Building our knowledge base in the open: Introducing The Early Edition

David Ryan
Jun 5, 2017 · 5 min read

Corilla’s journey has been to build the web’s most intuitive workflow for software teams to collaboratively author and manage documentation. What began as a solution to a problem we faced as technical writers has blossomed into a global community of content and communication experts.

Thanks to that community we have over 1000 teams collaborating on content in Corilla from over 80 countries. And recently we were featured on Product Hunt’s front page as one of the daily top five products. We joined the 500 upvote club in the process — even we were surprised at such enthusiasm for a documentation product!

For a small team that first spun out of an internal startup at Red Hat in Australia, we’re constantly amazed at the global support we’ve gotten from not just our fellow technical writers but the developer community as well.

Building enterprise software is a marathon, and this support means a lot to us. Especially our first customers who made it possible to switch the servers on in the first place. Thank you! But we’ve still got a lot to do…

The roadmap to open

Our recent US roadshow has highlighted a few things to us. One being that while Corilla is a popular tool to collaborate on writing and managing content, we need to improve our documentation portal — something we first built only as an example of one of the many output and export methods.

The video below shows not only how amazingly fast it is to throw your documents into collections and publish them… but how awkwardly plain our current documentation portal template is. 😓

This is an essential workflow of documentation that’s been missing from the likes of Google Docs or Evernote. And with the cloud-based collaborative UI that has been missing from the Jekyll workflow. Awesome but… about that published documentation template?

This is something we’ve heard frequently as we’ve sat with amazing technical writing and developer advocacy teams, who love the unique “collections” system we’ve built to make content reuse easy… but are missing the hosted solution for publishing. Think “Stripe Docs” as a start.

Our friend Eric Holscher from Write The Docs once called Corilla “the internet’s IDE for technical writing”. Some users call us “the GitHub for content teams”. Some just love having a Markdown editor with inbuilt version control. And we have a pretty incredible vision for continuing to pursue those paths.

But right now we need to catch up on the documentation portal, and to do so in a way that is most authentic to our roots. So…

Drumroll please!

I’m proud to announce that this week Corilla has begun work on an all-new documentation portal and knowledge base. And that we will be doing it as an open source project.

What does this mean?

When I asked the team for feedback, Nathan (our CTO) was concerned that open sourcing a knowledge base wasn’t much more than a few HTML and CSS files. It’s just a template right? And the web is full of them!

He’s right. Except coming from Red Hat I think of open source less about code and more about culture. Red Hat’s current CEO, Jim Whitehurst, sums it up nicely in his book The Open Organisation.

“The conventional approach to business management was not designed to foster innovation, address the needs and expectations of the current workforce that demands more of jobs, or operate at the accelerated speed of business” — Jim Whitehurst.

And that’s just traditional business. We’re a startup. A highly productive one with strong community support, domain expertise, an incredible heritage story and a killer team…. but still a startup. And while we took a modest angel round from Red Hat’s cofounder and first CEO, Bob Young, we need to be smart about our resourcing and build towards sustainability. And that is to listen to and work with our community. And that means you.

How will this work?

More than just keeping a public repository of code on GitHub, we’re going to open source our process while building this new documentation portal and knowledge base. And we’re going to work hard to make it easy for our community to get involved in the conversation and co-creation.

This also means frequent posts from myself and the team on our research and methodology, as well as involving our community in the design process and inviting input from people like… you.

Further, we will use this experience to help us learn how to best maintain a public roadmap and community Slack channel. Because while it sounds easy to just throw the doors open, it’s up to every business to find their own voice and sustainable rhythm in the process.

How can you help?

As a part of this development we are launching The Early Edition. We’re inviting 20 teams or projects to join this special working group of early adopters who want to join us in building out the ultimate documentation portal and knowledge base.

This would be ideal if your company needs to build a documentation site or you’ve been frustrated at the cost of maintaining your own. Or if you want to support Corilla’s mission and have a direct influence in the building of one of our most requested features this year.

Teams that join The Early Edition will also have access to all of the Corilla features at the price of a Small Team subscription. Not to mention becoming a public part of our product history and company development.

And to begin, simply sign up to Corilla and reply to the welcome message that you would like to join us in this incredible experiment together. It’s that easy — click here to sign up now.

What happens next?

Over the next few days I’ll be introducing our new Head of Design (who I once won a hackathon with — an unconventional recruitment channel!) and someone we’re immensely excited to welcome to the team. His initial focus will be leading our portal development and I couldn’t be more excited to see what we build together. I’ll also post more specifically about The Early Addition itself.

In the meantime I’m eager to hear your feedback. What do you think about Corilla? Should we be open sourcing our new docs portal? Should we… open source everything? I’ll be reading and responding to all the comments here, and welcome you to ping me directly (david at corilla dot com) or hit me up on Twitter.

We’ve already built the foundation of the world’s most intuitive documentation tool for software teams. Now let’s build the best knowledge base that we can— together.

Stay up to date with our open source mission to build the ultimate knowledge base — sign up to the Corilla mailing list.

Corilla Blog

Notes on technical writing and the future of content by the Corilla team and community.

David Ryan

Written by

All about PM and UX and open source. Formerly Red Hat and Corilla.

Corilla Blog

Notes on technical writing and the future of content by the Corilla team and community.