Month: January 2008

Maturity Model Helps Companies Do DITA Right

By Michael Priestley and Amber Swope XML gives organizations a way to create richly-described, unstructured content. But until the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), XML content traditionally was organized and written as monolithic documents — tightly coupled with organizational structures, such as pages and chapters, that rarely worked as independent, reusable units of content. DITA is simply the practice of taking huge XML documents and breaking them down into logical, topic-oriented chunks. Now, every content chunk is an inherently reusable asset that is coherent as an object within the overall document. DITA makes content more self-contained, and in that way, parallels Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and the loosely coupled, self-contained objects at the heart of contemporary approaches to application development. Historically, developers built tightly coupled, massive applications for a specific function. SOA deconstructs those applications into sets of self-contained components that, when composed, address a specific function. Alternately, subsets of those components could be recomposed to create other applications to address other functions. Likewise, DITA enables modular, reusable content. And similar to SOA, DITA has far-reaching implications for organizational technology, process, and culture that must accommodate fundamental, pervasive change in content authoring. DITA impacts the way content is created, stored, managed, and consumed; the tools that are used; and the content authors, who must learn to think differently. For instance, DITA creates new opportunities to involve subject matter experts. Now,...

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The Top Ten Mistakes of Web CMS Projects – and How to Avoid Them

By Michael Silverman, CEO, Duo Consulting Maybe you are beginning to think about developing a content management systems for your organization’s website. Or maybe you are just about to start a CMS project. In either case, you are probably wondering how to improve the chances of a successful outcome, considering the large investment at stake. At Duo Consulting, we’ve worked with hundreds of businesses and organizations on Web and content management. We know what makes a project successful, and we’ve seen the usual mistakes. In this article, we share what we’ve learned. The good news is that with planning and some good advice, your organization can avoid the Top Ten Mistakes of Web CMS Projects: Mistake #1 Making Decisions by Committee Successful content management projects usually have small decision-making teams of three or fewer people. The team should be empowered to review work, make decisions and communicate progress with the rest of the organization. One person on the team serves as the main decision-maker and primary communicator with the development team. Our experience has shown that three people on a team is enough to gather input, break a tie if necessary, and make good- quality decisions. Another good idea is to make sure there is representation from the IT and marketing areas, as well as from content contributors and site users. Decisions made by large committees often lead to...

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Finding The Lowest Price: Cheap Uncle Mashes Up Savings

If you have a coupon clipper or rebate hound in your family—someone who seeks out the lowest possible price on any goods they purchase—you’ll want to know about Cheap Uncle, a new online service designed by Chicago-based Duo Consulting that helps consumers find the best deals on all types of merchandise. It’s a very Web 2.0 approach, mashing up feeds of pricing information from Yahoo Shopping with discount information from Coupon Cabin. At its most basic, Cheap Uncle is a unique online price comparison search engine that searches over 3,000 coupons and deals for more than 26 million products at over 14,000 merchants. Using it is easy. Just type in a search term—iPod Touch—for example, and Cheap Uncles goes to work finding the best deals. You can sort your search results in numerous ways—by customer ratings, base prices, coupons, or price. Cheap Uncle also provides users with a list of the most frequently searched for items, updated daily. Once you decide to purchase an item, Cheap Uncle takes you directly to the merchant’s web site, applies your coupon discount, and allows you to keep shopping without losing your discount information. When you’re ready to check-out, your savings will automatically appear in your shopping cart. Cheap Uncle is a bit forgetful, however, as it requires you to remember the discount code (something many retailers require at check-out to process your...

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Some Personal Observations on Electronic Medical Records

By Mark Gross, President, Data Conversion Laboratory In an age when we download movies at will, store piles of personal records on our BlackBerry devices, beam software to each other’s Palms, and store truckloads of digital photos on some website “out there”—accessible from anywhere—it’s frustrating that we aren’t yet applying the same technology to medical records to make them easily accessible to those who need them. I know there are obstacles—confidentiality, liability, resistance to change, and of course paying for it—and I’m not an expert in most of these, but it does seem that these issues are already addressed in other, less-technologically-advanced industries. It’s ironic that it’s in medicine, with all its technological advances, and day-to-day impact on life, that adaption of electronic record keeping would be so slow. While I spend most days on mission-critical electronic data for a number of industries, how best to obtain, store and transmit it, none seem as personal as health care. Not long ago, when my father-in-law was quite ill, I spent much time in the intensive care unit of a major hospital. The care was great, the nurses terrific, and the equipment state of the art. Yet, I was struck by the irony of nurses and doctors writing out, in long hand, the readouts from quarter-million dollar automated diagnostic equipment into a bedside notebook. And when someone misplaced “the notebook” the...

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