The Writing Stack
Different people need to work on and consume written information at different levels of fidelity. For example, we don't want readers of this site seeing raw information organization or unfinished pages, but we need to see them and work on them!
Every application and website we use in our business has a rich text editor or free form text field. Let's be explicit in choosing which ones need to be ignored and implement a writing stack. We'll draw clean lines around where and how we capture, refine, and publish information to different audiences. Developing good writing habits at each part of the stack will result in better Transparency and more thoughtful Organic Engagement and discourse.
Team members at the same level should have the same access to each part of the stack such that they capture, refine, publish, and consume information in collaboration with each other.
Start by drawing lines between the Capture and Publish parts of the stack. Different teams might have different needs for each part but the best solution is going to require a publish component that can be leverage across teams.
You'll want to find the right balance for your team in terms of workflows, templating, and collaboration. A few decent templates for meeting notes, customer feedback, and ideas can go a long way. Information should be captured in a way that is transparent to adjacent team members.
Refinement is the stage of writing when captured information is developed before it is published to any audience other than adjacent team members. Refinement is best done in the same tool as capturing due to the One Level Deeper principle, but can also be done in the same tool as publishing.
Each part of the writing stack increases the fidelity of information. The publishing component of the stack is introduced when a new audience needs access to the information.
Enabling someone to discover important information requires granting access to tools whose primary function isn't publishing information. See Functional Access Only
Example 1: Information is stored in a GitHub Wiki and you are finding that Program Management team members are constantly being granted access
Example 2: You're headed down a path of trying to consolidate all teams into the same Slack Workspace because that's where information "naturally" lands
Anxiety due to lack of Transparency between team members and leadership
Context Switching due to cross-functional team members inability to discover important information
Teams that fail to agree which types of information belong where, or have too many repositories of disparate information which offer the same level of fidelity and access develop Tribal Knowledge.
Notes.app - Surprisingly, if everyone on a particular team is in the Apple ecosystem then Notes.app can actually be a great way to implement the capture part of the writing stack. You can easily share different folders in notes with different people, and the informality of the notes application (being that most people use it for personal capture) makes it a great way to aggregate and consolidate low fidelity information.
Roam Research - Probably the best raw information and development capturing tool right now for individuals due to its hierarchical nature. Templating, workflows, and querying are all very powerful tools. Best for small technical teams due to learning curve and syntax. Recommended to backup databases regularly until its proven. We use Roam for the Capture and Refine components of our stack.
Notion - The only tool on our list today that sufficiently covers all three components of the writing stack for teams. Great templating ability and workflows, lacks in some page linking, querying, and block referencing capabilities.
Miro - What we thought was best for design inspiration and infinite canvases turns out to be a great place to capture and iterate on raw information, ideas, feedback, etc. We're not so sure about its refinement and publishing capabilities though. Probably best for design and visual oriented teams.
JIRA - If you choose to use JIRA or another Project Management tool for the capture component of your writing stack please be cognizant of our note.
Basecamp Announcements - if you're doing Shape Up or already using Basecamp as a Project Management tool then Basecamp is actually a great place to post formal writing, increase Organic Engagement and maintain the proper access and fidelity of published information via Company HQ, Teams, and Projects.
Notion - especially if you're capturing and refining here already.
Confluence - especially if you're using other Atlassian products
Basecamp Docs & Files and JIRA tickets for publishing - The reason we want to avoid these is because it's difficult to draw clean lines between the tickets which contain published information and which contain captured information. Capturing refined information in JIRA also violates the Functional Access Only principle, since JIRA's primary functionality is project management, its access should be limited to people with project management and execution functions.
Pen and Paper for Capture - I know, we all love pen and paper. The problem is that physically written information can't be queried, and makes collaboration increasingly difficult in a shifting Remote Work landscape. Instead use tools like Miro to capture
GitHub Wiki for publishing - For a similar potential violation of Functional Access Only principle
Semi-Ephemeral Chat can diminish the long term value of the capture component of an individual's writing stack.
Tribal Knowledge can mean that implementing a writing stack requires convincing more senior team members to develop and disseminate information that they may not even have written down or that are organized in their own private writing stack. This issue can be especially difficult to solve if those members don't have equity, i.e. do not have an upside in the long term success of the business.
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