Some Upcoming Events

Here are three events where I will be speaking in the next few months.

Every Page is Page One: STC Southwestern Ontario, February 13, 7:00

I will be presenting on Every Page is Page One to the Southwestern Ontario Chapter of the STC on February 13 in Room DC1304, William Davis Centre, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON. The session will also be broadcast as a Webinar, so you can attend from anywhere.  Details here. Here’s the session description:

Readers dive into the middle of your content using search, links, or indexes, but often find themselves lost in the middle of a long consecutive narrative. Even when the content is produced using common topic-based writing techniques, it is often organized like a book, and individual topics do not work well as a starting point for the reader. On the Web, in particular, readers can come from anywhere and land anywhere. Is your content ready to receive them? read more

Topics, Pages, Articles, and the Nature of Hypertext

What is the right word to describe a node of a hypertext?

What should we call the basic unit of information that we present to readers? Is it a page, a topic, or an article? (I’m going to take it as read that the answer is no longer “a book”. If you disagree, that’s what the comments are for.)

I raise this now because of Tom Johnson’s latest blog post, DITA’s output does not require separation of tasks from concepts in which he makes the distinction between topics as building blocks and articles as finished output:

One reason so many people mistake the architecture of the source files with the architecture of the output files is because the term “topic” tends to get used for both situations. I prefer to call the output files “articles” rather than topics. An article might consist of several topics. Each of those topics might be of several different types: concept, task, or reference. read more

Revised outline: Every Page is Page One

coverBack in May, I published a preliminary outline of my book, Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communications and the Web. I’m grateful to all the people who commented on that outline, and all the people who have commented on the book in draft form. All of those comments have helped me refine and reorganize the book, which is now available from Amazon. Here’s what the current outline looks like:

Preface: In the Context of the Web

Even when content is not on line, the reader is. We don’t go online anymore, we are online all the time. All content is consumed in the context of the Web where Every Page is Page One. read more

Why is writing the only profession untouched by its tools?

Why is writing the only profession untouched by its tools? Larry Kunz strikes a familiar note in his recent blog post, Tools come and go. I’m still a writer.

I’m a writer. Once I used a typewriter. Now I use XML editors. If I stay at this long enough, other tools will come and I’ll learn to embrace them.

My old typewriter is gone. But I’m the same writer I’ve always been.

The same refrain is sounded over and over again wherever writers gather. It seems almost a badge of honor among writers to proclaim that your work and the essence of what you do is unaffected by the tools you use. read more

The Big Step Back and the Small Step Back

My Book is currently in the technical review stage — meaning that people who I and the publisher respect have been asked to read and comment on the full draft. It is a humbling, daunting, and also energizing experience, and I am deeply grateful to the reviewers for their time, energy, and expertise.

One of the reviewers asked why the book is not itself written as a collection of EPPO topics. It’s a very fair question, and one I have attempted to address before. But I think there is more to be said on the subject, or, at least, another way of saying the same thing — which is often just as valuable. I think of it as the difference between a big step back and a small step back. read more

Findability is a Content Problem, not a Search Problem

Findability is a constant theme in content strategy and technical communications, yet it  seems to me that people often treat findability as a problem existing outside the content. Findability is addressed using SEO tactics and by devising sophisticated top-down navigational aids, such as taxonomies and faceted navigation, but it is seldom seen as issue to be addressed in the content itself.

I believe this focus on top-down findability is wrong. Top-down finding aids have their place, but the majority of the focus should be bottom up, and it should start with the content itself. read more

Book Outline — Every Page is Page One

NOTE: There is a new book outline posted here: Revised Outline: Every Page is Page One. Comments on this version of the outline are closed. Thanks to all who commented.

As I announced a while back, I am working on a book called Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web. The book is in pretty good shape at this point, so I wanted to share the outline with you to see if you have any feedback that I can incorporate before the last i is dotted and the last t is crossed. read more

Web Organization is not Like Book Organization

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. read more