Leveraging the DITA Community: Advice, Tools and Resources To Get Your Tech Pubs Team Up-To-Speed Bob Doyle [email_address] [email_address] 617-876-5676 Skype: bobdoyle DocTrain East, October 31, 2008
Who Am I? CEO, skyBuilders.com Editor, CMS Review related websites – CMS Wiki, CMS Forum, CMS News, CMS Calendar, CMS Glossary, CMSML, CMS Boston, Open Internet Lexicon, TaxoTips Founder, CM Professionals Contributing Editor, EContent Magazine Founder, DITA Users related websites – DITA Infocenter, DITA News, DITA Newsletter, DITA Wiki, and DITA Tutor DocTrain East, October 31, 2008
Structured writing requires an analysis of content and a reorganization into the smallest possible coherent topics. Decades of research on such analysis and organization have been done by Information Mapping™ , who identified common document types, information types, and information blocks (chunks or topics) in use in education and commerce.
The reduction in structured authoring time may be offset by the increased time needed to analyze the content and break it into reusable chunks. There is no doubt that granular content, with well-defined purposes for each paragraph and sentence, is easier to author than linear content. But you may need skilled (i.e., more expensive) information developers to chunk your material.
Task-oriented docs have replaced system-oriented or product-oriented docs - the old comprehensive user manual.
ROI - The number of calls per month to the help desk on a product will almost certainly change when product documentation is task oriented and minimalist. And task-oriented content can feed directly into help-desk scripts.
Minimalism aims to provide just what the impatient user is looking for. Remember, the web surfer is always just one click away from going to your competition's website. Your job is to strip away unnecessary content and get to the point. You can measure the return by pre-testing and post-testing content that has been re-architected along minimalist principles.
Minimalism appears to promise reduced costs for the simple reason that there is so much less content in well-prepared minimalist material. But it takes talented people to write succinct, action-oriented procedures that get users to understand quickly what they need to know and successfully do it. And minimalist material is best when it is tested for effectiveness, adding to costs.
The original definition of single-source publishing was providing multiple output formats like Web, Print, and Online Help from the original documents.
When you have one source for each piece of content, you get the astonishing ability to change it in one place and have the change propagate everywhere. A product name change becomes much more manageable. Your business-critical marketing messages are standardized everywhere. Some call single source a "single source of truth" because you are assured that your customers are not getting mixed messages that can confuse them, reduce sales, and increase the need for tech support.
Reusable content has a single source, of course, but reuse generally refers to content originally developed for one context that can be reused in another. This requires content that is topic-based and written for reuse by avoiding explicit references to context.
The cost savings associated with reuse of content increase greatly when your content goes through a workflow with distinct review and approval stages, for example legal approval. Content that is reused generally can avoid all or most of the extra steps in the workflow that involve accuracy of content. You will still need design approval of the in-context appearance of the reused content.
The latest buzzword in CMS is "component." Most web content management (WCMS) segment content at the web page. While this may be adequate for simple websites written by one or a few content contributors, it is not acceptable for websites whose pages act as portals to diverse kinds of interactive content.
Modern corporate pages pull content in from multiple sources. Each content block is filled with a content component managed independently of all the other blocks on the page. A component has its own versioning and scheduling, its own writers, reviewers, and approval process.
A topic is a unit of information with a title and some form of content, short enough to be specific to a single subject or answer a single question, but long enough to make sense on its own and be authored as a unit.
A topic aims to be context-free, so it contains no links to other topics.
In DITA, the topic is the basic unit of authoring and of reuse.
My background Ph.D. Astrophysics, Harvard, 1968 Collaborative Observing Program, NASA Skylab 1970-72 Super8 Sound, 1973-78 Merlin and 5 other computer games– 1977-81 iXO Telecomputer – 1980-87 MacPublisher – 1984-1987 Digital Video Editor, New Media Magazine -1993-1999 DocTrain East, October 31, 2008
Parker Brothers Games DocTrain East, October 31, 2008
Brown Television (BTV) Doug Liman DocTrain East, October 31, 2008
Hi-8 Users Group Funded Videomaker Magazine, Hi-8 Group became Desktop Video Group in 1992 DocTrain East, October 31, 2008
HRTV and Quad Sound Harvard-Radcliffe Film Workshop was in the basement of Holmes Hall (North/Pforzheimer House) where the old Radcliffe Radio Station and Morse Music Library were located. In the mid-80’s it became HRTV and the radio broadcast booth and adjoining sound rooms became Quad Sound Studios. DocTrain East, October 31, 2008