The first two weeks of the Corilla beta

There's only really one way to start a post about our first two weeks in this beta release. And that's to say thank you!

As I covered in the Meet the Corilla beta release post previously, we decided to release the beta early and get started on really understanding the wider community feedback.

When you see the list of upcoming features in that first post, we've got a fair bit to do. And the best way to prioritise our roadmap is also the same way to really enjoy what we're doing. And that's talking with you. So for the first two weeks we started doing just that.

Two weeks of listening

As part of the welcome message inside of Corilla I asked the following question.

"What do you hope Corilla can do for you?".

A little over 20% of users described their aspirations, workflows and the issues that they face in their lives as technical writers. Reading those responses was a highlight of my day (and still is).

Needless to say, I spend a lot of time having these conversations and I can't stress how helpful they are. As a technical writer myself it's an enjoyable process, as the hard work ultimately results in creating a better tool for us all to do our jobs with greater ease and more effectiveness.

Highlights of the first week(s)

First up, a massive thank you to Sarah Maddox for not only taking the time to check out Corilla, but writing an insightful review of the first beta iteration. We saw a lot of new users thanks to this post and tweets as well!

It was fun for me to read those insights as Sarah was an influence on me when I joined Red Hat. Her work on (and awesome blog coverage of) the Atlassian Doc Sprints caught my eye back in 2012. I wasn't able to make it to Sydney for those original sessions, but we caught up at her new Google office before I flew out to join the NUMA accelerator, and I recall being impressed with Google's focus on the API space.

Seeing Sarah's post and thinking of her influence on my career reminds me that our industry is not only always evolving, but has such a collaborative core. As content creators we are community-focused by nature, and it's inspiring to see such a long view in how these little points of collaboration can benefit the whole overall.

Corilla on Corilla about Corilla

Another example that made us smile was by Heidi Waterhouse. Her review of Corilla by using Corilla's HTML export was the first publicly published collection. It was also super insightful (and reminiscent of a Yo Dawg moment).

I've been really encouraged by Heidi's support both in feedback and publicly on Twitter, and I share her passion for the Outreachy program, which I will speak more on in coming weeks.

Reviewing feedback

The benefit of releasing our beta early is that we are able to learn from this kind of feedback. As a remote team we use a variety of tools and processes to help this.

We will discuss our processes and toolchain in the coming weeks, but I will say that one of the most useful tools in this phase has been Intercom. This helped bridge the lack of an onboarding process in the very first builds, with the guided modals describing the workflow, topics and collections. But it's also just an incredible way to get direct feedback from inside the web app.

This additional and realtime user feedback is a breeze compared to our enterprise backgrounds! We can discuss this as a team in realtime in Slack, and I collect all feedback as topics in a "User Feedback" collection in Corilla. Once a week I will meet with Nathan to review our roadmap, discuss the new user stories, and negotiate the backlog.

So in short, your feedback is directly driving our roadmap. We're looking for ways to open up that roadmap for comment however, so if you have any ideas, please let me know.

The week we had

Aside from the conversations with community, we were focused on the engineering side this week. Being from enterprise backgrounds we have a focus on stability and scale - after all we're building an enterprise-grade product here and we have an experienced team doing so.

But... a beta launch means a lot of new users! Thankfully there were no major complications outside of a brief outage on new signups as we put some new onboarding features in place. Which were one of a few new features we shipped in this cycle, including:

  • Added the ability to search for topics in topic view
  • Added a default welcome topic that is now created automatically for all new users to give an example of topic (and Markdown) usage
  • Added Intercom modals on the welcome, topic and collection pages give guidance on the workflow

The weeks ahead

There's a lot coming down the engineering pipeline that we're excited to share, such as the implementation of tags and metadata. This will allow us to filter and sort our content above and beyond what's now possible with the addition of search.

From the user side we're also adding more documentation and support content, as well as some fantastic iterations to the welcome page in the app. You're going to love it.

And of course, we'll continue to be working on the things that matter most to you, so please let us know what those are. You can contact us anytime by email or even Twitter.

And... thank you on behalf of the entire Corilla team and community. It's been immensely rewarding to see so many new people join us in our mission to make technical writing awesome.