Every Page is Page One
Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web

Mark Baker
Analecta Communications Inc...
The book
 Every Page is Page
One: Topic-based
Writing for
Technical
Communication
and the Web
 XML Press
 Available in ...
Who said…
 “Learners … often skip over crucial
material if it does not address their
current task-oriented concern or ski...
John Carroll
 The Nunrberg
Funnel
 1990
 Users hopping
around from one
source to another
did not start with
the Web

Co...
The sequencing problem
 Many sequencing problems reside not
in the material alone but in the
learner’s use of it. When pe...
Eliminate sequence
 A radical approach to sequencing problems is to try
to eliminate sequence: materials designed to be
r...
Radical Then; Mainstream Now
 The concept of creating unsequenced
material was “radical” in 1990
 Today, it is the defau...
Why “Every Page is Page One?”
 On the Web, readers arrive at content
 Via a Google search
 Via a recommendation in a so...
John Carroll anticipated this
 “Escaping these problems and
providing for material to be sensibly
read in any order, nece...
But …
 Not every page
works well as
page one

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

10
Jump into the middle
 The page is in
the middle of
something
 Reader has to
back up to find
start of the
thread
 It may...
On the Web but Not of the Web
 Putting a PDF or a tri-pane help
system on you Website does not
create Web-like content.
...
Writers in denial
 Many writers are in denial about the
power of Web search.






“too many false hits”
“too much s...
So why do users
prefer to search the Web?

Photo: Steven Straiton/Wikimedia Commons

Content Strategy for Technical
Commun...
Scope
 Searching the Web is not like
searching the index of one book
 It is like searching the index of every
book, lett...
The Long Tail
 Many low demand
items account for as
much total demand
as a few high
demand items.
 Amazon makes a lot
of...
The Long Tail

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

17
Manual doesn’t cover long tail
 Manual has only high
demand items
 Users often need
specific items from
the low demand s...
Information Foraging

Photo: Amanda Lea, Wikimedia Commons

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

19
Information foraging
 “Information foraging predicts that the
easier it is to find good patches, the
quicker users will l...
Information snacking
 The growth of always-on broadband
connections also encourages this trend toward
shorter visits. Wit...
Experience vs. credentials

“Now the technology lets
you find experienced
people as easily as
credentialed ones.”
David We...
Collegiality
“Links are the visible manifestation of
the author giving up any claim to
completeness or even sufficiency; l...
Include it all. Filter is afterward.
“We seem to be making a cultural
choice---with our new infrastructure's
thumb heavily...
Filter it afterward
 The Web is a filter
 We can filter it for ourselves
 Google

 And with our friends





Linke...
Filter it socially

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

26
Authority is shifting

“If our social networks are our
new filters, then authority is
shifting from experts in
faraway off...
Individual journey
 Readers make their individual journey
through a Web of information
 Our content is one resource they...
How I got to the conference

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

29
Shared vehicles; unique trips
 Many different vehicles
 Each functions independently
 I chose the sequence to create a
...
No guided tour
 Readers are self directed
 We have always known most readers
don’t take the guided tour
 They skip and ...
The book model
 Books provide the guided tour as
primary means
 Linear book

 Support self-guided as secondary
means
 ...
The EPPO model
 EPPO topics support self-guided as
primary means
 Every pages works as page one
 Works with search, soc...
At the crossroads
 Try to reclaim the order and certainty
of the book world, or cooperate in the
linked ecology of the we...
EXAMPLES
Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

35
Recipe
 Black Forest
Ham and
Gruyère Frittata

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

36
Car review
 Subaru Forrester
2003-2008
review

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

37
Technical article
 Create REST
applications with
the Slim microframework

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication an...
Ornithology
 Blue-footed
Booby

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

39
Encyclopedia article
 Ottawa

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

40
Stack Overflow
 Python shelve
OutOfMemory
error

Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

41
CHARACTERISTICS OF
EPPO TOPICS
Content Strategy for Technical
Communication and the Web

42
Self Contained
 No linear dependencies
 Never assumes you have read X
 May assume you know X

 May require different t...
Establish Context
 Reader may arrive from anywhere
 Search and links may be imprecise
 Allow the reader to get their be...
Specific Limited Purpose
 Must have a clear idea of the purpose
it fulfills for the reader
 Purpose must be specific
 C...
Conform to type
 Topics on a common subject tend to
have a similar pattern







Recipes
Encyclopedia articles on ...
Stay on one level
 Books tend to change levels
 Topics support readers choosing their
own path
 Readers decide when the...
Assume reader is qualified
 Books designed as sole source for
diverse audience
 Write for the least qualified reader
 O...
Link Richly
 Books are designed for linear reading
 Links may be considered a distraction
 Allow reader to deviate from...
Topics and Topic Sets
 Need many topics to cover a large
subject area
 Create topic sets, not books
 Support random ent...
The book
 Every Page is Page
One: Topic-based
Writing for
Technical
Communication
and the Web
 XML Press
 Available in ...
Questions?
 Contact information









Mark Baker
Analecta Communications Inc.
mbaker@analecta.com
Twitter: @mb...
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Every page is page one baker

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Slides from my LavaCon 2013 presentation, Every Page is Page One. For the book, see http://xmlpress.net/publications/eppo/.

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Every page is page one baker

  1. 1. Every Page is Page One Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web Mark Baker Analecta Communications Inc. @mbakeranalecta #eppo @LavaCon
  2. 2. The book  Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web  XML Press  Available in the bookstore! Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 2
  3. 3. Who said…  “Learners … often skip over crucial material if it does not address their current task-oriented concern or skip around among several manuals, composing their own ersatz instructional procedure on the fly.” Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 3
  4. 4. John Carroll  The Nunrberg Funnel  1990  Users hopping around from one source to another did not start with the Web Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 4
  5. 5. The sequencing problem  Many sequencing problems reside not in the material alone but in the learner’s use of it. When people refer to instruction opportunistically in support of their own goal-directed activities, it becomes difficult or impossible to predict what sequencing will be appropriate… John Carroll, The Nurnberg Funnel, 1990 Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 5
  6. 6. Eliminate sequence  A radical approach to sequencing problems is to try to eliminate sequence: materials designed to be read in any order cannot be read in the wrong order. … The orderly accumulation of prerequisite skill and understanding that can be assumed when material is embedded in a sequenced curriculum cannot be assumed if learners use the material in any order they wish. But, of course, this is just what learners do anyway and is one of the key reasons that materials that depend on carefully sequenced prerequisites fail. John Carroll, The Nurnberg Funnel, 1990 Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 6
  7. 7. Radical Then; Mainstream Now  The concept of creating unsequenced material was “radical” in 1990  Today, it is the default  The Web is not sequenced  Every Page is Page One Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 7
  8. 8. Why “Every Page is Page One?”  On the Web, readers arrive at content  Via a Google search  Via a recommendation in a social network  Via a link from another page  There is no continuity from where they were before.  Every link leads to a new page one Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 8
  9. 9. John Carroll anticipated this  “Escaping these problems and providing for material to be sensibly read in any order, necessitates a different approach to organizing instruction. It requires a high degree of modularity, a structure of small self-contained units.” Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 9
  10. 10. But …  Not every page works well as page one Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 10
  11. 11. Jump into the middle  The page is in the middle of something  Reader has to back up to find start of the thread  It may be a “topic,” but it assumes sequence Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 11
  12. 12. On the Web but Not of the Web  Putting a PDF or a tri-pane help system on you Website does not create Web-like content.  Native Web content does not look like this.  Native Web content is not sequential  Readers don’t stick to one site. They hop around the whole Web Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 12
  13. 13. Writers in denial  Many writers are in denial about the power of Web search.      “too many false hits” “too much stuff to wade through” “takes too long to find things” “content is unreliable” “easier to find things in a book with a well prepared index” Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 13
  14. 14. So why do users prefer to search the Web? Photo: Steven Straiton/Wikimedia Commons Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 14
  15. 15. Scope  Searching the Web is not like searching the index of one book  It is like searching the index of every book, letter, article, and conversation in the world  Index search only begins when you have found the right book  Finding the right book is expensive Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 15
  16. 16. The Long Tail  Many low demand items account for as much total demand as a few high demand items.  Amazon makes a lot of money from the long tail of items regular stores can’t stock Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 16
  17. 17. The Long Tail Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 17
  18. 18. Manual doesn’t cover long tail  Manual has only high demand items  Users often need specific items from the low demand set  They don’t know which items are low demand  The Web has it all Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 18
  19. 19. Information Foraging Photo: Amanda Lea, Wikimedia Commons Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 19
  20. 20. Information foraging  “Information foraging predicts that the easier it is to find good patches, the quicker users will leave a patch. Thus, the better search engines get at highlighting quality sites, the less time users will spend on any one site.” Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox: June 30, 2003 Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 20
  21. 21. Information snacking  The growth of always-on broadband connections also encourages this trend toward shorter visits. With dial-up, connecting to the Internet is somewhat difficult, and users mainly do it in big time chunks. In contrast, always-on connections encourage information snacking , where users go online briefly, looking for quick answers. Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox: June 30, 2003 Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 21
  22. 22. Experience vs. credentials “Now the technology lets you find experienced people as easily as credentialed ones.” David Weinberger: To Big to Know Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 22
  23. 23. Collegiality “Links are the visible manifestation of the author giving up any claim to completeness or even sufficiency; links invite the reader to browse the network in which the work is enmeshed, an acknowledgement that thinking is something that we do together.” David Weinberger: To Big to Know Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 23
  24. 24. Include it all. Filter is afterward. “We seem to be making a cultural choice---with our new infrastructure's thumb heavily on the scale---to prefer to start with abundance rather than curation. Include it all. Filter it afterward. Even then, the filters do not remove anything; they filter forward, not out.” David Weinberger: To Big to Know Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 24
  25. 25. Filter it afterward  The Web is a filter  We can filter it for ourselves  Google  And with our friends     LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Etc. Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 25
  26. 26. Filter it socially Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 26
  27. 27. Authority is shifting “If our social networks are our new filters, then authority is shifting from experts in faraway offices to the network of people we know, like, and respect.” Too Big to Know Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 27
  28. 28. Individual journey  Readers make their individual journey through a Web of information  Our content is one resource they may visit on that journey  But wherever they enter our content, it should act as page one Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 28
  29. 29. How I got to the conference Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 29
  30. 30. Shared vehicles; unique trips  Many different vehicles  Each functions independently  I chose the sequence to create a unique journey  The airplane design does not depend on my arriving by taxi  The subway works the same if I take the stairs, not the escalator Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 30
  31. 31. No guided tour  Readers are self directed  We have always known most readers don’t take the guided tour  They skip and scan and look stuff up  Now they can self direct across the entire Web  To serve them, provide EPPO topics Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 31
  32. 32. The book model  Books provide the guided tour as primary means  Linear book  Support self-guided as secondary means  Scanable subheads  Index Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 32
  33. 33. The EPPO model  EPPO topics support self-guided as primary means  Every pages works as page one  Works with search, social curation  Works with external resources  Can still provide a guided tour as a secondary means  Ordered topic collections  Can include external resources Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 33
  34. 34. At the crossroads  Try to reclaim the order and certainty of the book world, or cooperate in the linked ecology of the web with its social approach to authority and its fuzzy edges? Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 34
  35. 35. EXAMPLES Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 35
  36. 36. Recipe  Black Forest Ham and Gruyère Frittata Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 36
  37. 37. Car review  Subaru Forrester 2003-2008 review Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 37
  38. 38. Technical article  Create REST applications with the Slim microframework Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 38
  39. 39. Ornithology  Blue-footed Booby Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 39
  40. 40. Encyclopedia article  Ottawa Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 40
  41. 41. Stack Overflow  Python shelve OutOfMemory error Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 41
  42. 42. CHARACTERISTICS OF EPPO TOPICS Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 42
  43. 43. Self Contained  No linear dependencies  Never assumes you have read X  May assume you know X  May require different types of information “blocks” Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 43
  44. 44. Establish Context  Reader may arrive from anywhere  Search and links may be imprecise  Allow the reader to get their bearings quickly  Navigable context  If they are a little off, help them get where they should be Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 44
  45. 45. Specific Limited Purpose  Must have a clear idea of the purpose it fulfills for the reader  Purpose must be specific  Can’t be self contained or establish context if purpose not specific  Purpose must be limited  One vehicle in a network the reader navigates for themselves  Do one thing; do it well Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 45
  46. 46. Conform to type  Topics on a common subject tend to have a similar pattern       Recipes Encyclopedia articles on cities Car reviews Ornithology Product comparisons Technical articles 1 2 3 4 Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 46
  47. 47. Stay on one level  Books tend to change levels  Topics support readers choosing their own path  Readers decide when they want big picture or gritty detail  Readers change levels by changing topics  Topics stay on one level Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 47
  48. 48. Assume reader is qualified  Books designed as sole source for diverse audience  Write for the least qualified reader  Often annoying for experienced reader  Topics are one stop in reader’s selfdirected journey  If reader is not qualified, they can choose other topics to get qualified Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 48
  49. 49. Link Richly  Books are designed for linear reading  Links may be considered a distraction  Allow reader to deviate from writer’s planned course  Topics are for self directed readers     Make context navigable Enable reader to qualify themselves Enable switching levels Enable onward journey Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 49
  50. 50. Topics and Topic Sets  Need many topics to cover a large subject area  Create topic sets, not books  Support random entry  Establish type to ensure completeness and conformance to purpose  Support reader choice within your set  Make them work on the Web Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 50
  51. 51. The book  Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web  XML Press  Available in the bookstore! Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 51
  52. 52. Questions?  Contact information         Mark Baker Analecta Communications Inc. mbaker@analecta.com Twitter: @mbakeranalecta Company: http://analecta.com Phone: 1 613 422 9400 Blog: http://everypageispageone.com Book: http://xmlpress.net/publications/eppo/ Content Strategy for Technical Communication and the Web 52
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