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The Tyranny of the Terrible Troika: Rethinking Concept, Task, and Reference

Tom Johnson’s blog post Unconscious Meaning Suggested from the Structure and Shape of Help, includes a graphic showing three shapes of content: Tom Johnson’s “Shapes of Help” graphic. These three shapes are meant to represent the DITA topic triad of concept, task, and reference. I didn’t get it. As I said in a comment on Tom’s blog, I… Read More »

A Task is Not a Procedure

In The Tyranny of the Terrible Troika, I complained that the now almost universal trio of concept, task, and reference did not properly represent what topic-based writing and information typing are really about, and I promised to show why each one, as popularly practiced, fails as both a topic type and as an information type.… Read More »

A Reference is Not a Topic

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… Read More »

Everything Else is not a Concept

In any system that attempts to classify the whole of something, there is usually a category that essentially constitutes “everything else”. In the terrible troika of task, concept, and reference, that role belongs to “concept”.  In Tom Johnson’s shapes of help graphic, which have quoted before, and repeat here, task has the shape of a… Read More »

We Must Develop Topic-Based Information Design

There is a lot of talk in tech comm today about topic-based writing, but very little about topic-based information design. This is a problem, because, in the age of the Web, and particularly of the mobile Web, topic-based information design is essential. Topic-based writing is often perceived (and practiced) as nothing more than writing in small,… Read More »