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Topic-Based Authoring
and Reuse

Mollye Barrett
Terms
•

•

•

Single sourcing is a method of developing reusable content
that can be assembled to create publications; di...
Content Life Cycle
Why Topic-Based Authoring?
Authoring in structured topics decreases development costs and
time to market, Topics:
• Contai...
Who Does Topic-Based Authoring?
•

•

Technical communicators deliver information that transmits a
useful, accurate messag...
About Topic-Based Authoring 1
•
•

A topic is a unit of information with a title and content,
short enough to be specific ...
Topics, Reuse and Publishing

7
About Topic-Based Authoring 2
•
•

•

•

•

Remove context from the content for reuse
Assemble topic from a repository int...
About Topic-Based Authoring 3
•
•

•
•

•
•

Topics are standard units of information based on type
Topics require only na...
What Prevents Content Reuse?
•
•

•

Format
• Incompatibility
Poor structure
• Structure provides a framework, or set of f...
Making Topic Based Authoring
and Reuse Happen
Creating useful topics for effective reuse must be planned!
• Adopt a model ...
Writing Guidelines
Define how to write for user:
• Reading level
• Expertise
• Where read
• Publication
Producing one publ...
How Structure Helps
•

•

•

Does not help with voice, word choice, tone, etc., but can help
with:
• Required parts of top...
Topic-Based Authoring Tools
Author
•
•
•

XML
XMetal
oXygen

Author and publish
•
•
•
•

FrameMaker
MadCap Flare
RoboHelp
...
References
•

•

•

Ament, Kurt. Single Sourcing: Building Modular
Documentation. Norwich, NY: William Andrew Pub., 2003
B...
Thank You
Mollye Barrett
ClearPath, LLC
mollye@clearpath.cc

16
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Topic-based Authoring and Reuse

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Discuss the layers of topic-based authoring, best practices for writing at the topic level, single sourcing publishing opportunities and strategic planning to meet challenges along the way.

Published in: Technology, Business
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Topic-based Authoring and Reuse

  1. 1. Topic-Based Authoring and Reuse Mollye Barrett
  2. 2. Terms • • • Single sourcing is a method of developing reusable content that can be assembled to create publications; different combinations of topic modules result in separate publications Modular writing is a technique that makes single-sourcing possible. Modular, or topic-based, writing is a type of document design and architecture where content is structured into independent small modules (topics) which can be assembled into one or many larger texts, such as a books, Web sites and Help systems Content life cycle is a process that includes every content state and the tasks associated with that state from discovery to delivery
  3. 3. Content Life Cycle
  4. 4. Why Topic-Based Authoring? Authoring in structured topics decreases development costs and time to market, Topics: • Contain only the information needed to understand one concept, perform one procedure, or find one set of reference information • Increase consistency in the presentation of similar information • May be reviewed by subject-matter experts when ready • Assembled into multiple deliverables can be automated, reducing production time and costs • May be reused in multiple deliverables if consistently structured • May be updated immediately: no need to wait for the next release of an entire library of documents
  5. 5. Who Does Topic-Based Authoring? • • Technical communicators deliver information that transmits a useful, accurate message that is easy to understand, and helps non-expert's get through the material Communicate useable information, not pleasure reading • Topic-based content does not always read well • Unlike a novel, users search for and read only the topic needed
  6. 6. About Topic-Based Authoring 1 • • A topic is a unit of information with a title and content, short enough to be specific to a single subject. The smallest amount of content that allows for the successful completion of a task, or that provides basic knowledge of a concept. • Online help topics: goal-based not pleasure reading
  7. 7. Topics, Reuse and Publishing 7
  8. 8. About Topic-Based Authoring 2 • • • • • Remove context from the content for reuse Assemble topic from a repository into different publications for delivery in different reading formats. • Critical for managing large documentation suites with substantial common content When executed well, topic based authoring and publishing does not decrease quality; requires substantial discipline Writers don’t “own” content, content is a business asset reused by everyone Writers have less control over look and feel when published
  9. 9. About Topic-Based Authoring 3 • • • • • • Topics are standard units of information based on type Topics require only navigational reference for context and may be read in any order Topics are a single unit of work for an author The number of topics required to create a deliverable increases substantially over linear document-centric narratives Must be able to track topics, name and version Store content in an indexed repository; avoid folders use standardized naming convention
  10. 10. What Prevents Content Reuse? • • • Format • Incompatibility Poor structure • Structure provides a framework, or set of fixed “buckets” into which writers can drop content. Deviation produces errors…structure enforces compliance. Hard to do outside structure. Inconsistency • Content varies in terms, grammar, tone, style, diction, voice, tense 10
  11. 11. Making Topic Based Authoring and Reuse Happen Creating useful topics for effective reuse must be planned! • Adopt a model to define structure and indicate reuse • Create writing guidelines that define how to write to structure • Create modular content – easily accessed, assembled, updated, consistent • Follow standards – all writers, all the time, no exceptions • Make content usable – no filler • Design content and structure to accommodate differences 11
  12. 12. Writing Guidelines Define how to write for user: • Reading level • Expertise • Where read • Publication Producing one publication for the same reader is easy. Managing multiple publications from the same source is a challenge and a single style guide is essential. 12
  13. 13. How Structure Helps • • • Does not help with voice, word choice, tone, etc., but can help with: • Required parts of topic (e.g. prereq, example, result) • Acronym/term definition (e.g. conref, keys, abbreviatedform) Using structure relieves writers of need to remember mechanics like: • End each task with a result • Add a caption to each figure Writers are free to concentrate on writing 13
  14. 14. Topic-Based Authoring Tools Author • • • XML XMetal oXygen Author and publish • • • • FrameMaker MadCap Flare RoboHelp Word Content Management System • • • Author Publish Manage Manage • • • • Folders Excel SQL, Access, Oracle, RCS, SCCM, Subversion
  15. 15. References • • • Ament, Kurt. Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation. Norwich, NY: William Andrew Pub., 2003 Bazerman, Charles. "The Production of Technology and the Production of Human Meaning." Journal of Business and Technical Communication 12.3 (1998) Hargis, Gretchen. Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference, 2004
  16. 16. Thank You Mollye Barrett ClearPath, LLC mollye@clearpath.cc 16

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