Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to manage technical documentation for varying levels of competency?

An interesting question on slashdot asks exactly this. Two things spring immediately to mind for me:
  1. Trac
  2. Is this possible?
The Trac wiki system would be my first choice simply because I'm familiar with it. Anyone with moderate Trac experience can teach the concepts to other people fairly easily. Developers and anyone else using the system.

So, the basic problem re-stated; "how do I provide a simple and easy way for people of with different levels of knowledge toward a given subject access to that information?". Using Trac, you could start by getting all required content into a page. This includes every possible detail imaginable.

Next, suppose we have written a Trac plugin that defines processors you can use to wrap around sections of text based on the required expertise. For instance, you could have the following processors defined:
  • Expert-topic
  • Intermediate-topic
  • Moderate-topic
  • New-topic
The second part of this theoretical plugin would need to extend the user accounts to allow the ability to specify what the user knows and at what level. Of course, each page would also need to be categorized as well.

The question of is this possible comes not from the technical end but from the business side of things. My answer to this is another question. How accurately can users' knowledge for a given topic be rated? This problem is eliminated if we were allow users to rank themselves in regards to topic competence.