Category: Uncategorized

DITA, Metadata Maturity and the Case for Taxonomy

By Paul Wlodarczyk, Director, Solutions Consulting and Stephanie Lemieux, Taxonomy Practice Lead, Earley and Associates, Inc. Many organizations have turned to component-oriented content creation to create more sophisticated knowledge products, in more languages, and at lower cost. Our research shows that organizations that use XML authoring are more mature than their peers with respect to the adoption of best practices for search and metadata. However, the use of native DITA metadata capabilities is rare, and many are also missing out on opportunities to use taxonomy for content reuse and improved content findability. This article examines the metadata capabilities within DITA (and content management systems), discusses two major benefits that can be achieved by using descriptive metadata and taxonomy, and recommends some best practices for getting started with metadata for component-oriented content. The Haystack Problem Finding content in your file system or content repository is hard enough when you’ve got simple text documents to deal with. When you’re using DITA — the Darwin Information Typing Architecture — and other component-oriented XML standards, you increase the difficulty by two or three orders of magnitude, because you’re looking for smaller needles in bigger haystacks. Having thousands of media-independent content objects that can be shared and reused across multiple deliverables allows you to create more sophisticated knowledge products, but it definitely poses a challenge in findability for content authors. Sounds like a job...

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Usability Matters: Software Development and the Balancing Act Between Design and Usability

By Jörn Bodemann, Chairman of the Board, CEO, e-Spirit Marketing departments – especially in IT – like to speak in the modern lingo about a product’s innovative “Look and Feel”. While “Look“ refers to the design of the solution, “Feel” means usability, the quality of use. Developers of Content Management Systems and other enterprise IT solutions have to walk a fine line to meet the exacting demands of users in both areas. But in recent years a clear trend has become apparent: There is a drive towards the modern, “cool” product design where at a minimum usability takes a back seat, often to its detriment. One example will suffice to illustrate this trend: Apple sets the standard in the design area and others follow. Microsoft, for example, redesigned its shut-down procedure in Windows to more closely resemble the Mac OS with the result that now even on Windows computers instead of a drop-down window you get a complete list of all your menu options: [Above: Usability takes a back seat to flashy design: Windows, following Apple’s lead (left), replaces the old drop-down menu (right) with a new menu window (center) for shutting down the computer.] What at first appears to be an improvement in functionality – a more organized layout – turns out on closer inspection to be an improvement of design at the expense of functionality. This is...

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Understanding the Value of Modular Content Reuse by Examining User-Generated Music Mashups

The world we live in is changing at warp speed. Technological advances are altering our perception of what’s possible and challenging long held beliefs about how things work. Entire industries are being reshaped…some are being made obsolete. Traditional notions of how organizations operate — what they sell, what they charge, and how customers are supposed to behave — are being replaced by completely new models. Nowhere is the impact of change being felt more than in the world of communication. In the field of technical communication, for instance, practitioners are being challenged to adapt to a completely new approach to creating documentation and user-assistance materials. In this rapidly-changing arena, traditional content production practices are being replaced with modular, topic-based content production practices that allow organizations to recombine content elements — often automatically or on-demand — into new, derivative products. But, moving to a new approach can be painful. Content creators must learn new methods of writing content and understand the value they bring to their organization when they do so. One of the most challenging aspects of moving from creating unstructured, narrative content to topic-based, modular content creation is understanding the concept of content reuse. Reusing content — and repurposing it in different ways — helps organizations create totally new, often personalized, information products from existing content assets. These products can open the door to new revenue-generating opportunities, a...

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The Commons: Your Opportunity To Contribute To Describing The Worlds’ Public Photo Collections

The US Library of Congress serves as the national library for the United States, based in Washington, DC. With more than 134 million items preserved on some 530 miles of bookshelves, it’s also the world’s largest library. It’s not just home to books, the library also stores photos, maps, databases, movies, sound recordings, sheet music, manuscripts, and information in many other formats. It’s most recent public-private partnership with photo management and sharing service Flickr, dubbed The Commons, is the Library’s “first collaboration with a civic institution to facilitate giving people a voice in describing the content of a publicly-held photography collection. These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which there is no known intellectual property owner, and therefore, “no known copyright restrictions.” The project aims to make known the hidden treasures in the huge Library of Congress collection, and to demonstrate how adding user-generated metadata can make the collection even richer. The Commons is also a test model that other cultural institutions may use on day to share and redistribute the myriad collections of content held by cultural heritage institutions around the globe. Can Anyone Use Photographs With “No Known Copyright Restrictions?” For the time being on Flickr this new usage is being contained to the Library of Congress account. If the pilot is successful, the Library aims to allow other interested cultural institutions the opportunity...

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Component Content Management: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

By Paul Trotter, CEO Author-it Software Corporation More and more businesses are expanding into international markets. A critical success factor for this expansion is high quality, cost-effective, and timely translated written content. Responsibility for this typically falls on internal translation departments or localization partners. Translation comes at a high price, exceeding the cost of writing the original content after only a few languages. Current approaches to localization rely on technologies and processes that have minimal scope for improvement. The localization industry is under increasing pressure to find new ways to improve cost-efficiency, quality, and time-to-market. In this article, I will try to explain what content management is and how it can help your organization more efficiently write higher quality and more effective documentation, re-use and share content across documents, have strict control over standards and branding, publishing that content to print, help, and web formats, and significantly reduce the cost of localizing your content. What is Content Management? First, there is no single agreed definition. Content management is a relatively new discipline, and if you ask the many suppliers of content management software they all have different definitions. Of course most of them make the definition suit what their software does. It is fair to say that many people incorrectly regard content management as applying solely or mainly to the management and delivery of web content. This is a...

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