus on coding, unless mandated to direct that focus elsewhere.

Thus, the best way to encourage developers to properly document their works is by allowing write a short yet meaningful documentation more frequently. It will even be more productive for the project if the documentations of each developer can be edited and improved upon by others.

So far, the best way to achieve a simple and collaborative documentation is through WIKI software. Because WIKIs are online, distribution is instant. There’s no need to update printed documents, or ask developers to delete outdated project files from their computers. Once a developer updates the wiki, everyone involved in the project can instantly access to the latest information, from anywhere, as long as they have access to it.

Content search is yet another prominent feature of WIKIs. It’s easy to search through online information rather than spending time to figure out which printed document or Word file contains the needed information. With WIKIs, developers can simply retrieve the information by search the entire documentation.

It’s important to note that WIKIs can’t not guarantee your project’s success. Documentation is only a part of the project’s overall processes that include requirements gathering, designing and development. Wikis, nonetheless, can play a major role in ensuring proper documentation and effective communication between project team throughout the project lifecycle.

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