By Scott Abel with additional contribution by Lisa Woods What in the heck is a weblog? In an article entitled Getting Through the Blog! Living in the Blog-Osphere, Janie Payne of the Montana Chapter of STC, described weblogs (also known as blogs) as “personal web pages containing short, frequently updated messages – often with links to other items or articles on the Web – arranged in reverse chronological order, newest first.” Payne says “Blogs are usually maintained by one person (although some blogging software allows multiple contributors) and are written in a conversational manner. There are blogs about cats, knitting, TV shows, baseball, life in the Antarctic – you name the topic, and there is probably a blog devoted to it.” The folks at blogger.com, a software provider whose offerings include a popular weblog publishing tool of the same name, offer a similar description of blogs, but add, “Weblogs help small groups communicate in a way that is simpler and easier to follow than email or discussion forums. A blog can help keep everyone in the loop, promote cohesiveness and group culture, and provide an informal voice of a project or department to outsiders.” And some blogs stimulate dialogue by providing a way for readers to comment on what they read. In a nutshell, a blog is a place for an individual or group to present current information, insights,...Read More
If you’re involved in creating, maintaining, publishing or managing content (and who isn’t nowadays), you should consider becoming a member of the Society for Technical Communication. STC is the world’s largest professional association for technical communicators with over 150 local chapters on six continents. Members include technical writers, help authors, web content strategists, information architects, graphic artists and illustrators, editors, instructional designers, usability pros, translation specialists, and software programmers. Members receive myriad benefits including subscriptions to Technical Communication and Intercom. Membership application is located...Read More
In “Managing Enterprise Content”, the authors, Ann Rockley, Pamela Kostur, and Steve Manning, make the case for their “Unified Content Strategy”—a practical and logical way of researching, planning, preparing, testing, implementing and selling content management across an enterprise. The lessons contained in this easy-to-read volume are not lost on smaller organizations, however; departments, small work groups, even individuals, will also benefit from learning innovative ways to effectively create, use and manage content. The author’s main message is that a well-planned “unified content strategy” can provide a dramatic improvement in the way content is created in an organization. A “Unified Content Strategy” is defined as “a repeatable method of identifying all content requirements up front, creating consistently structured content for reuse, managing that content in a definitive source, and assembling content on demand to meet your customers’ needs.” According to the authors, improvements that result from implementing such a strategy include “increased quality and consistency and long-term reduced time and costs for development and maintenance. In addition, reuse provides support for rapid re-configuration of your content to meet changing needs.” Of particular importance, the authors provide guidance on selecting a strategy BEFORE you get started; they explain their Unified Content Strategy, the importance of single sourcing (write it once, use it often), and how a properly planned content management initiative can help your organization deliver the right content to the...Read More
In order to meet the challenge of providing value to customers—and, equally as important, to shareholders—content-heavy organizations must take greater advantage of breakthroughs in information and computing technologies designed to improve productivity, boost quality and reduce time-to-market. To obtain the highest return on investment possible, we, as technical communicators, as well as the organizations we serve, must be open and willing to change. New ideas, products and technologies exist that can help us reach—even exceed—our goals. Getting there is certainly a battle—and, a potentially risky one at that. But, if we step outside our comfort zone and consider fresh, promising alternatives to managing the content we create, we can deliver value unsurpassed. Enter Content Management Content management is a paradigm shift; a new-and-improved way of strategizing and organizing information in order to drastically reduce time-to-market. It’s also a popular buzz word in our industry; one that causes much confusion and consternation. Well planned content management initiatives utilize proven, existing technologies to automate many manual and repetitive tasks, reduce the amount of time and resources necessary to generate documents and other content, and improve the quality and consistency of the information we provide our customers. Although it is a new area for most, the automatic assembly of documents using computers (with little or no human intervention) has been taking place in government, defense and aerospace industries for several decades. Recent...Read More
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...Read More
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