For decades, companies created documents that fell under a few, rigid categories: spreadsheets, text, presentations.
We did so with Microsoft Office and we do the same, more recently, with Google Docs.
These tools propose a model of the world where you create every time a single document for a specific purpose. Everything you need should be in that document, with little connection to the others.
This model was inspired by real, paper documents. You write and share them with people, physically, each on its own.
In recent times, new tools rose to propose a different approach. Notion, Coda, and the likes, focus more on the relationships between documents than documents themselves. They help us create a body of knowledge that is dynamic and connected.
While Microsoft Office was inspired by paper documents, these tools are inspired by Wikipedia.
In other words, while the old generation of tools is skeumorphic and mimics reality, the new one is, finally, internet-native.
This brings benefits both to companies and individuals:
For individuals — it changes how we can learn new things and connect them to our existing knowledge. It allows us to create second brains for ourselves.
For companies — it changes the way people work together. Information is not siloed anymore, you connect different pieces of information to generate insights and improve collaboration.
In the past I have talked about my own writing and note-taking. Today, instead, I will take on the perspective of a company that wants to build strong and long-lasting docs.
I will do so because I am passionate about this topic. I have been the "documentation guy” everywhere I have been, lived the transition between different tools, and failed multiple times before settling with something that worked.
We will talk of:
🟢 Why you should write
🔴 Why documentation fails
⭐ Documentation principles
🏃♂️ How to get started
🔨 The 5 best tools to write docs today
📚 5 examples and guides
I will write guidance that is not related to any specific tool or structure. Even though I do have my own tool preferences (which I will tell), I believe some ideas are universal and can be applied to any setup you may already have.
So I will try to strike a balance between being general — with principles, values, and theory — and practical — with examples, tools, and case studies.
Let's dive in! 👇