“At YC we use the term “Collison installation” for the technique they invented. More diffident founders ask “Will you try our beta?” and if the answer is yes, they say “Great, we’ll send you a link.” But the Collison brothers weren’t going to wait. When anyone agreed to try Stripe they’d say “Right then, give me your laptop” and set them up on the spot.
There are two reasons founders resist going out and recruiting users individually. One is a combination of shyness and laziness. They’d rather sit at home writing code than go out and talk to a bunch of strangers and probably be rejected by most of them.” from “Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham”
, and this is Thoughtful Friday. The email that helps you understand and shape the one thing that will power the future: data. I’m also writing a book about the data mesh
part of that.
But unlike the Thursday mails, this is a deep dive into one of my thoughts. It’s rough and my perspective on this will likely change. So for you, I think you should deeply think about this topic this week:
- Why documentation is so important to any company’s success
- Why sales material is mixed up with docs so often
- Why the data space has a lot of improvement potential here
- How the diataxis framework can be used to get substantial improvements, in less time
The data space right now is filled with hundreds of start-ups, many of them having an inclination to openness and in particular open-source. Their challenge is to both, make the company and its product, as well as an open-source project successful.
And yet, most of them suck at documentation. Why should that be important? Because without great documentation, no one will use either your product or your OS project.
Key Point: Documentation is about getting people from the decision to use your project, to full usage of most of the features.
This space however has a second challenge I observe, because it’s not just about documentation, getting people to use the product extensively. It’s also about getting them to use the product or project at all. For that companies utilize demos, free trials, end-to-end examples, case studies, lots and lots of content, and (possibly also human) resources.
And yet, a lot of them fail here as well, because they are mixing up the sales & marketing material with the actual documentation.
Key Point: Sales & Marketing material is about showing the value proposition. About getting people to make the decision to use your project or product. It’s step 0, before documentation.
The convolution of sales & marketing material seems more common than I thought at first. Because it happens everywhere where there are no dedicated Sales & Marketing resources, and no clear boundaries. Start-ups, open-source projects, evangelists, internal development teams, and product teams working on new stuff, all of them are subject to this convolution problem.
Key Point: At the intersection of data, technical topics, open-source, and start-ups, the data space right now is particularly prone to bad documentation and the convolution of marketing & sales materials with documentation itself.
So what I’d like to do here is to show you, how a common way of thinking about documentation called “diataxis
”, created by Daniele Procida, can be applied to think and structure all of these materials better, and faster.