One of my long term grievances is that structured authoring has been adopted piecemeal. Rather than approaching it holistically as a method that can provide a wide range of quality and efficiency benefits to the authoring process, people have tended to adopt it for a single purpose, and to use it only to the extent that it achieved that singular purpose.
One of the most difficult aspects of moving content to the Web is that webs are not organized like other things — books in particular. And the difference is not small. It is not that web organization is somewhat different from book organization. It is so different that you can’t even look at web organization the way you look at book organization.
And that may be the biggest problem in moving content to the Web. We are used to being able to look at the organization of our content in a particular way, from the top down, and that does not work on the Web. That makes the difference very difficult to get used to.
Continuing my reconsideration of concept, task, and reference as cardinal topic types, this post is about reference. I planned to call it “A Reference is Not a Table”, as I promised in The Tyranny of the Terrible Troika, but thinking more about it I realized that the issue is really much broader than that. The real issue is that a reference is not a topic at all, it’s a database.
Today, I am announcing the launch of a new website, SPFE.info. SPFE.info is a site about the SPFE architecture for building structured authoring systems. Why would the world, need such a thing when it already has DITA? The site will attempt to answer that. Why have I spent the last 15 years or so working on what I now call SPFE? That I will try to explain here.
Links are expensive. That’s a problem, because the web is, and always has been, a hypertext medium, a medium of links. Links, as I have argued previously, are the last mile of findability. Links are how readers move around in your content. More importantly, links are what keep readers in your content, rather than Googling off to who knows where. SEO is how you get eyes on your content; links are how you keep them there.
What if you could create more links in less time? You can. I call it soft linking.