The LavaCon Content Strategy Conference | 27–30 October 2024 | Portland, OR
Mark Johnson

Mark’s fascination with music theory and composition, at some point, morphed into a passion for documentation content strategy. This all started twenty-two years ago when he took a job at MakeMusic Inc. authoring the user manual for Finale music notation software. Since then he has embarked on various content conversion adventures working with procurement and cybersecurity companies to bring accessible, helpful, scalable online documentation content to users.

Mark currently works as the Documentation Manager for Securonix, the creators of Unified Defense Siem, which unifies threat detection, investigation, and response (TDIR) on Snowflake’s Data Cloud. Over the past eighteen months he and his team completely reinvented the product’s online documentation system, implemented contextual help, and built the internal infrastructure, standards, and operational procedures to accommodate the growing documentation demands of a leading SaaS cybersecurity platform.

Mark lives in Bloomington Minnesota with his wife, two boys, and two salvaged barn cats Mango and Murray.

Curing Chaotic Content by Cutting to the Core

Documentation projects are often like E.R. patients. I know this from watching just about every episode of the medical drama House M.D. In each episode, Dr. Gregory House (an unconventional, misanthropic medical genius) leads a team of diagnosticians through the process of investigating often rare combinations of strange symptoms in search of the proper treatment. He clashes with his fellow physicians because many of his hypotheses about patients’ illnesses are based on subtle or controversial insights, and his disregard for hospital rules and procedures frequently leads him into conflict with his boss, the dean of medicine. While abrasive, I found the character easy to like. In every episode, there is a eureka moment as some random coincidence sparks just the right insight, and he is able to connect the missing pieces and triumphantly announce the diagnosis and treat the patient.

I was in need of such a moment in September of 2022. I had just started as Lead Technical Writer at Securonix, and my patient was a documentation portal showing some troubling symptoms, including inaccessible, incomprehensible, and unsustainable content. Furthermore, our main 2023 corporate documentation objective was to implement “Contextual Documentation”. This would be needed in addition to a completely new online documentation portal. Our patient was unconscious on a hospital bed, and would need to be fixed up and ready to run a marathon in a matter of months!

It was clear some superficial band-aids and gauze was not going to suffice. We needed a consistent, comprehensive, comprehensible, and scalable content strategy that would accommodate a growing UI. This meant we needed to strike at the root cause of the scalability issues and address them throughout.

This session describes how the Securonix documentation team cut to the core of the chaos with exploratory surgery, diagnosed, treated, and eventually cured our content conundrum.

In this session, attendees will learn:

  • Actionable advice for developing extensible documentation
  • Ways to leverage this strategy in context help and in an online doc portal
  • The process, partners, tooling, and timeline we undertook to launch so quickly
  • How we plan to continue to build on this success