DITA

The Content Wrangler XML Press Summer Book Sale

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2015-07-01 22:40

Our friends at XML Press have arranged a special book sale, just for you! For the month of July, all books in The Content Wrangler Series of Content Strategy Books are on sale (printed books and ebooks). We also have a bundle with all five books in the series available for one low price (and free shipping in the US).

In addition, XML Press is offering discounts on every book in its catalog, including print and ebook editions. Shop today and save!

The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series features publications from content industry experts, including Scott Abel, Rahel Anne Bailie, Paula Land, Kevin Nichols, Val Swisher, and Rick Yagodich.

 Included in the series:

9781937434342-165x255The Language of Content Strategy (edited by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie) is the gateway to a language that describes the world of content strategy. With fifty-two contributors, all known for their depth of knowledge, this set of terms forms the core of an emerging profession and, as a result, helps shape the profession. The terminology spans a range of competencies with the broad area of content strategy.

The Language of Content Strategy defines fifty-two terms that are central to the discipline of content strategy. Each term has been defined by an expert in that area, and each definition contains an essay that describes why that term is important.

Terms are grouped into five categories: Core Concepts, Core Deliverables, Technical Concepts, Extended Deliverables, and Global Content.

Buy the book!

TCIAH-Cover-Front-1650x2550

Content Audits and Inventories (by Paula Ladenburg Land) shows you how to begin with an inventory, scope and plan an audit, evaluate content against business and user goals, and move forward with a set of useful, actionable insights.

This practical, tactic-filled handbook walks you through setting up and running an inventory using an automated tool, setting the stage for a successful audit. Specific audit tactics addressed include auditing for content quality, performance, global considerations, and legal and regulatory issues. You will also learn how to do a competitive audit and incorporate personas into an audit.

Tips on presenting audit results to stakeholders will help you deliver effective strategies.

Buy the book!

CW_Cover_Nichols-front-1650x2550

Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide (by Kevin P. Nichols)

outlines best practices for conducting and executing content strategy projects. His book is a step-by-step guide to building an enterprise content strategy for your organization.

Enterprise Content Strategy draws on Kevin Nichols’ experience managing one of the largest and most successful global content strategy teams to provide an insider’s look at how to build an enterprise content strategy.

Full of definitions, questions you need to ask, checklists, and guidelines, this book focuses not on the what or why, but on the how.

Buy the book!

CW_Cover_Swisher-front-1650x2550

When you want to engage customers, you must have great content that speaks to them in their language. Success in foreign markets takes research, planning, and sensitivity regarding the culture, expectations, and buying habits of each target customer. Because of this, more and more companies are translating more content into more languages every day. But few companies have a strategy for managing their global content.

Global Content Strategy: A Primer (by Val Swisher) gives you the information you need to get started navigating the global content landscape. From tips on making your global content more accessible to details on how to ensure that your words and images are prepared for the world, this book provides information every global organization needs to be successful.

Buy the book!

CW_Cover_Yagodich-front-1650x2550

Author Experience: Bridging the Gap Between People and Technology in Content Management (by Rick Yagodich) focuses on the value of managing the communication process effectively and efficiently. It deals with this process from the point of view of those who create and manage content.

This book defines author experience, outlines the challenges that stand in the way of a good author experience, and provides a set of design patterns that will help you define and implement an author experience that improves content quality and author efficiency.

Buy the book!

Categories: DITA

Got Great Content? Enter The Customer Experience Recognition Awards Today

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2015-07-01 15:52

Does your information development team deserve recognition for the good work they’re doing? Then consider entering the Customer Experience Recognition Awards (CERAs). The annual award ceremony, which takes place during the Information Development World conference, recognizes outstanding contributions to exceptional customer experiences by information developers (the folks responsible for creating content) in a variety of disciplines including technical communication, marketing, content strategy, customer support, translation, and product management.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 2.31.23 PMSubmissions are welcome from companies, teams, project leaders, and consultants working in content development within any industry. Honorees demonstrate how content development is an integral part of the project or service and show collaborative effort between design, content development, and experience delivery to achieve business objectives.

Awards will be issued for exceptional work in these areas: accessibility, customer support, technical communication, employee engagement, information discovery, translation and localization, user community, and social media. Award recipients will be acknowledged during the CERA Awards Luncheon, Thursday, October 1, 2015 at the Doubletree Hotel San Jose, CA.

To enter, read the rules, the evaluation criteria, then submit your entry by the deadline: Friday, August 28, 2015.

The CERAs are sponsored by Acrolinx and brought to you by TECHWHIRL, The Content Wrangler, and Content Rules.

Categories: DITA

The convergence of web and mobile design

The actual title of the article I am referring to above is 7 future web design trends, by Jowita Ziobro. The trends are on target and the examples are clear. Worth a read. But what struck me is that the post is a reminder that the way to look at planning and development of web and mobile applications is […]

This post originally published on http://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Why You Should Attend Information Development World 2015

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2015-06-29 21:30

Two years ago, Val Swisher and I sat down and tried to figure out how to solve one of the biggest communication challenges facing businesses today: Schizophrenic brand experiences caused by unnecessarily incongruent content. Content produced by different teams of information developers, in different ways, with different words, with different tools, using different tones of voice, different style, different rules, but intended for the exact same audience.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.31.21 AMWe decided the best way to bring attention to this important communication challenge was to launch a conference dedicated to helping brands think differently about how they create, manage, and deliver content. That event, Information Development World, turned out to be a great idea. We attracted 400 information developers—folks responsible for creating technical, marketing, and product-specific content—content designed to drive exceptional customer experiences with content.

What do we mean by incongruent content?

Customers expect a unified and consistent experience. But, most brands aren’t set up to deliver what customers expect. Silos get in the way. They damage brand. They negatively impact loyalty. They do nothing to increase sales.

The result of the silo’d approach is incongruent content; unnecessary variations in content experiences delivered to prospects and customers by brands.

Why does this matter?

Once a prospect buys a product or service, the content they interact with is no longer familiar. The instructions provided don’t look, feel, or sound anything like the marketing and sales materials that introduced them to your brand. Neither does the service contract, the warranty, the customer support website, the product documentation, nor the training materials. For no good reason, the content experience changes drastically—and not in a good way. That’s why organizations that recognize the importance of a unified customer experience have started rethinking what it means to be customer-centric.

After last year’s successful inaugural conference, we knew we had stumbled on to a great idea. We summarized some of our lessons learned in this video wrap-up of our 2014 event.

Why should you attend Information Development World 2015?

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.05.27 PMInformation Development World 2015 is the only conference dedicated to helping organizations rethink the way they create, manage, and deliver content experiences.

Last year, over 400 attendees from every conceivable industry sector convened in San Jose to learn from more than 100 of the world’s best and brightest content strategists, content marketers, information architects, community managers, experience designers, data scientists, translators, taxonomists, usability pros, content engineers, technical writers, medical writers, editors, indexers, videographers, storytellers, and more.

This year, in addition to over 80 presentations, case studies, demonstrations, and panel discussions, Information Development World also provides:

Will you join us?

If your job is to create an exceptional customer experience based on content, consider attending Information Development World 2015. The event takes place September 30-October 2, at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, CA. The conference exists to help organizations learn to create content experiences that convert prospects and retain customers. We hope you’ll join us. If you’ve got questions, let us know.

Check out video interviews and keynote and featured presentations from last year’s event. Then, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Slideshare, and Instagram.

Categories: DITA

Gilbane pre-conference workshops announced

It’s only June but we’re already working hard on the 2015 conference program and want to share a bit of what you can look forward to. We’ve got a great lineup of pre-conference workshops that will be held Tuesday, December 1, the day before the main conference, December 2 – 3. Pre-conference workshops: Developing a […]

This post originally published on http://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Know about deep linking?

We are close to completing the program for this year’s Gilbane Conference and have some topics we still need another speaker, or possibly panelist, for: Mobile and web deep linking / app indexing. What do these do for customer experience? What do they mean for content apps? What do you need to do about deep […]

This post originally published on http://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Beware the "Independent" Consultant Who Wants to Build You a Content Management System

Really Strategies - Wed, 2015-06-24 12:12

Beware the "Independent" ConsultantIt all seems like the logical next step. Hire the independent consultant who has been analyzing your business requirements for several months to build your next content management system. Who better to lead your organization to the CMS promise land? It doesn’t matter that building software is not their expertise, nor does it matter that they don't actually have a development staff. You like the leader, the onsite business analyst is strong, and you’ve had a great working relationship for a long time. This rosy picture plays out more often than one would think. There is no ill will or deceitful practice, it’s just a natural progression of a business relationship. But over the years we have found many pitfalls with this approach:

  1. Staff it and they will build ...something: If the consultant is truly “independent", they will have no interest in building a software solution. However, if they feel they can build the solution because they are leaving money on the table, they cobble together a development team made up of independent contractors and possibly partner with a small development firm that allows them to act like a general contractor, but none of the project team is an employee. This loosely organized tech team may not have the appropriate skill or bandwidth to complete the project, nor have many of them ever worked together before and they each may have different approaches and methodologies to develop the software.
  2. Analyzing and building are two different things: This is the "no duh" statement but often overlooked.  Just because a consultant can analyze and document business and technical requirements does not mean they have the vision or skill to build a solution that meets requirements. Think architect versus carpenter. Building a custom solution can get very messy very quickly and unless the consultant has the software development discipline (i.e., Agile experience), requirements will go unmet, shortcuts will be taken, and I venture to guess the schedule will be missed.
  3. Where is the “independence”?: Having an independent consultant bring together and lead the development team to build a solution is a lot like asking a lawyer to pick the judge they want for their trial. Of course the lawyer will pick the judge who sides with them more often. The same is true for a consultant who brings in a development team. It’s a biased situation. No one is really creating the checks and balances to hold the development team accountable. If the consultant remained independent, there would be a separation of church and state and a better likelihood that the project would succeed.
The observations above are all situations that we have encountered over the past 15 years since we started RSI Content Solutions. This is not to say that some independent consultants can’t pull off a software development project, but in our experience these projects usually don’t end well. How do we know this? RSI was once the “independent” consultant who one day was asked to build out a CMS. It felt so right, but quickly we learned we needed to operate differently and we did struggle. We eventually got it right, but it was a lesson from over 10 years ago that we still remember. Our suggestion is to make sure you keep your “independent” consultant truly independent and let the software solutions up to the people who do it every day.
Categories: DITA

DocZone Unveils New User Interface at STC Technical Communication Summit

Really Strategies - Mon, 2015-06-22 11:55
STC-email-blast-banner

DocZone, a component content management system for technical publications, unveiled their new user interface at booth 316 the STC Technical Communication Summit in Columbus, OH. This latest version of DocZone provides an entirely new user experience through an intuitive user interface that minimizes actions required to store, search, tag and reuse content while allowing users to quickly and efficiently publish their technical documents to multiple formats and languages.

“DocZone has been a trusted industry leader for over 10 years,” stated Marty Wetzel, Director, Global Account Management at RSI Content Solutions, the makers of DocZone. “This new interface gives DocZone a fresh and modern look that I’m sure our clients and prospects will appreciate.”

“We chose the STC Technical Communication Summit as our launching pad for the new interface because we see this conference as one of the marquee events in the technical publishing space,” continued Wetzel.  “We are excited for the opportunity to demo DocZone at the conference and expect a great turnout at the event.”

For fifteen years, RSI Content Solutions has been a trusted content management solutions provider for both traditional and technical publishers alike. Learn how organizations with technical publishing needs like Citrix, Epson, ITT, Cummins, Kyocera, and many others use DocZone at www.doczone.com.  
Categories: DITA

Artificial Intelligence, then (1960) and now

bobdc.blog - Sat, 2015-06-20 14:50
Especially machine learning. Bob DuCharme http://www.snee.com/bobdc.blog
Categories: DITA

[Workshop] Getting to Success: Implementing a Content Strategy

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2015-06-18 22:03

It’s one thing to understand how to work with the various deliverables that form part of a content strategy. It’s another thing to understand how to initiate a strategy, get it approved, and then develop the strategy itself and deliver on the implementation. There is as much to understand about developing and implementing a content strategy as there is to making the most of the superset of potential deliverables at your disposal.

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Rahel Anne Bailie

In this full-day workshop, Getting to Success: Implementing a Content Strategy, led by veteran content strategy professional, Rahel Anne Bailie, participants will have the unique opportunity to work through the components of a content strategy, beginning with the pre-strategy work that accompanies the corporate impetus to develop a content strategy, through to choosing a complement of deliverables and working through them. The workshop will be fast-paced and participants are expected to maintain a high level of engagement.

By the end of the workshop, which takes place September 30, 2015 at Information Development World, participants will have learned:

  • How to introduce a content strategy into an organization and get management buy-in
  • Three methods for gathering business, user, content, and delivery requirements
  • The potential range of deliverables and how to choose the right subset for a project
  • How to get the most benefit from the basic deliverables, such as a content inventory and audit, a content quality analysis, and analytics
  • Ways to leverage strategies for search and social content within a content strategy
  • How to measure the success of the strategy

This workshop will sell out early. Register today to ensure you have a seat in the class. This full-day training workshop costs $700, but you can save $100 if you register before the August 31, 2015.

And, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the host hotel as discounted hotel room rates expire when the rooms are sold out.

Categories: DITA

Intelligent Content in the Experience Age

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2015-06-18 18:50

In the Experience Age, consumers expect much more from brands than they have in the past. Once they’ve enjoyed an exceptional customer experience, they become intolerant of confusing, irrelevant, and inconsistent content. Brands that recognize this fact and deliver exceptional content experiences across all customer touchpoint will be rewarded with loyalty.

In order to deliver exceptional content experiences, savvy brands are taking a critical look at how they create, manage, and deliver content. And, what they’re finding is that the approaches they’ve relied on for decades can no longer meet current and future business needs.

Enter intelligent content. Content with superpowers. Content that is designed to dynamically adapt to meet customer needs. It’s content that is digital, data-driven, and dynamic. It’s digital in that it is designed and built for a connected world. It is data-driven in that can be connected to — and integrated with — enterprise data resources. And, it’s dynamic in that it can automatically respond to individual customer needs.

This slide deck is from my opening keynote presentation at the Intelligent Content Conference in San Francisco, March 2015. My goal was to explore the need for intelligent content in the Experience Age. If I did my job correctly, attendees learned why exceptional experiences matter, why our current content production processes are insufficient, how they damage brand and customer experience, and what some companies are doing to overcome traditional publishing roadblocks.

The deck is loaded with tweetable moments, statistics, and quotes from experts. I hope you find it useful. Please let me know your thoughts.

Intelligent Content in the Experience Age by Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler from Scott Abel

Categories: DITA

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DITA Blog - Sun, 2015-06-14 16:29

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Categories: DITA

Modern Design Tools: Adaptive Layouts

I’m sure there are exceptions, but design has almost always followed function in software development. That was never a great situation, but today’s reality of the constant additions of new form factors forces us to figure out how build function and design in a more parallel and earlier iterative environment. Responsive design is an important […]

This post originally published on http://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Google deep linking progress

In How Google is Taking Search Outside the Box Steven Levy comments on this year’s I/O event. He does a nice job of explaining deep linking / app indexing, and the much mentioned Google Now on Tap in the context of Google’s mobile and search challenges. Google now says that it has expanded its app […]

This post originally published on http://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Gilbane Advisor 6.3.15 – The future is mobile and apps, except that it isn’t

The future is mobile and apps, except that it isn’t You may have read other articles making similar arguments but this post by Ben Evans is certainly one of the best. There are two charts that capture a lot of the way we think about mobile today. In the first, we see that mobile devices are […]

This post originally published on http://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

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Categories: DITA

The Counterpoint of Content Flow

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2015-05-21 15:00

By Karl Montevirgen, special to The Content Wrangler

Karl Montevirgen

Karl Montevirgen

As content creators and consumers, we’re all aware of the multiple dynamics at play when it comes to viewing and creating content. Content has a kind of flow.  It directs movement within and between pieces of content, exhibiting diverse rhythms, densities, and forms. Content flow, as we perceive it, plays a significant role in shaping the reader/viewer’s experience. Ultimately, the impact of this experience can be critical, as it often marks the difference between success and failure in a given content enterprise.

Let’s take a closer look at content flow, specifically what it is, how it functions, and how it can be shaped.

Editor’s note: See The Language of Content Strategy for an alternative definition and usage of the term content flow.

What is Content Flow?

Content flow refers to the structural and conceptual movements implied within a single or combined piece of content.

It can be broken down like this:

  1. Content implies structural movement (start here, end there).
  2. Content also implies movement in concepts/ideas (start with this line of thought, end with that line of thought or action).
  3. Content flow is made up of distinct movements occurring within a single piece of content and between different sets of content.

Good content flow facilitates a reader’s movement through sections of content and the ideas expressed within them. It makes content more engaging, lighter to read and digest, and easier to retain. Bad content flow has the opposite effect.

Here’s a familiar scenario: you come across a website that appears well-structured. The content seems well-written, graphics are attractive, and the information provided is complete. But, something about it doesn’t jell. The  content seems to clash or interfere with itself, and the navigation doesn’t seem very fluid. In the end, you can’t seem to understand or remember what the site was all about.

What’s happening here? How is it that a well-structured presentation composed of well-written content isn’t working? One likely culprit is the relationship between content types and content segments, namely text content-to-graphic content, content-to-content, and the sequence of movements in between. Although content structure (i.e. style guide) plays a static role in organizing and ‘containing’ content, it nevertheless envelops dynamic elements that exceed it.

Dynamic content includes:

  • A single piece of content alone, when engaged,
  • The relationship between content to content, and
  • Individual viewers/readers with their powers of attention, interpretation, and retention.

Ultimately, what you have are different energies of movement and counter-movement. Although a viewer’s choice of what to read, in what sequence, and its interpretation is beyond the control of the content creator, the arrangement of content with its implied movements can still make a big difference in setting the stage of engagement.

Content contra Content: Counterpoint

Perhaps approaching content flow from a different angle and discipline might add some insight into how it works. Let’s take the concept of “flow” from a musical perspective. There is a particular practice in Western music (one that was very prominent during the late 17th and early 18th century) called counterpoint. This term refers to a technique in which two or more independent melodies are combined (point against point, melody against melody). Melodies in counterpoint have their own sense of direction, rhythm, and flow. Yet when combined, the melodies work together harmoniously. If you can imagine creating a melody and then setting another one against it, you will be able appreciate how difficult it is to do this successfully.

Dj mixing in night club

The combination of multiple forms of content isn’t that much different. Each piece of content has its own unique set of attributes. It has different spatial limits (a starting point and an ending point). It has varying degrees of density which imply different experiences of time and effort. It contains its own specific message or line of thought. Each content piece has its own stylistic genre and form of utterance — the sales pitch, description, call to action, disclaimer, etc. — all of which can be phrased in different ways. It has its own sense of rhythm—in utterance and ideas—and tempo, both of which can move faster or slower depending on what is being conveyed, and how it is being conveyed.

If each piece of content has its own unique attributes and sense of flow, what happens when you combine content? Is it easy to get stuck on one section at the expense of the other sections? Do the content sections differ so much that readers feel they have to retain or juggle concepts in order to comprehend the whole? Does the content flow seem to ping-pong or deflect from one section to another? To be fair, user experience is somewhat subjective and will differ.  Even so, there are a few basic principles we can keep in mind when creating and assessing the flow of content.

Content Flow Comparisons

Let’s look at a comparative example between Ninja Trader versus MultiCharts. Both companies develop trading software which customers can buy and sell financial derivatives (futures contracts) in various markets. Though now a brokerage, Ninja Trader has been one of the most popular and widely used trading platforms for several years. MultiCharts, on the other hand, is a runner-up that is quickly gaining ground in the trading software industry.

Example 1: Ninja Trader:

KM-NinjaTrader_example

Notice the two implied lines of motion converging at the middle point. The suggested motion combined with simplicity of style makes for ease of movement and minimal effort on the part of the viewer. Company description, differentiation features (cost and award winning technology), and calls to action are easily identifiable.

The use of minimal text increases emphasis on the message. The words were carefully selected to include a statement of quality and/or tenet (“Trading Simplified”), an identifier of function (“Brokerage”), a statement of low cost (“$0.53 per contract”), a statement of status or accolades (“Award Winning Platform”), and a call to action (“Use It Free”).  The second line on the right announces a link to view low pricing (“View Commissions”), a reinforcing statement of low cost (“Low Cost Brokerage”), and another call to action (“Open Account”). Note that both lines are color coded to suggest motion and also to establish better flow between text and graphics.

The term “brokerage” marks the convergence point supported by large font and uppercase letters. Though the statement of the price of $0.53 per contract has a much smaller font, the color coding attaches it to the line of sight guaranteeing its exposure. The rhythm and tempo of the content narrative is sparse and quick as the conclusion (call to action) is arrived at with minimal (informational) hold-up.

Culturally, there is also something at play. There is an image of a Caucasian man smiling, which implies an image of the ideal “satisfied” customer, an image symbolizing the people who work for the company, a “smirk” symbolizing success, or an “edge” that leads to success. This image is given prominence in both placement and size. The image supporting the term “low cost”  is that of a woman who appears to be a minority. Her image is much smaller. This has cultural implications that must be brought to one’s attention since it directly or indirectly makes a cultural statement whether intended or not.

Example 2:  MultiCharts:

KM-MultiCharts-Example

MultiCharts is an excellent trading platform with numerous functionalities that meet a wide range of retail traders’ needs. Encapsulating this message within a limited space, however, can be very tricky. There are trade-offs to be made in terms of what is and what is not stated. Let’s take a closer look at their home page.

Imagine, for a moment, what this site might look like without the colored boxes. What catches your eye? Is it the multi-colored circular image on the right which connects with the logo on the left and the name of the company below the logo? Where do you begin? There seems to be an implied line of movement here, but what information is latched on to it?

Let’s start with the image in the black box on the right. It gives you percentages separated by colors, but what do the percentages signify? Is the meaning or purpose clear? You see a call to action (to try or buy) that comes at you immediately given the prominence of the image, but it either comes too soon, or it’s a placeholder for action once you’ve read the rest of the site.

Another prominent section is the bulleted section below the company name as seen in the purple box. As an industry insider, I’d assume that the featured technical functionalities differentiate the platform from its competitors. But even for an industry insider, the information provided is partial and unclear. After a few bullets, you can see that there are 70+ more features. Aside from having multiple features, what else might this tell the reader? Perhaps we can find out, but we will have to exit the page. There is still much more content to read in order to piece together the overall message.

There are two sets of navigational tabs, found in the top and middle of the page. How does that direct the “sequence” of your actions? Perhaps you may find yourself tempted to click one of the tab links for more specific information, but does that mean you will miss out on something important on the home page?

In the yellow box in the middle, you find information about the company. It’s an award-winning platform, as it states in the first sentence. The statement of accolades seems well-hidden. Perhaps this was intended, or perhaps it was an oversight.

Let’s stop here. What I am trying to point out is that the content flow in this example suggests a puzzle to be solved. It offers clues to explore, remember, return to, and finally piece together. In addition to this, the density of content establishes a rhythm and tempo that is slow, laborious, and disjointed. It takes time to solve and assemble puzzles.

Five Concepts to Help You Shape Content Flow

So what can we do to shape content flow? The answer is that there are multiple ways to approach this, and it varies depending on the circumstances and content goals. It may be a strategic concern, but its realization takes place in the tactical sphere. However, there are a few general concepts to keep in mind that might be helpful:

  1. Content implies a territory.
    Content has both a spatial location and a centralized set of ideas–a “territory.” That territory has its own form and mode of articulation through which it expresses a message. Depending on the emphasis of the value placed on that message, its size, appearance, and placement matters considerably. What kind of emphasis do you want to place on a given message? How should you express it? In what form, and why?
  2. Content has its own sense of gravity.
    Figuratively speaking, as a “territory”, content has a gravity that “pulls” the viewer toward the ideas expressed, and the space containing those ideas. Some content sections will have a greater sense of pull, depending on the interest of the viewer, the compelling nature of the message, and its placement alongside other content sections that can either distract from or reinforce it. Where do you place a given piece of content and why? What will that placement do to the overall presentation or flow?
  3. Content demands its own unique time for engagement. 
    Should content be densely or lightly concentrated? How should you balance the density of “text” against the density of ideas? After all, you can create heavy text with light ideas, or light text with heavy ideas. Think of it this way–you have a scarcity of space and your viewer probably has a scarcity of time. Content demands time. How can you make the best use of limited space and time to seamlessly and effectively deliver your message?
  4. Think movement and counter-movement. 
    If you understand these first three points, then you get a sense that there are potentially multiple and diverse flows happening simultaneously. A viewer may not read everything simultaneously (although it is possible if the content is sparse enough), but think of the overall effect of the content which can be experienced as a cumulative impression or understanding of the material, and the actual sequence of engagement. The flow of movement and clarity of the message is deeply affected by the placement of content sections and the independent movements they imply, as shown in our examples above. Again, it operates like a counterpoint, and getting each piece to fit harmoniously depends on how the content is composed and arranged.
  5. Think of content flow in terms of a multi-dimensional narrative.
    Ultimately, you are telling a story which you are hoping materializes in a change of thought or action on the part of the viewer. Your story may have just one or a few parts, but its material features are numerous and heterogeneous. They can operate dimensionally, divergently, and in a non-linear fashion. Your core message tells a story and has a sequence, but so does your graphic arrangement, content sections, links, pages, etc. It all affects the sequence of actions and continuity of the overall message.

Content flow is a tricky thing to manage. Flow is much less perceptible than the content that generates it. Managing content flow requires the ability to think around or between content, to think of content not only as a “thing”, but as a set of intensities that compose it. Like architecture, where a building is defined as much by the people who use it as by its physical attributes, content is defined by the way in which viewers engage, experience, and are affected by it.

Content flow determines the success or failure of content’s ability to engage and affect.

Categories: DITA

Treat Docs like Code: Doc Bugs and Issues

JustWriteClick - Tue, 2015-05-19 13:33

This is a follow on to a post on opensource.com about using git and GitHub for technical documentation. In the OpenSource.com article, I discuss reviews and keeping up with contributions. This post talks about fixes and patches.

htakashi_typewriter

What about doc issues in GitHub, how do you get through all those?

In OpenStack, we document how to triage doc bugs, and that’s what you need to do in GitHub, is establish your process for incoming issues. Use Labels in GitHub to indicate the status and priority. Basically, you have to accept that it’s a doc bug, if it’s not a doc bug, ask for more information from the reporter. If you want to create labels for particular deliverables, like the API doc or end-user doc, you can further organize your doc issues. You will need to define priorities as well — what’s critical and must be fixed? What’s more “wishlist” and you’ll get to it when you can? If you use similar systems for both issues and pull requests you’ll have your work prioritized for you when you look at the GitHub backlog.

How can you encourage contributors to create a good pull request for docs?

The best answer for this is “documentation” but also great onboarding. Make sure someone’s first pull request is handled well with a personal touch. There’s a lot of coaching going on when you do reviews. Ensure that you’ve written up “What goes where” as this is often the hardest part of doc maintenance for a large body of work that already exists. This expansion problem is only getting harder in OpenStack as more projects are added. We’re having a lot of documentation sessions at the OpenStack Summit this week and we’d love to talk more about creating good doc patches.

One person I work with uses GitHub emojis every chance he gets when he reviews pull requests. I think that’s fun and sets a nice tone for reviews.

Nitpicking can be averted if you point to your style guide and conventions with a good orientation to a newcomer so that new contributors don’t get turned off by feeling nitpicked.

Have you heard of anyone who has combined GitHub with a different UI “top layer” to simplify the UI?

O’Reilly has done this with their Atlas platform. For reviews, the Gerrit UI has been extremely useful to a large collection of projects like OpenStack. There’s Penflip, which is a better frontend for writers than GitHub. The background story is great in that it offers anecdotes about GitHub being super successful for collaborative writing projects.

I think that GitHub itself is fine if your docs are treated like code. I think GitHub is great for technical writing, API documentation, and the like. Academic writers haven’t found GitHub that much of a match for their collaborative writing, see “The Limitations of GitHub for Writers” for example. It’s the actual terms that have to be adapted and adopted for GitHub to be a match for writers. For example, do you track doc bugs (issues) and write collaboratively with added content treated like software features? I say, yes!

If you just want simple markup like markdown for collaborative writing, check out Beegit. With git in the name I have to wonder if it’s git-backed, but couldn’t figure it out from a few minutes on their site. Looks promising but again, for treating docs like code, living and working with developers.

Categories: DITA
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