Blogging with Confluence

Posted in Confluence and JIRA, Tools on June 23rd, 2011 by Jenny – 3 Comments

Cape Reinga, New ZealandA new requirement for our customer portal is to add blogging.

Our marketing team have been using Typepad, so they want a platform that is just as easy to use. But we also need a tool that can integrate with our Umbraco/Confluence site and one that can use our existing security.

Someone else on the team is looking at Umbraco, but I thought I’d share what I learned about blogging in Confluence.

1. Blog posts can be published from any space

Blog posts can be created from any space in your Confluence site with the right permissions. You can allow individual users, or groups of users, permission to create posts, and you can give some users permission to comment, and others permission to just view posts.

In our case, to start with, we want a single user to post updates for all the divisions in our company. The easiest way to do this it seems, is to set up a separate space for the blog.

2. Adding a blog post

Adding a blog post is just as simple as you’d expect. Simply browse to the appropriate space, click Add, and then Blog Post. Give the post a title, type in your entry, and click Save, just like you would for a Confluence page.

3. Displaying blogposts

To display blog posts, use the Blog Posts macro. You can restrict the posts displayed by label, author, time frame, and space, and you can sort the order that the posts appear. You can also choose whether to show just the title, or the title and an excerpt.

4. Moderating comments

There is no built-in way to moderate comments in Confluence 3.5, but you can install a beta plug-in (Confluence Comment Moderation). I installed the plugin, and once I’d found the Comment Moderation settings in the Space Admin panel, it worked for me.

One thing I’m still searching for, is a method for automatically pushing Confluence blog posts to Twitter and Facebook. Has anyone found a way to do this?

Resources:

Working with blog posts

 

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Breaking into the field of technical writing

Posted in For new technical writers on June 9th, 2011 by Jenny – 3 Comments

Waterfall in New ZealandYou’ve decided you want to be a technical writer!

Everyone tells you how good your writing is, and you have an English degree or a journalism background. But how do you land that first job?

It seems like more and more often, people are turning to technical writing after they have worked in another career. Which means getting a technical writing job is not as straightforward as it is when you come out of school with a degree in technical writing, land an internship, and progress from there. Or is it?

In my case, I had a degree in Psychology, and had worked in educational research, community mental health, and as a case manager working with people with injuries. Not a likely background for a technical writer, you’d think. And I was living in a foreign country, which meant I’d have to apply for a work visa to be able to work as a technical writer.

But I was not going to let that deter me. Everything I’d read about technical writing made me think it would be a good fit for me.

My first step was to sign up for a certificate in Technical Writing. Since I wasn’t coming from a technical background, I thought a qualification would give me some credibility. One of the requirements of the certificate program was that we join the Society for Technical Communication (STC). I did that, and went along to the local chapter meetings. I’d never networked before, so I didn’t say much, just listened. And lo and behold, I overheard someone mention that they were looking for an intern. I jumped into the conversation, and the rest is history.

But what lessons did I learn from this experience, that will help you break in, without having to go back to school full time?

1. Commit yourself to technical writing and be willing to learn.

If you can’t go to school full time, find a course or two online. This shows that you’re determined. If you’re willing to pay for classes and learn technical writing on your own time, you obviously have initiative, and that is a highly desirable trait in a technical writer.

2. Network, network, network.

Join the STC and attend local chapter meetings, or meet technical writers online. A couple of vibrant new communities that have sprung up recently are Technical Writing World and the Association of Technical Communicators. This is a great way to find out what other technical writers are talking about, and to join the conversation. Or join LinkedIn and link to everyone you’ve worked with before.

3. Look for volunteer opportunities.

Some people might scoff at working for free, but I can tell you from experience that you can learn a lot in a short period of time and it can be fun – you know you’re there to learn, so you’re more prepared to take risks and try things you wouldn’t usually do in a paid position. There are volunteer opportunities all over the place, but recently I’ve seen a couple I would jump on if I was just starting out. Tom Johnson (one of the most well-known technical writer bloggers) is looking for volunteers for some writing projects. Another volunteer opportunity, is to work on the documentation team for Libre Office, a free suite of office tools.

4. Work on your resume.

I’ve said it before. Your resume is your primary technical writing sample. The writing should be clear and simple, easy to scan, and formatted in Word using styles, as if it were a technical document. If you don’t have any technical writing experience, go back through your previous jobs and highlight any tasks that could be considered technical writing. For example, when I worked as a case manager, I wrote reports that pulled together information from several specialist reports. Other things you might have done in previous jobs that could be applicable include writing blog posts, writing content for websites, creating flowcharts, writing procedures, teaching, or preparing curriculum.

Often breaking in is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time, so it’s up to you to make sure you’re out there and available when an opportunity arises. Sometimes companies will take on a new technical writer if they’re looking for a person who is a good fit with the team, rather than someone with all the skills. Tell everyone you know that you want to be a technical writer and keep your ear to the ground.

Good luck!

 

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Linking from a JIRA issue to a Confluence page

Posted in Confluence and JIRA, Tools on June 1st, 2011 by Jenny – Be the first to comment

FW Japanese Gardens 1I received a question this month, asking how to link from JIRA to a Confluence page. I’ve been thinking about doing exactly this, so that we can keep Specification documents in Confluence, and then link to them from a JIRA issue. Here’s what I found.

Looking through the Atlassian documentation, I discovered a plugin called the JIRA Linker, which lets you create a custom field and a Search button, so that you can search for a Confluence page and link to it.

[Confluence 3.5, JIRA 4.3]

1. Download and install the JIRA Linker plugin

  1. In JIRA, from the Dashboard, click Administration.
  2. Select JIRA Administration.
  3. Click Plugins.
  4. Click Install, and then search for “JIRA Linker”. (For some reason the Search didn’t work for me, but once I showed all available plugins, I could scroll through the list and find the JIRA Linker plugin.)
  5. Install the plugin, and then restart the JIRA service.

2. Configure the JIRA Linker plugin

  1. Follow the plugin configuration instructions to:
    – Add the Search image (search_16.png) file to JIRA’s images/icons directory.
    – Configure your custom Confluence server address.
  2. Restart the JIRA service.

3. Configure Confluence to enable Remote API Access

  1. In Confluence, from the Dashboard, click Browse, Confluence Admin.
  2. Click General Configuration.
  3. Click Edit.
  4. Select the Remote API check box.
  5. Click Save.

4. Add a custom field in JIRA

  1. In JIRA, from the Dashboard, click Administration.
  2. Select JIRA Administration.
  3. Click Custom Fields.
  4. Click Add Custom Field.
  5. Select the URL Link Field radio button, then click Next.
  6. Enter a name for the field.
  7. Select the appropriate issue types. (I selected Any issue type, for testing purposes.)
  8. Select an applicable context – Global, or a particular project. (I used the default.)
  9. Click Finish.
  10. Select which screens you want the field to appear on. (I selected all three options for testing.)

5.  Link to a Confluence page from a JIRA issue

  1. Open a JIRA issue for editing.
  2. Navigate to the new custom field you added.
  3. Click the Search icon to the right of the field.
  4. In the Search dialog box, enter a search term to find the Confluence page you want to link to.
  5. When the Search results are displayed (this might take a few seconds or more), select the page you want to link to.
  6. Click Update.

Presto! It works!

 

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