Part III: The Evolution of Help Authoring Tools : Deadwood to Avatars
   
Deadwood to Avatars
Collaboration is not only spreading among technical communication teams; in fact, today’s end user is social media savvy, well connected, and in the habit of sharing comments with the public.
Social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Disqus have emerged in the past decade and revolutionized the Internet, as well as nearly all forms of commerce. As a result of this trend, users now demand that content be a two-sided conversation.
Open APIs and simple plugins make using these services easy when utilizing a browser-based help system that supports open collaboration. Using social media to create a feedback loop for end users is essential to building excellent documentation. Various points of view and feedback from end users and subject matter experts can prompt internal responses and updates to future versions of help content or even the product itself.
It is now possible to publish to browser-based help, leverage the inherent open architecture of the Internet, and take advantage of extensive search capabilities using open APIs developed by Google and other search engines. This allows end users to reap the benefits of the latest search engine solution, which they already are familiar with and trust the types of results it produces.
Yet, very few HATs capitalize upon the Internet’s unique infrastructure. Most are not offering features to enable the critical social media communication channel. HAT vendors must begin to fully support the integration of full search and social media capabilities or risk critical value of their customers’ documentation.