today I spent nearly 8 hours chasing the very same content in more than 30 documents in order to bring up to date the entire documentation set. There must be a more efficient way to structure documents and their content in order not to duplicate information so wildly.
Single source of truth is a very basic principle that IMO is necessary when dealing with hundreds of documents throughout the lifecycle of a relatively large project.
Our systems are not big, though a project can last several years from the breadboard to the flight unit and it goes through a long list of reviews with a large set of documents, each with its own individual evolution.
Needless to say many may contribute to the same document and often, due to scheduling and priorities, we are obliged to minimize the effort to update a portion of the docs for a specific milestone, with the chance that part of the information is not correctly propagated throughout the whole set and in less than one can imagine the whole documentation set is an interwined list of broken links!
On top of this, our nice friend 'Word' is making our life even more miserable, forcing us to spend more time than acceptable on stupid formatting issues.
In my previous life I started to build an online documentation system for our software users, using texinfo. It was pretty neat and simple, with hierarchical nodes and leaves, which was accessible throughout our computer network in several format (info, ps, pdf, html). A simple makefile took care of bringing up to date the last changes and everything was under version control. That was pretty ok for a limited number (some tens) of people more confortable with a terminal rather than some flashy GUI.
Using texinfo in this case is certainly not viable given the formatting prerequisites of our documents, but maybe LaTeX could prove itself a viable solution. Main issue is to train 98% of the department to use a markup language instead of MS Word (ouch).
After all this bla-bla finally I come to a more specific question: is there anyone out there who has considered or is using latex in a collaborative environment for their product documentation?
Any ideas/suggestions/remarks? I do realize that even if I get the rational basis to put in place a documentation system based on LaTeX, or anything similar, I may face irrational obstacles from people who would rather keep things as they are instead of 'losing' time with a markup language for nerds only.
Thanks in advance,