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Understanding Continuous Integration for Technical Documentation with Kenneth Whyte, Technical Writer at Vizlib

Category: Podcast

Last updated on Oct 27, 2022

In this episode of The Knowledgebase Ninjas Podcast, Gowri Ramkumar is joined by Kenneth Whyte, Technical Writer at Vizlib. They discuss Kenneth’s unexpected entry into technical writing, his continuous integration approach (CI) for documentation, and the innovations in documentation tracking during the past decade. 

Key Facts

  • Kenneth’s LinkedIn
  • Vizlib website 
  • Kenneth holds a Master’s Degree in Slavonic and East European Studies from the University of Glasgow 
  • Kenneth holds a PG Dip in Information Technology from the University of Sterling 
  • Kenneth is experienced in creating various types of documentation, including API document sets, product user guides and online help guides, project specifications, technical references, process instructions, and system/network diagrams 
  • Vizlib develops potent value-added products for Qlik Sense, providing innovative feature-rich solutions that enable data-driven companies to expand their analytics competencies

Key Takeaways

  • Kenneth started his professional journey in 1996 as an English Language Assistant at TGM Institute of Technology. He later transitioned into the software development and IT industry in 2000 from Heyde AG as a Junior IT Consultant. From 2000 until 2010, Kenneth has been associated with the IT industry and has worked in various areas such as IT support, software development, and coaching
  • In 2011, Kenneth transitioned into the technical writing industry and worked with several renowned companies including Transport for London (TFL), and Trainline. At Trainline, he was a technical support officer and actively developed instruction manuals and documents for customers on using a test harness, troubleshooting, etc. 
  • After leaving Trainline, Kenneth realized that the technical writing industry had so much more potential and traction than just creating technical manuals and documentation for the training side. As a result, Kenneth has now worked with many large organizations and in various areas throughout his technical writing career, including data analytics, banking, life sciences, genomics, transport, and consumer internet. 
  • Kenneth believes that his degree in Slavonic and East European Studies has helped him excel in the technical writing profession. He shares that having knowledge about different cultures helps him to understand the multitude of customers coming from different backgrounds and languages.
  • Documentation at Vizlib is based on a CI (Continuous Integration) approach, i.e., there are continual updates to products, and new features are being introduced, known formally as ‘extensions.’ Kenneth and his team recently set the base to launch the Astrato platform. 
  • Kenneth explains his documentation process as; 
    • Step 1 – Technical Interview: The documentation process starts with a technical interview during which he speaks to developers, product managers, and architects 
    • Step 2 – Gathering Document Requirements: He then looks at what is required in the document and what needs to be focused on 
    • Step 3 – Draft Creation: After the requirements gathering stage, Kenneth works on the first draft 
    • Step 4 – Document Review: After writing the first draft, it is reviewed by the SNE and someone with a commercial or support background for feedback and input
    • Step 5 – Publishing: Once finalized, the article is then published
  • Kenneth uses a Jira board to manage his documentation workflow where all of the updates come through. A Jira ticket is created by the development or product team once an update or feature is available, and Kenneth takes the update and initiates the documentation updates process
  • With a Jira board, Kenneth can conveniently see ongoing and pending tasks at a glance 
  • Kenneth believes that during the past decade, automation has been the most important innovation in technical documentation. Automation led to enhanced controls with state-of-the-art tool integration such as Freshdesk, which allows immediate changes to a document 
  • Also, using Google Suits as a review tool to track changes in a document is a big help since it offers ease of use 

Who has Kenneth learned the most from in his documentation career?

  • Kenneth says that he learned the most from a large number of authors he worked with at Transport for London (TFL).

What documentation-related advice would Kenneth give to his 20-year-old self?

  • Writing may take several forms and might require you to continuously learn new skills. The truth is that you will have to do it anyway, so to excel in the technical documentation skill set and industry one should embrace the process and keep learning through the journey 

Key Resources

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