10 September 2007

Writing the Book on Open Documentation

One of the things I really like about Matt Asay's blog is its total candour, which extends to handing out what most companies would regard as confidential business information:

the vast majority of our deals are fed by two direct sources: those who read our documentation and those who actually download and try our Enterprise code. Now, we also know that most of these people first start with our Community code (and often evaluate it for months, reading documentation and visiting our website in the meantime).

What does this mean? It means that if our demand generation software is telling us that someone has both read documentation and evaluated Enterprise, the odds of them buying support from Alfresco are huge. We want to be calling that prospect immediately.

But it also means that documentation is a huge opportunity for open-source companies to drive sales. Documentation is often treated as the shabby cousin of software development, but it is really the essential link between development and dollars. It's hard to motivate good documentation.

The other lesson I'd draw from this is that open source (and selling it) is far less about the code than you might think. Similarly, I'd say that open content, for example, is not just about the raw words, images or the sounds, but very much the "documentation" - that is, the packaging/service - that you provide around it, too.

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