DocBook resurgent: what it tells us about structured writing and component content management

A new XML-based content management system that is not based on DITA. Bet you didn’t see that coming. But I think it tells us something interesting about the two sides of structured writing. Tom Johnson’s recent sponsored post explains the origins of Paligo, a relatively new CCMS out of Sweden. Paligo was developed by a company […]

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Designing for Feedback

We were discussing the biggest challenges in Tech Comm at the last STC Toronto brunch and we all seemed to agree that the difficulty getting feedback on the effectiveness of the content we create is the biggest challenge. The things that really matter in technical communication is whether users can achieve their goals after finding […]

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Another demonstration that language is stories

Sam Jackson makes it look easy, but Siri and her cohorts are still pretty dumb. If experience alone does not illustrate this to your satisfaction, a recent article in the MIT Technology Review, Tougher Turing Test Exposes Chatbots’ Stupidity, shows just how low their success rate is in understanding real language. The Winograd Schema Challenge asks […]

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Affordances are relative

Affordances, those features of a product that help you figure out how to use it, are relative. Most of the busses in the Kitchener-Waterloo region have rear doors that open when you wave your hand in front of them. The one I took downtown this morning must have been an older model because it just had […]

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Can Content be Engineered; Can Writers be Certified?

tl;dr: We can apply engineering methods to content development, but we do not have the body of proven algorithms or known-good data to justify formal certification of communication professionals they way we have for doctors and engineers. We talk about content engineering. I call myself a content engineer sometimes. But can content really be engineered? Is […]

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Writing Excellence Through Domain Awareness

A little while back, Tom Johnson posted an article entitled Seeing things from the perspective of a learner in which he says, “The balance between knowing and not knowing is the tension that undergirds the whole profession of technical writing.”. I think that is absolutely correct. The point, after all, is to assist the reader on their […]

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Why does XML suck?

XML sucks. Don’t get me wrong. All kinds of really valuable and important systems use XML to perform vital functions. But performing a vital function does not keep something from sucking. Lots of people think Windows sucks, but it performs a vital function, and lots of people use it because of that. In fact, performing a vital […]

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One Answer, Many Questions

It is often appealing to think of technical communication as a process of answering user’s questions. The difficulty with this view is that one answer can have many questions. If you answer each of those questions, you would be providing substantially the same answer over and over again. This is very easy to see on StackOverflow, […]

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