>Some may say that Agile and Documentation don’t go together. That you can’t take an agile approach to creating documentation. Tonny Madsen’s blog entry “Missing Books Considered Harmful”, brings up some very good points about the state of documentation. The problem with documenting something is how quickly and relevant that information is kept up to date. Traditionally there is a long lead time between when a book is written and when it is released. However, a few authors have taken a different approach to doing documentation.
One way to approach the time lag that is typically unavoidable is to take a more agile approach to documentation. Release both an Online Version, a PDF Version (pay if necessary), and a printed hard copy. Examples of where this has been done successfully are:
In some cases by selling the PDF version of the books, a better stream of income can be had by the author compared to just having the printed book. Plus it makes it much more accessible to a wider audience. Personally, I reference Bob Stayton’s HTML docbook stylsheet book very frequently, but because the book was available online, it allowed me to get the information I needed quickly. It also allowed me to see if I wanted to buy the a hard copy reference (which I plan to do).
Norman Walsh created and made available the DocBook: The Definitive Guide for DocBook 4.5 online, and is currently posting new chapters and updates online for DocBook v5.0. This allows the author to get feedback for the potential readers. But it also provides relevant information sooner rather than later.
So, if you are writing a technical book, consider publishing it online first, and then working with the publisher to produce a hard copy. Also, if you haven’t considered it, consider writting your book using DocBook, the available stylesheets will allow you to generate it in multiple formats from one source.