Thursday, May 24, 2007

Using Blogs to write Specs?

I was having diner at Harvard Sq. with a couple of friends from Endeca, talking about user experience in general and its challenges, when occurred to me that Blogs would be a great medium for writing specification documents. What of an epiphany! Real people posting comments about a spec document, or should I call it "specBlog"?

Who actually reads specs... thoroughly?
The truth about spec documents is that you spend a lot of time writing, creating mockups, thinking through every step an end-user may take, to end up with a 40+ pages document that nobody reads - thoroughly. No targeted comments are ever made, people tend to browse the pages and only make a comment when they have a question about a mockup or two.

Targeted sections
Using blogs to write business specs or functional requirements would provide everyone the opportunity to dissect a large document into smaller sections or chapters, which could be released faster (a section every other day) and get immediate comment from your team.

Another good aspect I see about using blogs as medium is that you can actually split the arduous task of writing the entire document by yourself. You could assign sections to different people.

Better distribution
By using blogs, the intended "readers" can actually subscribe to the blog and receive an alert, e-mail or event via a feed reader. I would think that the reader would be more inclined to read a smaller section and make a quality and targeted comments immediately.

Based on quick and faster comments, the author of the section, can actually refine the post and engage a conversation among everyone.

Tagging the specBlog
Let's assume that the name of my blog is "ACME Specs" and inside my blog, we have many posts about different products. Each time I write a post about a particular section for a single product, I could use tags to categorize my post and link it to other related posts.

Now, here's a cool scenario, a post could be used in different products, in other words, if I have a global widget, such as an "AutoComplete Input Field" that is used throughout all my company's products, the very same post can be referenced in future specs by simply tagging your post with the same keywords used in the previously written post.

Wrapping up
If your boss is really anal-retentive about having full documentation - just for the sake of having it - you could simply copy the sections from your blog and package it into your old and beautiful Word template.

I would love to get comments about this idea and will be trying out myself on the next opportunity I have and share it with you.