Atlassian Summit 2012 is upon us, drawing well over 1,000 thirsty travelers from all around the globe, and I couldn't think of a better time to publish my first book review for Sarah Maddox's recent release: "Confluence, Tech Comm, and Chocolate".
For those of you not familiar with Sarah, allow me to offer a quick introduction. Sara Maddox is a technical writer at Atlassian, makers of market leading software tools for technical teams. She’s also the author of a popular blog on that topic (and more) at: http://ffeathers.wordpress.com. She began her career working as a software developer in South Africa and Europe, and after another short stint as a book indexer, Sarah's career evolved into her current passion. Sarah loves writing docs that rock!
She has a style of writing that is welcoming to a variety of audiences, making it easy for business teams to quickly grok the technical publications that she authors. I've been a close friend of Sara’s for almost four years and even though we’re usually separated by over 16,000km between her home in Australia and mine in the US, we've always found ways over the years to collaborate on a variety of projects.
I would highly recommend Sarah’s new book to anyone currently using, planning to use, or simply interested in learning more about what a Wiki is, and how to use it as a platform to facilitate the type of writing you’re involved with.
Outside of writing, Sarah has another passion. It's Chocolate! In fact, after years of traveling the globe for various endeavors I’ve only met one other person as crazy as Sarah is about Chocolate. She describes it in poetic terms and she's successfully introduced, and even at times bribed her colleagues with it, to promote writing (see "Kay's chocolate cake" pg. 87, 313 and "Doc Sprints" beginning on pg. 415).
So when Sarah asked me to review her book, an idea immediately came to mind: Why not blend our collective enjoyment of all things Wiki with Sarah's passion of chocolate and my love of a good glass of wine while reading! Makes sense right? So, I decided to make it a project. I experimented and found what I believe are the best possible combinations of chocolate, wine and chapters from Sarah's book.
Chapter 1: Introduction
This isn't your typical "introduction" chapter. Sarah has read plenty of those. Instead, she begins the book and immediately immerses the reader. Chapter one also finishes quite strongly, so prepare yourself, because you’ll need an equally strong pairing of chocolate and vino to compliment this "rich" chapter of her book.
Recommended Chocolate Pairing: White Chocolate
Made without chocolate liquor, white chocolate is a rich product made with cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids. It has sweet flavor notes including cream, milk, honey, vanilla, caramel, and/or fruit. It makes a perfect beginning to any book. While I'm not typically a huge fan of White Chocolate, I found one that complimented Chapter 1 quite well, as well as our recommended wine pairing. Randall's pick:
- Ghirardelli Chocolate Sublime White Vanilla Dream Chocolate Bar - $4
Recommended Wine Pairing: Champagne
While to some, the concept of Champagne or other sparkling wine with chocolate is romantic; the acid in sparkling wine produces tart flavors when paired with the cacao in milk or dark chocolate. However, since there is no cacao in white chocolate, it can be a great choice. With that said, you should still be careful. Even though white chocolate doesn't contain cacao, I wouldn’t recommend cracking open a good bottle that has been “vinified” specifically for food-pairing. Instead, consider going for a sweeter Champagne like a sec or a demi-sec. Randall's picks:
- Gruet NV Demi-Sec Methode Champenoise - France 2010 - $13
- Veuve Clicquot (white label) - France 2010 - $49
Chapter 2: Developing Documentation on a Wiki
This chapter is filled with expert tips for the planning and execution of your wiki implementation. It’s 201 pages of pure "how to" excellence! Sarah details out, step-by-step, the aspects of planning, content design, structure, templating, workflow, and so much more. This is intense chapter requires a chocolate and a wine that will hold you over during your multi-hundred page eyeball feast.
Recommended Chocolate Pairing: Semisweet Chocolate
Dark chocolate, with 50%-69% cacao, has strong and complex flavors with nuances that are nutty, spicy, floral, earthy, fruity, and/or caramel. The aftertaste is balanced and not too sweet. I believe I found the perfect bar of chocolate to pair with Chapter 2 as well as our recommended wine: Randall's pick:
- Scharffen Berger Chocolate Bar - Markham Valley Semi-Sweet (68% Cacao) - $2.50 per bar
Recommended Wine Pairing: Red Wine
As part of my (eh, hem) "scientific" research, I explored three options:
Cabernet Sauvignon, including Bordeaux, will bring out the fruity-peppery-grapey notes in the chocolate. Randall's pick:
- Chateau la Vieille Cure - France 2009 - $29
Fortified fruity wines like Banyuls (AOC) and Ruby Port have cocoa or chocolate in the nose as well as cherry, raspberry or other berry fruit, and are classic companions to chocolate. Banyuls is made from the Grenache grape while Port is a blend of several grapes. Banyuls and non-vintage Ports have softer, rounder tannins than vintage Port, which tend to pair better with chocolate. Randall's pick:
- Frog's Leap - Napa Valley 2009 - $39
Spicy Zinfandel brings out chocolate’s spicy nuances. Randall's pick:
- Belasco de Baquedano AR Guentota - Argentina 2008 - $17
Chapter 3: Life on a Wiki
Just beyond the midway point of the book, Sarah walks you through the average day spent on a wiki from a variety of perspectives. She begins to unfold use cases, best practices and begins to share some incredibly powerful tips to help with your deployment. At this point along your wiki journey, you’ll need another trip to the kitchen to refuel. While exploring options for this chapter, I stumbled on two particular pairings that I thought worked magically.
Recommended Chocolate Pairing - Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor. This, along with its milk content, yields a milder, sweeter product with fewer flavors and aromas. While pairing, I threw a number of bars overboard. They were either too subtle or too strong. In the end, I settled with these two. Randall's picks:
- Valrhona Jivara Chocolate Bar (40% Cacao) - $4 per bar
- Green & Blacks Organic Chocolate Bar (34% Cacao) - $3 per bar
Recommended Wine Pairing - Vintage Blanc or Tawny Port
Sweeter chocolate needs sweeter wine, or the wine can taste tart. Here are two unbelievable options that pair well with any milk chocolate you select. Randall's picks:
- Sauvignon Blanc - Mulderbosch - South Africa 2010 - $17
- Tawny Port - Fonseca Year Old Tawny Port - Douro Valley, Portugal 2012 - $29
Chapter 4: Giving your Wiki Wings
Sarah closes her book with a solid chapter focused on approaching your reader, engagement, and collaboration. She shares her insight about strategies and games you can introduce within your organization that help drive content creation and awareness. She also covers the concept of a "Doc Sprint", a practice that Appfire often recommends to our customers’ Tech Comm Teams.
Recommended Chocolate Pairing: Bittersweet Chocolate
The most intense, richly flavored dark chocolate is 70% to 100% cacao. Bittersweet chocolate can have bitter, roasted, fruity, earthy, woodsy, ashy and/or nutty notes. I think that I struck gold with this one. You can bake with it or eat it straight up. Of the dozens of bars I tasted this was by-far one of my favorites, and I think that it, along with it's liquid friend below, was the best way I could have turned the last page of Sarah's book. Randall's pick:
- Schokinag German Chocolate Bar (72% Cacao) - $9 for 9oz. at Whole Foods. I splurged a bit here, but it's the last chapter, and it was definitely worth it!
Recommended Wine Pairing: Red Wine
Bittersweet Chocolate pairs well with an intense, in-your-face California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate the more tannins it displays. However, when you pair darker chocolate with a wine that has stout tannins, the chocolate can overshadow or cancel out the wine's tannins on the palate and allow more of a fruit flavor to show through. Trying to stay on task and finish Sarah's book with a rival pairing, I kept my field of view narrow. Here is my take on the best choices to marry with your last chapter and chocolate. Randall's picks:
- Zinfandel - 2004 Seghesio Family Vineyards - Sonoma - $20
- Zinfandel - 2003 The Terraces - Napa Valley - $25
- Cabernet Sauvignon - Chauteau Montelena - Napa Valley 2007 - $42
- Cabernet Sauvignon - Eponymous - Napa Valley 2000 - $50
Randall Ward is co-founder and CEO of Appfire, Atlassian's largest service provider in North America. Randall has spent years researching the intersections of technology and human behavior, applying techniques observed through the deployment of collaborative tools within the Enterprise. Within the Atlassian ecosystem, Randall is considered a leading authority of Atlassian tools deployed within the Enterprise and is continually sought-after for his consulting skills. At Appfire, Randall leads the charge in enabling the world's most advanced product development teams to quickly innovate, develop and drive their products to market. Click here to learn more about Appfire.