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Monday, December 23, 2013

Followup thoughts about screencasting as a documentation tool...

I am convinced this is the very best way for me to make some serious headway on my documentation brain dump. After 4 days, I have captured 2 hours and 16 minutes of screentime. This is the video library so far...

I am trying to come up with a naming convention that lets me group the list of a category of video together, such as "Quick Tour" and "Docuvid". When those terms or phrases are searched on Drive, they display a flat list of all "chapters" in that series. The simpler the naming convention, the better. 

The benefit of using this technique to group these together with search is that the files can be located multiple ways. They can be located in the tech library and opened by drilling down through folder structure, which is arranged in what seems like the most logical fashion, but can get changed as the documentation structure matures. The search approach makes their logical location irrelevant, and is therefore more suited to a growing and changing layout.

After I did a few recordings, I shot a note to our training coordinator with a link to a few samples. I suggested that perhaps the quick tour concept would help with training for all staff, on a number of different topics. All it takes is time and money, right?

The more of these that I make, the better I feel about getting it done. Although screencasting doesn't make the IT training and documentation material magically create and direct itself, it does make the process of capturing information much more fluid.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick Tour IT training and documentation videos... or How Screencasts Saved My Sanity!


Right? I will be the first to admit that I am not exactly fond of doing documentation for my job. It's mind numbing, even to a geek like me, but it hasta get done!

By documentation, I mean the tracking, recording, and updating of information on all the bits of the agency IT infrastructure; all the router configs, IT service logins, server setups, network addresses, software and hardware configurations, procedures, protocols, and requirements for all the doohickeys.

I have done significant documentation with Google Docs and Sheets. That is certainly a more immediate, more "malleable", and focused view on any given detail of IT knowledge, but to put that kind of documentation together requires a concentrated effort free of distraction. It must also contain a certain amount of Beginner's perspective in order to avoid leaving out "assumed facts". It is hard to put those detail in a "typical usage scenario" context. Producing screencast videos of these details shows the workflow AND captures details on screen that can easily be neglected (or presented in such density as to be overwhelming) in printable docs.

I have been on a mission this week to produce one or two "quick tour" videos a day of mission critical services and admin consoles using Screencast-o-matic. The videos are between 5 and 10 minutes long usually, and are uploaded to the Google Drive directory for my staff IT account. The documentation is then securely shared with select senior staff as contingency. Finally, I created a subdomain to consolidate and make the entire list of videos accessible at

Being a mostly solo support person with the majority of knowledge trapped in my skull, I am understandably concerned about providing the MOST transfer of that knowledge to a form easily accessed and digested by someone besides me if the need arose. If I am doing this right, someone with a reasonable amount of Windows and WAN/LAN experience should be able to spend a day or two watching these videos and have a solid grasp of the lay of the IT land around here if the someone who is me is not available.

If there's one thing I strive for in this job, it's to be prepared. An IT department cannot be prepared without documentation. Producing these kinds of videos is not all that needs doing to achieve this goal, but it serves a lot of information efficiently. I predict that this will help me fill out the agency "tech library" in record time.

Not that I'm going anywhere!