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Mark Baker
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Every Page is Page One
Every Page is Page One

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Content always creates an incomplete bridge. The reader always has to build some spans for themselves for communication to be successful. Remembering this can help us set achievable goals, avoid overbuilding, and design content that leaves room for the reader to complete their part of the task. http://everypageispageone.com/2017/09/18/the-incomplete-bridge/
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We get trade policy wrong when we fail to think about the whole picture. Same thing goes for structured writing. http://everypageispageone.com/2017/05/22/structured-writing-and-free-trade/
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I sent my new book to the publisher yesterday. Today I reflect on the value of writing long-form content, its capacity to force you to find the unifying idea that you might never find in any amount of short-form writing. In Praise of Long-form Content: http://everypageispageone.com/2017/03/01/in-praise-of-long-form-content/
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Mark Baker commented on a post on Blogger.
The thing that really made technical writing a stand-alone profession is technical publishing. The making of manuals is a complex business. The desktop publishing revolution really created the model of the modern technical writer -- someone who could not only write a manual but do all the document design and prepress for a manual that would then be printed and put in a box, beyond the scope of correction or addition. It took focus to get is all right, and all assembled and in the box on deadline.

Updating a wiki or pushing an article out to the web is so much easier than publishing a manual, and it can be corrected and added to at any time. That is what really breaks the traditional model of the tech writer.

But then the question becomes, do we really want to just have everyone dumping out content to the web? The answer is probably no, but that becomes a problem of content management, not publication. Writing a manual and publishing a manual are tasks on the same scale, so it makes sense to have one person do both. But content management and content authoring happen on different scales. Assigning them to the same person makes less sense.

DITA really dates from the days of technical publishing. It puts a lot of the management functionality in the author's hands, which makes sense in the manual publishing paradigm, but not in the content management paradigm. I find it interesting, but not surprising, that we are starting to see vendors in the CCMS space rejecting DITA now. They can offer CCMS functionality with less overhead without DITA.

But if all this breaks the model of the tech writer, the new model seems to me to be far from clear or established. The Web, as David Weinberger observed, is about small pieces loosely joined. Web content should be characterised by cohesion and loose coupling. It should form a bottom-up information architecture where readers can move about effectively through the content, as the do in Wikipedia, for instance.

What we seem to have instead is a kind of content warehousing. Small pieces barely joined at all, but categorized and catalogued. It is not information architecture so much as information warehousing. This really does not cut it for complex information needs and non-obvious information requests. It's not that the old manual paradigm works any better. But there is considerable resistance to moving away from it because the alternatives are not really mature. The old model of the tech writer ought to have collapsed, and it is certainly crumbling at the edges, but it hangs on, not because it should, but because the alternative is not there yet.

When we do figure out how to create content that is cohesive and loosely coupled in a bottom-up information architecture, we will see how the roles of the various contributors shake out. Until then, we will be waving goodbye to a ship that can't actually get out of the harbour.
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There is a new component content management system on the market that is based on DocBook, not DITA. What does this tell us about the direction of content management and structure writing? http://everypageispageone.com/2016/08/03/docbook-resurgent-what-it-tells-us-about-structured-writing-and-component-content-management/
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Tech comm and other communication functions tend to rely on human feedback loops which are slow and come with emotions attached. The result is poor feedback and thus lower quality. Structured writing can introduce mechanical feedback loops that are quick, accurate, and come without emotional overtones. http://everypageispageone.com/2016/07/25/designing-for-feedback/
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There is a proposal to create a Stack Exchange site for Documentation. http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/101439/documentation?referrer=GTZJ5sVYXPGMTJXchGF6KA2. Stack Overflow and the other Stack Exchange sites have had a profound impact on how technical content is created and shared. Documentation folks should get in on the act with a site for Documentarians and Tech Writers. How better to understand the new way information is created and shared than to be a part of it.
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