Information Models as Usability Multipliers

By Kurt Ament, Information modeling is extreme document planning. Like traditional document plans, which outline strategies for developing usable documents, information models outline strategies for developing re-usable document components. If you restructure information for re-use, you make it usable in multiple documents and formats. With this in mind, you can leverage information models as “usability multipliers.” From usability to re-usability When developing a document in the traditional document development process, you follow a document plan, or blueprint. This blueprint describes how you will structure your document (for example, the table of contents), how you will deliver it (for...

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Talkin’ Turkey: Communicating Change Helps Ensure Content Management Success

A first-year college student arrives in Paris for a year of study, eager to use her high school French to impress her host family. At her new home, she asks to be directed to the “salle de bains” (bathroom)–three cups of strong French coffee have caught up with her. Her host mother gives her a strange look and leads her to a small room, containing only a bathtub. In the quaint European way, the toilet is in another room. That happened to my mother, who tells the story to illustrate the cockiness of her younger self. But her story...

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If You Collect Customer Data, Use It!

If you’re like most folks, getting a call or an email from a salesperson isn’t the highlight of your day. But, it’s an even more painful experience when the salesperson who calls you has no idea what you’re interested in, but should have. Enter Vignette. A sales rep from the content management software company contacted me within 24 hours after I visited the company web site. She left a phone message saying that she knew I had registered as a new member at their web site, but had no clue why I had stopped by for a visit. When...

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Drafting Legislation In XML: Has Pork Barrel Politics Met Its Match?

The Office of the Legislative Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives has adopted XML as a data standard for the exchange of legislative documents. Not only will authoring legislation in XML reduce errors, improve productivity, and speed up an overly-bureaucratic process, it may also make it increasingly difficult for politicians to sneak pork barrel provisions into legislation at the last minute. The Homeland Security Act fiasco is an excellent illustration of the problem. Document Type Definitions, Data Dictionaries, Element Descriptions and Content Models are available from the United States Congress XML...

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Leaking Corporate Secrets: Microsoft Word Files Provide More Than WYSIWYG Information

When you share Microsoft Word files with others you may unintentionally leak sensitive corporate or personal information, including, but not limited to, the names of authors and reviewers, text deleted during the revision cycle, private comments, and information from other Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files that were open at the same time. Simon Byers, security researcher at AT&T’s US laboratory, conducted a survey of 100,000 Word documents he located online. Byers was able to unearth hidden information in nearly all of the files by utilizing software tools and some basic programming. Real world examples of this problem abound and are not limited to Microsoft files—unprotected Adobe PDF files are also suspect. Tony Blair’s government has been bitten, as has The New York Times, and The Washington...

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