One Writer’s Perspective: How Structured XML Authoring Changes How You Work


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Presented at DocTrain East 2007 Conference by Amanda Cross -- In the same way that learning a foreign language can make you a better speaker of your native language, it took moving out of a structured authoring environment for me to realize how much structure had freed my time to expand my skill set. After a few months of fretting over the position of page breaks and enforcing my own heading hierarchy, I was pulling my hair out. “I’m trying to bake a cake,” I thought, “why am I stuck milling my own flour?”

Many tasks are done well (or well enough) by a computer and do not need to occupy a professional writer’s time. However, many document authors are threatened by the idea of structured writing because they fear that if writing a document is easy, then their company won’t need them to do it anymore. The fact is that writing a structured document is easy, but that doesn’t make the writer redundant. To the contrary, it gives the writer the opportunity to expand their influence to areas such as internal training, interface design, and quality management.

This session is for those interested in the time savings and opportunities for professional development that I discovered thanks to the implementation of structured authoring in my documentation department. After this session, you’ll consider the benefits that you might realize with a similar move.

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One Writer’s Perspective: How Structured XML Authoring Changes How You Work

  1. 1. One Writer’s Perspective: How Structured XML Authoring Changes How You Work
  2. 2. About Me <ul><li>Writing the structured docs since 2001. </li></ul><ul><li>Designing the structured docs since 2004. </li></ul><ul><li>Implementing the structured docs since 2006. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Hating Structure <ul><li>Filling in the blanks on a Microsoft Word template prevented me from giving the topic the unique treatment that it deserved. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Hating Lack of Structure <ul><li>Starting with a blank document prevented me from expanding my influence in the project, the team, and the company. </li></ul>
  5. 5. How Structure Makes Life Easier <ul><li>Researching </li></ul><ul><li>Asking questions in meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Drafting docs </li></ul><ul><li>Getting reviews </li></ul><ul><li>Putting features in perspective </li></ul><ul><li>Updating docs </li></ul><ul><li>Writing predictable docs </li></ul>
  6. 6. How Structure Makes Life Easier <ul><ul><li>Structuring the documentation can change the way a whole project team thinks about features. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. How Structure Makes Life Harder <ul><li>Changing you paradigm </li></ul><ul><li>Accepting that information can be simple </li></ul><ul><li>Learning many new technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Inventing new delivery mechanisms </li></ul><ul><li>Expanding your workload </li></ul><ul><li>Writing for all outputs and for ease of localization </li></ul>
  8. 8. How Structure Doesn't Make Life Harder <ul><li>Creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Aesthetics </li></ul><ul><li>Autonomy </li></ul><ul><li>Job security </li></ul>
  9. 9. Thank You <ul><ul><li>Amanda Cross </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structured Writing Evangelist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul>