Content chunck and design. XML revival?
"Richer, more flexible designs can coexist with the demands of multichannel publishing; future design changes can sidestep the laborious process of scrubbing old content blobs; and simpler, streamlined tools can help editors and authors produce better content faster. By combining the best of XML and structured web content, we can make the body field safe for future generations."
Used to think in terms of perception, cognition and emotion when designing instructional software. L'histoire se... now it's (digital) content.
"A cognitive effect is just a change in the mind of the audience. When we learn or are influenced or make a decision, there is a corresponding cognitive effect. Most of these are small and incremental. Some are breakthroughs. All things considered, breakthroughs are more relevant than small changes to our attitudes. The actual theory is quite a bit more complex than this, but we can gloss over that complexity for the time being."
(James Mathewson ~ Writing for digital)
Help (F1), a concept from the distant past.
"Recording and slides of a presentation to STC Silicon Valley."
Great connection between two of my beloved disciplines and fields of practice.
"In the shorter term (say, the next two to four years), I think we'll see some pretty obvious changes that have begun in certain places but have yet to enjoy a wider adoption."
Remarkable woman in the Paul Otlet trajectory.
"During her thirty years at the Bibliothèque Nationale (BN), Suzanne Briet (1894-1989) made important theoretical, organizational, and institutional contributions to the documentation movement in France. This paper attempts to place her documentation work within the context of the far-reaching reform of French libraries, with special attention to the transformation of the BN. Like her colleagues in special libraries, Briet embraced modernity and science. However, because of her strong orientation toward humanistic scholarship, she viewed documentation service and bibliographic orientation as an enhancement rather than a rejection of the scholarly traditions of the national library. This paper will focus on her efforts to integrate the innovative ideas of the documentation movement into the practice of librarianship at the Bibliothèque Nationale."
Great insight into paper versus digital, online, Web, 'what-have-you'. Now filter design included.
"On paper, information design is monolithic and paternalistic. It is all about static structures page layouts, indexes, tables of contents all specified by a supervising author. On the Web, information design is distributed and democratic. It is all about filters, about designing filters that work for you, and about designing content to work with the filters. (...) Content needs to be designed for the Web. The filters need to be designed for the content."
(Mark Baker ~ Every Page Is One)
Information management and technical communication appear to be the parents of content strategy.
"Over the years technical communication has transitioned from a conventional author-reader engagement to a realm of social collaboration. Let's take a look at how technical communication has progressed over time and the significant milestones along the way."
(Monalisa Sen and Debarshi Gupta Biswas ~ tcworld)
Finally, somebody said it.
"I was one of about 5 technical writers among the 650 attendees, which is why I found it surprising to hear Kristina Halverson say, We can learn a lot from tech comm. Let me repeat that. We can learn a lot from tech comm."
Data, information, or content modelling: entities, properties and relations. Stuff and structure.
"A content model is a powerful tool for fostering communication and aligning efforts between UX design, editorial, and technical resources on a project. By clearly defining the assembly model, the content types, and the content attributes, we can help make sure that the envisioned content strategy becomes a reality for the content creators. In my recent projects, I find that content modeling is more and more in demand. It's a valuable skill for any content strategist, especially those that strive for mastery."
Also, content strategy can learn a whole lot from the field of Techical Communication.
"In this webcast recording, Sarah O'Keefe explores how to develop a content strategy specifically for technical content. That means stepping back from the temptation to focus on tools and instead taking a hard look at what the users need and how best to deliver it."
A column is like a site. Great to start but a hell of a job (for most) to maintain it on a regular basis. As always, benefit of the doubt.
"This column explores the strategic aspects of information architecture and the tools to equip information architects for success. Topics will address the business, strategy, user experience, and implementation of strategic information architecture, including organizational, content management, and tactical considerations."
(Andrea Ames and Alyson Riley ~ STC Intercom)
"The Content Strategy SIG is to be the STC home for members who are practitioners in this new space. The SIG is the forum in which to establish and develop the practice area of content strategy, particularly as it pertains to technical communication, to provide resources that prepare STC members wanting to transition to this as a career option, and to allow SIG members to support one another as practitioners as the field develops. Additionally, artifacts may be developed that allows practitioners to build a body of knowledge specifically pertaining to content strategy. The Content Strategy SIG was inaugurated in September 2009. As a new SIG, we are actively seeking members." (Society for Technical Communication) ~ dead-on-arrival
"DITA would have you believe that you can single source your way into every possible deliverable. In reality, you're just making potatoes in a few different ways (scalloped, mashed, boiled). You're still giving the user potatoes. VITA is a multimodal approach, giving the user a full array of nutrition options, so to speak. It educates and informs by touching almost every sensory input." (Tom Johnson)
"(...) content strategy is more than a buzzword and goes above and beyond traditional project management or information architecture. Content strategy is a coordinated plan between the disciplines, which shows where an organization intends to put its content development efforts." (Peg Mulligan)
"(...) a summary of why findability becomes an issue for technical writers, and what the information paradox is that we encounter. Then, in an usual ethical twist, I’ll explain why findability might not actually be an issue." (Tom Johnson)
"One of the most fundamental rules of user experience on the web is that developers are rarely qualified to evaluate it. As developers, we know far too much about the web in general, and intuitively grasp details that mystify people who spend their days contributing to society in other ways. For this reason, it’s all too easy for us to build websites and applications that are hard to use. Good user testing during the development process can mitigate the problem, but in many projects, the testing budget is limited if present at all." (Lyle Mullican ~ A List Apart)
"Using any of the standard authoring tools — Flare, RoboHelp, Author-It, Doc-to-Help — leaves you with the ridiculous model of a single author working from a single vantage point from a single organization trying to pull together an ocean of information." (Tom johnson)
"Know-how, checklists, tools and links, which will help you to create user-friendly software documentation such as manuals, online help, software demos and other forms of software user assistance." (Indoition Software User Assistance)
"This site is the home of the Content Strategy SIG (Special Interest Group) of the Society for Technical Communication. (...) Content strategy is an emerging field of practice dealing with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle. Strategy includes alignment to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance." (About Content Strategy SIG)
"Single sourcing and its pragmatic flip side, reuse, remind me a bit of the early days of the personal computer. Everybody wanted one, but many weren’t sure what they would do with a computer if they got one. Even among seasoned user assistance architects, single sourcing and reuse remain elusive concepts. I recently heard someone at an STC chapter meeting define single sourcing as producing the same document as both a Help file and as a PDF file. Basically true, but one would hope there is more to it than that." - (Mike Hughes - UXmatters)
"(...) a blog about the intersection of content strategy, pop culture and human behavior. Contributors are all practicing Content Strategists at the offices of Razorfish, an international digital design agency." - (About Content Strategy)
"Many technical communication departments are experiencing flat budgets, meaning they’re getting only small or no increases in headcounts, capital expenses, or training dollars. Worse yet, many departments are facing reductions in these resources. These reductions cause production pressures that are often confounded by increases in development headcount, here or offshore. Since more code equates to more features, which in turn drive greater revenues, companies are more willing to increase development budgets. On the other hand, adding writers increases costs, which in turn reduces margins." (Mike Hughes - UXmatters)
"Conference speakers, Peer Showcase presenters, and Exhibitors are invited to provide additional materials to supplement the detailed information included in the printed Proceedings. Additional items may be added to this page as they become available. (...) The Conference speakers retain all rights to their presentation materials. WritersUA only assumes the right to distribute the comprehensive, printed Proceedings. If you would like copies of presentation slides and they are not listed here, we encourage you to request them from the individual speakers. Most speakers have provided their email address in the printed Proceedings." (WritersUA)
"If this column's title sounds familiar to you, the bad news is you're getting old, but the good news is your memory hasn't gone yet. It was the title of a presentation I gave at the STC conference in Anaheim ten years ago. However, many of the points I made in that talk are still relevant to user assistance today, so I would like to update some of them and offer some new thoughts as well." (Mike Hughes - UXmatters)
"User assistance occurs within an action context—the user doing something with an application - and should appear in close proximity to the focus of that action - that is, the application it supports. The optimal placement of user assistance, space permitting, is in the user interface itself. We typically call that kind of user assistance instructional text." (Mike Hughes - UXmatters)
"It's hard to remember now just how different this community was ten years ago. There were only a few hundred SGML experts in the world, a goodly number of whom came to this conference every year. Very few groups in existence today could boast the level of intelligence, the breadth of interest, and the depth of independence, not to say downright weirdness, evidenced by the SGML community of a decade past." (XML 2006 Proceedings) - courtesy of timoreilly
"This article explores the role of user assistance in providing domain-centric online Help - rather than Help that simply explains obvious user interactions with well-designed user interfaces - and provides a pattern for and examples of expert guidance." (Mike Hughes - UXmatters)
"We usually assume that documentation is used after a product has been purchased, as part of the process of learning or setting it up. But these are all examples documentation as part of the purchasing-decision process, looking for information beyond the lists of features or simple technical specifications on data sheets." (Whitney Quesenbery - UXmatters)
"This exclusive and informative top ten list is based on interviews with technical writers at more than 20 software companies - tech writers that are actually using DITA to create documentation today. It's jam-packed with useful advice, practical tips, honest warnings, and lessons learned." (The Content Wrangler)
"The Minimalist theory of J.M. Carroll is a framework for the design of instruction, especially training materials for computer users. The theory suggests that (1) all learning tasks should be meaningful and self-contained activities, (2) learners should be given realistic projects as quickly as possible, (3) instruction should permit self-directed reasoning and improvising by increasing the number of active learning activities, (4) training materials and activities should provide for error recognition and recovery and, (5) there should be a close linkage between the training and actual system." (Martin Ryder)
"The Apple Publication Style guide provides editorial guidelines for text in instructional publications, technical documentation, reference information, training programs, and the software user interface." (Apple Developers Connection) - courtesy of usablehelp
"The Gallery of Onscreen Help has received a long overdue update. I've just finished adding over 125 new screens, bringing the gallery to 333 sample onscreen help implementations. Drop by and take a peek at what your colleagues, and competitors, are up to." (Usable Help)
"The problems, we found, were not in these users, but in the Help system." (Robert Krull - WritersUA)
"This article and my prediction about the future of RoboHelp are not meant to be an attack in any way. RoboHelp is an important tool to thousands of developers throughout the world and they deserve to have as much information about the future of the product as possible." (Joe Welinske - WinWriters)
"Level of experience is one of the most important aspects in determining salary level. There is a sizeable increase in salary as we move beyond our first years in the technical communication field. Starting salaries average in the mid-40s and move up into the mid-50s as our careers progress. However, there is a stagnation as we reach the middle years of our work experience with average salaries remaining fixed in the mid-70s. There appears to be an earnings ceiling for many of us." (WinWriters)
"This study compared two evaluation techniques, Usability Testing and Cognitive Walkthrough, in their ability to identify errors in aviation maintenance documentation. The techniques were evaluated to see how much unique information they each produced as well as the type of errors identified. Results showed that the techniques were complementary in their findings and both are recommended in the development of technical documentation." (Bonnie Rogers et al. - SURL 7.1) - courtesy of uidesigner
"Back in the last century, people learned to operate computer software by reading thick manuals laden with obscure text and scant pictures. Or they attended training classes where they squinted at the instructor breezily demonstrating barely recognizable procedures. Or they clickety-click-clicked their way through the Help file, gleaning snippets of information but never weaving them into a coherent tapestry. Today, computer users can learn from a personal tutor who demonstrates the program, guides them through their initial efforts, monitors their growing skills, and certifies their mastery. Tools like Captivate, Camtasia, and TurboDemo make it possible for teachers and communicators to create effective software simulations–without programming. Even simple presentation tools, such as PowerPoint can create truly interactive simulations." (William Horton - WritersUA)
"Online help systems have evolved over the past 20 years to meet the needs of our users. Designers must consider the content, format, presentation, navigation, and access methods of online help systems." (Michelle Corbin - WritersUA) - courtesy of ui designer
"This specification has been produced to establish standards for the documentation of any civil or military vehicle or equipment. It is based on international standards such as SGML/XML and CGM for production and use of electronic documentation. In addition, it defines a Common Source Data Base (CSDB) to provide source information for compilation of the publications and for use in electronic logistics information systems to deliver modules of information direct to the user."
"The main purpose of OSDDP is to provide a place where everyone can learn project development from each other through open source development as well as develop skills for producing professional and technical documents." - (OSDDP)
"While technical publishers strive to adapt to new online media and formats, online efforts at self-education by computer users are becoming a form of true grassroots documentation. This talk discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each side -- traditional books and user self-education -- and suggests how they may converge. It offers suggestions for improving the educational effects of mailing lists, computing project web sites, and other community documentation." (Andy Oram - O'Reilly Open Source)
Presentation from 'Communicating crossing borders' of May 12, 2004 (Karen Schriver)
Presentation by Karen A. Schriver (KSA Document Design & Research, Inc.) on May 13, 2004 at the STIC symposium in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. (STIC)
Uploaded Session Materials - "This page contains links to materials provided by the conference presenters." (Society for Technical Communication) - courtesy of beth mazur
"On this page, I list wacky, bizarre, surreal and otherwise strange examples of technical documentation, particularly illustration." (Darren Barefoot) - courtesy of xblog
TCeurope is the European umbrella organisation for technical documentation, currently representing technical writers and illustrators in seven European countries. The first European Information Development Conference took place in Wiesbaden, Germany 2003 (TCEurope) - Blatant self promo
"This publication is directed toward professional writers, editors, and proofreaders. Those whose profession lies in other areas (for example, research or management), but who have occasion to write or review others' writing will also find this information useful. By carefully studying the examples and revisions to these examples, you can discern most of the techniques in my editing 'bag of tricks'; I hope that you editors will find these of particular interest." (Mary K. McCaskill - NASA Langley Research Center) - courtesy of lucdesk
The importance of documentation: Discover what's missing in today's documentation efforts, and why it's gone
"As documentation decreases in quality, users stop turning to it. As users stop turning to it, companies stop trying to maintain it - why bother, if the users won't read it? This line of reasoning is dooming the future of documentation to failure. Documentation is important and needs to be taken seriously." (Peter Seebach - IBM developerWorks) - courtesy of lawrence lee
"Since the creation of the World-Wide Web we have seen a great growth in the complexity of Web sites. There has also been a large expansion in number of Web sites and in amount of usage. As a consequence, more and more Web site users are having problems accomplishing their tasks, and it is increasingly important to provide them with support." (Johan Aberg - Adaptive Hypertext & Hypermedia)
"The European Information Development Conference is the first European high quality event for professionals dealing with multilingual product information such as technical writers, web designers, documentation and information managers, translators, vendors. It provides an excellent platform for information and knowledge exchange between experts from the industry, researchers, education experts, service providers and free-lancers." (TCeurope)
"This Web site responds to the need for practical application of rhetorical principles in science and organizational communication. The site offers instructors of technical and professional communication a tool that allows them to bring concrete examples that illustrate rhetorical principles into the classroom. Using the Challenger disaster as the case study and theme, the site provides the social, political, and technical context of the disaster to help develop understanding of the background and exigence of the situation." (Association of Teachers of Technical Writing)
Information on the Assembly Line: A review of Information Design and Its Implications for Technical Communicators
"Technological advances have made endless amounts of information on nearly every subject easily accessible, while at the same time fostering an economic climate conducive to international trade and partnerships. The challenge for companies then becomes one of figuring out how best to manage and use this mass of information, a task complicated by the increasingly global nature of business that requires products to be tailored to more specialized user groups in a wider array of formats and in different languages. Hence the emergence of information design, a field that technical communicators would do well to associate themselves with. Information design is centered around solving many of today's communication problems, and technical communicators are well suited to participate in those discussions. This thesis seeks to understand what information design is and the role that technical communicators can play in this important and emerging field. A comprehensive literature review, this thesis seeks to represent and summarize the overall body of work within the field of technical communication concerning information design and its related issues, as well as to suggest ways in which technical communicators can better participate in the design and implementation of information design systems." (Jason Nichols - University of Central Florida) - courtesy of victor lombardi
"(...) there are about 190 sample Help books from a wide variety of companies and products. It's a way for Help authors to get a glimpse at their peer's work without having to install a lot of additional software." - (Usable Help)
"Writing for the Web requires careful planning. Your content needs to fit well within the context of your website. When a reader finds your content, they need to be able to scan it quickly. That's what metadata is about. In order for your website to be found, you need to write for how people search." (Gerry McGovern)
"JavaHelp is an online Help delivery mechanism designed specifically for Java applications. JavaHelp leverages the 'write once, run everywhere' mantra of Java itself, and thus is ideal for Java applications." (Sarah Leritz Higgins - WinWriters) - courtesy of usable help
"Every evolving field has its milestones, none of which exists in a vacuum. The timeline on this page shows a few significant events in science and technology that have shaped the field of technical communication. The timeline also indicates concurrent markers in the development of technical communication in general and the Society for Technical Communication in particular." (STC@50)
"Technical writing is the presentation of information that helps the reader solve a particular problem. Technical communicators write, design, and/or edit proposals, manuals, web pages, lab reports, newsletters, and many other kinds of professional documents." (Dennis G. Jerz)
"On the web, a blurb is a line or short paragraph (20-50 words) that evaluates (or at least summarizes) what the reader will find at the other end of a link. A good blurb should inform, not tease. Usability testing will help you determine the best way to lay out your blurbs, but this document will help you write the content." (Dennis G. Jerz) - courtesy of guuui
"Whilst applications are becoming more complex, many people believe that online user assistance hasnít changed much since WinHelp was introduced with Windows 3. This is a misconception." (William Birn and Ellis Pratt - Cherryleaf) - courtesy of ellis pratt
"There is no magical formula, no sleek software, that will take away the pain of badly written, badly organized content." (Gerry McGovern)
"(...) blends disciplines such as information architecture, information design, knowledge management, communications and media theory, usability engineering, Web design, 'Webitorial' writing and Internet marketing."
"When users refer to help, it is usually because they are having difficulty accomplishing a task -- they know what they want to do, but not how to do it." (Apple User Experience)
Complete styles and guidelines for publishing a variety of technical publications. (Microsoft)
"April 2000 issue now available" (Society for Technical Communication)
The Internet Forum for Technical Communicators (Eric and Deborah Ray)
Special Issue on Information Design (Journal of the Society of Technical Communication)