2 Responses to Designing topic types

  1. Alex Knappe 2014/05/06 at 06:48 #

    Well said Mark,
    this is just the process I’m going through at the moment and reminds me of being far more restrictive, on what I will allow in my topic sets.
    But there’s one more thing I might want to add to your list: The writing habits of your authors must be respected as well.
    It is a mayor problem, if your writers don’t agree to your topic types in the sense of their writing habits.
    They will most likely find a way to work around it and produce less than desirable content in respect of the desired structure.
    I’ve seen this way too often, than this could be neglected.

    • Mark Baker 2014/05/12 at 08:12 #

      Thanks for the comment, Alex.

      While getting your authors to agree to conform to the topic types can indeed be difficult, I don’t think accommodating their differences is part of the process. Everything that actually belongs in a good topic type definition should be demonstrably tied to improving user performance, so there should be no room for variance based on the author’s personal style.

      That said, you can run into problems if the topic type definitions are simply an expression of the prejudices of the person or team that developed them, rather than being based on the best available evidence regarding user needs and a correct understanding of the role of topic types.

      I think the best way to avoid these problems is to develop a topic type definition process that involves all the writers, but which is facilitated in a very controlled and specific way, to keep attention focused on the functional rather than the aesthetic. And, there must be an equally broad-based and disciplined approach to maintaining, updating, and adding topic types. Information needs change, and if the topic type definitions do not keep up, they become straightjackets rather than productivity aids.