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Taxonomy Now! Building a stress-resistant knowledge architecture in your current tools

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Slides from my talk at CMS/DITA NA 2017. Description from the conference site:

Topic-based authoring and information typing have greatly improved product content. However, having written all those topics, doc teams need to be able to find them again. Customers, too, need to access relevant information easily. It is no good leaving granular topics dangling from a TOC tree. They need to be richly linked, so users can find the content they need and understand the big picture of the subject domain.

Taxonomy makes information findable again. Presentations inspire us with tools that manage vocabularies, deliver information intelligently, but may be beyond your budget. Can you start with your current tools? Learn how DITA Subject Schemes or even snippet-based reuse can house a future-ready knowledge model. Understand best practices for implementing and designing taxonomies. Start with a pilot, prove the potential, and grow into a full rollout that transforms customer and author experience.

What can the audience expect to learn?

You will learn how authors can use a controlled taxonomy consistently and easily, even with standard tech docs tools. You will arm yourself with techniques and approaches to build a taxonomy that’s strong enough to grow with the changing needs of your organization. And you will understand how taking findability and taxonomy seriously may require tweaks to your content structures for best results.

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Taxonomy Now! Building a stress-resistant knowledge architecture in your current tools

  1. 1. Building a stress-resistant knowledge architecture in your current tools Taxonomy Now!
  2. 2. Joe Pairman Taxonomy Now!
  3. 3. Taxonomy Now!
  4. 4. This presentation covers: ~ Principles for using taxonomy (and content tagged with it) effectively in any tool or system ~ Futureproof ways to use taxonomy in DITA right now (+ possibly other architectures) – Light on delivery specifics (focus is how to work with taxonomy in XML source), but questions very welcome! – Every approach involves compromises ~ Possible next steps after barebones taxonomy – For delivery – For managing and doing more with taxonomy
  5. 5. To put these tips into practice, you need: ~ An starter hierarchical taxonomy; could be lists or an Excel sheet – How to design a taxonomy is not covered here… ~ A strong stomach for bits of XML (at least as the architect / implementor, though authors’ tasks should be simpler)
  6. 6. Taxonomy is: ~ A way to keep track of things that are important to your organization ~ A way to keep track of names for those things ~ A way to indicate some broad relationships between those things
  7. 7. We tag content with taxonomy “concepts”, so that we can: ~ Find it in “containers”: site nav; doc folders ~ Filter it on various facets
  8. 8. We tag content with taxonomy “concepts”, so that we can: ~ Find it in “containers”: site nav; doc folders ~ Filter it on various facets ~ Create “See also” links ~ Let people search using their own preferred terms for things ~ And more…
  9. 9. A “concept” is: “an idea or notion; a unit of thought” — SKOS Simple Knowledge Organization System Reference
  10. 10. A “concept” is: “an idea or notion; a unit of thought” — SKOS Simple Knowledge Organization System Reference
  11. 11. A “concept” is:
  12. 12. A “concept” is:
  13. 13. A concept has a unique ID:
  14. 14. A concept has a unique ID: ~ In SKOS, the ID is always a URI ~ The end of the URI (or the whole URI) can be human-readable, e.g: https://mekon.poolparty.biz/mek onchef3/ShaveIce ~ However, human-readable IDs can cause problems for authors
  15. 15. The ID’s all we tag content with (of course, authors need to see the label) https://mekon.poolparty. biz/mekonchef3/164
  16. 16. Each platform reads the taxonomy https://mekon.poolparty. biz/mekonchef3/164 Filter results by: Preparation method Chop (23) Combine (2) Mince (3) Shaved ice (1) Shred (8) Dietary suitability Gluten-free Halal ▸ More… Type of dish Main meal Side dish ▸ More…
  17. 17. Label changes are picked up https://mekon.poolparty. biz/mekonchef3/164 Filter results by: Preparation method Chop (23) Combine (2) Mince (3) Shave (ice) (1) Shred (8) Dietary suitability Gluten-free Halal ▸ More… Type of dish Main meal Side dish ▸ More…
  18. 18. Hierarchy changes work too https://mekon.poolparty. biz/mekonchef3/164 Filter results by: Preparation method Flavoring / tenderizing Marinate (5) Dry rub (3) Food processing Chop (23) Combine (2) Mince (3) Shave (ice) (1) Shred (8) Dietary suitability Gluten-free Halal ▸ More… Type of dish Main meal Side dish ▸ More…
  19. 19. Content marketing example to show an advanced application of this principle
  20. 20. Users can select a preparation method or ingredient
  21. 21. …to see the attachment that makes the method easier
  22. 22. To learn more about the attachment, select the button
  23. 23. From here, you can buy the product directly
  24. 24. The doc automatically links back to the recipe, and the recipe relates to “shave” and “blend”
  25. 25. Starting with a recipe taxonomy
  26. 26. Tech writers create tech docs
  27. 27. Marcom creates recipes
  28. 28. In FontoXML
  29. 29. Connecting key inline terms…
  30. 30. To the taxonomy concepts.
  31. 31. With your DITA tools (or other tech comm tools), how can you tag content in a reliable, futureproof way?
  32. 32. (Examples from docs for a fictitious productivity tool)
  33. 33. (Examples from docs for a fictitious productivity tool)
  34. 34. Three major approaches… ~ Subject schemes + classification maps (indirect classification) ~ Subject schemes + direct classification in the content ~ Hierarchical <data> elements, conreffed into appropriate elements in the content
  35. 35. …evaluated on 9 criteria… Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Essential
  36. 36. …evaluated on 9 criteria… Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Essential Often-needed
  37. 37. …on a 4-point scale. Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Essential Often-needed Works easily Works OK with some setup / planning Hard to set up / maintain, or doesn’t completely satisfy criterion Doesn’t work
  38. 38. Essential criteria ~ Concepts are addressed with unique IDs ~ UI supports / constrains authors appropriately – No copying/pasting of IDs! – Picklist at least, but preferably hierarchical browse and/or search ~ Tagging travels with content – Tag is associated with source object (either right in the XML, or in a DB field attached to the topic/map/element)
  39. 39. Approach 1: Classification maps
  40. 40. Approach 1: Classification maps
  41. 41. Approach 1: Classification maps
  42. 42. Classification maps Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Essential
  43. 43. Approach 2: Subject-Scheme- controlled attributes
  44. 44. Approach 2: Subject-Scheme- controlled attributes
  45. 45. Approach 2: Subject-Scheme- controlled attributes
  46. 46. Approach 2: Subject-Scheme- controlled attributes
  47. 47. Subject Scheme / attributes Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Essential
  48. 48. Approach 3: conreffed <data> Why do we need another approach? Why might Subject Scheme not fit sometimes? ~ When you need metadata in elements, not attributes ~ When your tools (or the DITA version you’re using) don’t support Subject Scheme ~ When you find the usability of Subject Scheme features (in your tools) still lacking
  49. 49. Approach 3: conreffed <data> Every help authoring tool has some concept of reusable snippets. This approach would be the only possible way to control taxonomy values in most HATs.
  50. 50. Approach 3: conreffed <data> Conref controls the values (if your business rules mandate using it)
  51. 51. Approach 3: conreffed <data> Conref controls the values
  52. 52. Approach 3: conreffed <data> Conref controls the values
  53. 53. Conreffed <data> Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Essential
  54. 54. Pause for questions
  55. 55. First 3 often-needed criteria ~ Tag any object (map / topic / block / inline element) – Bookmap may apply to market/product – Topic may apply to task or product component – Blocks & inlines have specific subject matter ~ Each object accepts multiple metadata fields – E.G. market, product ~ Multiple values per field – Multiple markets / products
  56. 56. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Classification map
  57. 57. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Classification map
  58. 58. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Classification map
  59. 59. Often-needed Subject Scheme / attributes Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes*
  60. 60. Subject Scheme / attributes Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Often needed
  61. 61. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Subject Scheme / attributes
  62. 62. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Conreffed <data>
  63. 63. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Conreffed <data>
  64. 64. Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs are URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Often needed Conreffed <data>
  65. 65. Remaining criteria ~ Authors / editors see preferred labels – The ID is still embedded / attached, but the preferred label’s what authors/editors see – Whenever the label’s updated in the taxonomy, that update’s what authors & editors see (even for previously tagged content) ~ IDs map to URIs – Can’t be URLs directly, since // illegal in attribute values L – Clear mapping from DITA side makes for easier integrations: taxonomy management, SEO markup, graph search ~ Create & maintain thesaurus structures – Alternate labels – Scope notes / descriptions – Related concepts – Matches from other taxonomies
  66. 66. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Remaining often-needed features Preferred labels?
  67. 67. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Remaining often-needed features Preferred labels?
  68. 68. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push Basically, no Remaining often-needed features Preferred labels?
  69. 69. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push Basically, no Remaining often-needed features IDs map to URIs
  70. 70. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Remaining often-needed features IDs map to URIs One approach to mapping — but it doesn’t do much
  71. 71. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push No Remaining often-needed features Create & maintain thesaurus ❌ ? ? ❌ ❌ ❌ ❌ ❌
  72. 72. Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push Basically, no Remaining often-needed features Create & maintain thesaurus There’s a limit to what you can feasibly author and manage with lists and tables • • • • • • •
  73. 73. Verdict: Subject Scheme with attributes good; <data> conrefs not bad (and sometimes the only option); thesauruses tricky in DITA! Concepts are addressed with unique IDs UI supports / constrains authors appropriately Tagging travels with content Classification maps Yes A little (lists of keys) No Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Depends on tool Yes Conreffed <data> Yes Yes, though authors must follow simple business rules Yes Apply to any object (map / topic / block / inline element) Each object accepts multiple metadata fields Multiple values per field Authors / editors see pref. labels IDs <> URIs Create & maintain thesaurus structures Classification maps Maps & topics only No Yes No Hard Some structures only, and those with difficulty Subject Scheme / attributes Yes Yes Yes Depends on tool Conreffed <data> Nearly all elements Can nest in semantic elements Yes* Takes setup (conref push) Use conref push Basically, no Essential Often needed
  74. 74. With well-tagged content, where to go next?
  75. 75. Possible local search option (would include Git repos)
  76. 76. Get more from a CCMS ~ The markup options presented will already make search easier – Some systems could provide a nice taxonomy UI based solely on this metadata ~ Systems’ own metadata capabilities can be very useful – Plan how to use them (or evaluate the system if you’re still considering one) against the 9 criteria
  77. 77. Your web devs / CMS people could start to use the metadata Light DITA-OT tweaks allow taxonomy tags through in basic XHTML output
  78. 78. Dynamic delivery ~ Quickest, and often cheapest, way to do sophisticated faceted browse, synonym search, and other stuff to really improve UX and get more value from your content ~ Again, if evaluating tools, look at the 9 criteria
  79. 79. Proper taxonomy management ~ Even for simple thesaurus management: – Drag & drop, much easier visualization, all standard thesaurus relationships, workflow too – Only real way to handle enterprise-wide taxonomy ~ More advanced semantic tech stuff: – Ontology – Easy linking / using bits of external taxonomies – Corpus analysis, auto-tagging (could consider integrated friendly DITA editors too, so casual authors can also tag stuff) ~ Criteria – Tool that uses SKOS (preferably natively) is the safest bet – Look for extensibility, good documentation, good support
  80. 80. Thoughts? Questions? Get in touch: joe.pairman@mekon.com @joepairman

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