Kurt Ament has hit the nail on the head! His latest effort, “Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation,” is a valuable reference for those of us who seek to save time, effort, and money by implementing a productive method of creating information once and reusing it often.
Ament covers the issues—step-by-step—that many others only discuss. He lays out a simple roadmap, complete with real world examples that have worked (or not worked) for his clients.
In Chapter 1 (About Single Sourcing), Kurt carefully defines single sourcing and explains related concepts (reusable content, modular writing, and assembled documents) in ways that are easy to understand and free of techno-jargon. And, he does us all a big favor by addressing the negatives associated with using technology to assemble documents by explaining that it actually takes more creativity to write content that can fit into multiple media, for multiple audiences, than it does to continually rewrite information over and over again each time it is needed.
Chapter 2 (Building Documents) and Chapter 3 (Structuring Content) are of particular value to those seeking to understand the shift in thinking required to master single sourcing. Writers, programmers and managers will all benefit from these chapters. Each chapter is packed full of tips and examples you can begin using today!
Chapter 4 (Configuring Language) explains how to configure your writing to support and increase usability, while Chapter 5 (Leveraging Technology) touches on issues including conditional text, conventions, localization, translation, variables, and more. As are the previous chapters, Chapter 5 is written in clear, concise language and is not a chapter business types should skip. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Managers and decision makers need to understand the concepts explained in this chapter because many of the benefits a single-source strategy can deliver are made possible by combining good planning with the right technology. And, while this chapter is certainly not about selecting software tools, the author helps his readers understand some of the issues they will need to understand as they begin thinking about their strategy and the types of functionality they’ll need to support with the tools they select.
What I like most about “Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation” is that Ament went straight for the meat of the issues. He doesn’t belabor points or confuse the reader by jumping back and forth from subject to subject (as so many poorly written IT-related books do). Instead, he supplies us with a book you can read in an afternoon and use the information contained within the next day at work.
But, be forewarned. You’re going to want your sticky notes and your highlighting markers nearby. Chances are you’ll be using them a lot!
“Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation” by Kurt Ament. Paperback: 246 pages. Publisher: William Andrew Publishing/Noyes Publications (December 2002). ISBN: 0815514913