I see this question posted all the time - in newsgroups, in blog comments, in LinkedIn groups. Posting this kind of question will get you one of three classes of answer. And every time, the answers posted are wrong.
Most answers come from vendors posting about the tools they represent. It's what I call the "Me, too!" phenomenon.
For example, take Hollywood. When one studio puts out a blockbuster, all the others rush to put out similar movies to ride the wave. It's what I dubbed the "Where's My Robin Hood Movie" phenomenon. In 1991, two studios released Robin Hood movies ("Robin Hood" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"). Before the year was out, there was also a TV movie ("Robin Hood"), two TV Series ("Robin Hood" and "Young Robin Hood"), one a straight-to-video ("Robin Hood: The Movie"). In the three years that followed, studios released "Men In Tights" (1993) and two straight-to-video ("The New Adventures of Robin Hood" in 1992 and "Robin Hood: Prince of Sherwood" in 1994). [*]
Quite frankly, it's a mess.
Some sales and marketing folks would say you need to post. You need to make yourself and your product visible. I think the "Me, too!" posts only serve to cloud the issue and they don't help consumers. In fact every "Me, too!" post fails the consumer because there's no conversation, no vetting, no attempt to understand the consumer or the unique situation.
The answer to "Who can use your product" isn't "Everyone."
The second most posted answer type comes from consultants who post about tools that they have a vested interest in promoting. And who never reveal that compensated relationship. That's a real problem. When someone posts from a position of authority under a veneer of independent analysis, but who has a vested interest in the game, they're undermining their credibility and endangering the customer.
(I can't tell you how many times I've told a prospective customer that the product I work with most just isn't right for them.)
(I also can't tell you how many times I've heard a consultant claim to have built a product when they were simply one of many employees of the company that really built it.)
Nearly all of the rest of the posts come from users who have either (1) had a positive experience with a specific tool that was implemented well and which has corporate support to make it work well for the users or (2) had a negative experience with a tool but are unclear about the reasons for the tool failure.
Generally, negative posts about a tool reveal more about the poster than the tool. If you read between the lines, the failure often wasn't really so much about defects in the tool itself. When you really examine the review, nearly every negative post about a DITA XML tool can be traced to a problem in either implementation or corporate support that lead to a bad user experience.
Take this article posted in April to NYMag.com, for example. It's titled "Don't Trust Your CMS" but, if you read the article, the problem isn't with the content management system, at all. The problem comes from an error in the copy-and-paste function and hasty edit by the user. Neither of which is under the CMS's control. And yet, this article got a lot of attention from critics of content management systems in techcomm circles. Be sure and read those reviews carefully, if you're going to bet your success on what someone else says.
What's it all boil down to? Well, I hate to break it to you, but it really should come as no surprise:
There is no best tool.
Don't lose faith! Because you can find the best tool for you.
This month I wrote up an article about how to buy a tool. In there I give you the 5 Myths that everyone thinks will make the difference in the "tool selection process" that really leave you vulnerable to failure. I also included one good tip that can help assuage your fears.
Don't let someone else decide your success.
If you want help, I can help you ask the questions that get you to the tool you need. Don't be afraid to ask someone to assist you in strategies that will lead you to the right tool for you.
Need examples for figuring out your specific requirements?
We like to talk about the importance of requirements here at Single-Sourcing Solutions. We don’t like to waste and we want the best products that fit our needs.
If you want to read more articles about requirements gathering, how it's done, and a few examples of how to make sure you get the right tool for you, you should look at these:
- How to find the best content management system (or any other tool) (How-To)
- Writing (Non-Agile) Business Requirements, TC Dojo Presentation by Dr. Jackie Damrau (How-To)
- The Best USB Headsets for Audio and Web Conferencing (Example)
Want to know what tool we think is best and why?
For those of you who just want to read some reviews of DITA tools, we'll give you our take on the matter. Please remember that your needs are yours and we support you in whatever tool you choose. Our track record speaks for itself: We frequently send people to other tools even when we have no compensatory relationship with that company or that product because what was best for us is not what's best for them. And we care what's best for you. Read on to learn more about our favorite tool and why we love it.
[*] Honestly, I knew there were a lot of Robin Hood movies, because I personally remembered four of them, but then I looked at IMDB...