Examples of EPPO topics

Here is a collection of examples of EPPO topics. Not every item in this collection necessarily contains nothing but perfect topics that meet all 7 EPPO principles. In many cases, sites contain a mix of content, some of which meets the EPPO standard and some of which does not. In very many cases, we find content that meets most EPPO criteria but misses the criteria of linking richly. In many cases, the lack of links may be better explained by the limitation of tools than anything else.

I welcome suggestions for individual topics or topic sets that deserve to be added to this list, particularly sites in the tech comm domain, which is often still stuck in the book paradigm.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is something of a poster child for Every Page is Page One. It is perhaps the easiest place to observe the phenomenon that EPPO topics naturally conform to a type, something you can see in the similar templates used to cover many different topics or related subjects such as movies, countries, cars, actors, or programming languages. It is also a very good example of bottom-up navigation and the way in which rich linking can make each topic a hub of its local subject space.

WordPress Codex

The WordPress Codex contains some good examples of EPPO topics. The quality of material in the Codex can be highly variable, but there are definitely good examples to be found here. Because it consists largely of individual articles contributed by different authors at different times, each article tends to be self contained, and they frequently address a specific and limited purpose. Unfortunately, lack of governance can mean some articles are outdated or of poor quality.

BaseX Documentation

The BaseX documentation is particularly notable for good context setting, the use of linking in the context setting, and the general use of linking as a means to stay on one level, keep to purpose, and provide access to ancillary information.

MSDN Documentation

Much to like here, including the categories Get Started, Plan, and Develop. These are much more practical and inviting to the reader than listing Concepts, Tasks, and References.

 All About Birds

All about birds is a searchable database of birds that provides a variety of information about each bird using a consistent template. It is also notable for providing multiple ways of navigating the collection and of identifying birds. Even though it is providing more than reference information about each bird, the site is organized like a reference, which is not uncommon with EPPO content. When EPPO topics consistently conform to a well defined topic type, they start to look more like reference entries. In many cases, consistent data points that were previously embedded in a narrative, get pulled out and placed in a separate field, which tends to improve consistency and comprehension.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for programmers. Because it is all based around programmers asking questions, and other programmers then providing answers, its pages are not structured like typical documentation topics, but the topics are good examples of EPPO all the same. This starts with being self contained — they answer the question that was asked — and having a specific and limited purpose — answering the question. Interestingly, the person asking the question does not always state what they are trying to accomplish, and then people will comment asking them to clarify their purpose. Until the purpose is clarified, answers are seldom provided.

The topic structure is always the same — questions and answers, with comments allowed on each. What is cool is that the answers get voted on by other users and thus the best answers float to the top. Answers generally stay on one level and assume the reader is qualified. And the site itself automatically generates rich links to similar questions and questions with similar tags. Overall, therefore StackOverflow topics tend to check all the EPPO boxes.

Peter Sturgeon makes an interesting point about sites like Wikipedia and Stack Overflow, suggesting that their flat structure and democratic authorship may account for the natural tendency to produce EPPO content. More hierarchical organizations may prefer more hierarchical content, he suggests. But such hierarchies often reflect the organization’s desire for order and control, rather than providing the best experience for the reader.

 IBM Developer Works

IBM provides a study in contrasts. The Developer Works site is a collection of technical articles, and contains a lot of good EPPO content, including rich linking to related resources. This is in marked contrast to some of their documentation sets, which can be enormous Frankenbooks.

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