Designing for Knowledge

Let me start with the takeaway from Information Energy 2016:

“Information cannot be intelligent. Intelligent means to propagate and enrich itself. It’s the processing that has to be intelligent.”

Andy McDonald, initiator of Documentation 4.0 and Infomedian of the Year 2016.

The Infomedian Arena is not new at Information Energy, but I must say that this year Wim and his team have done a great job at animating the arena and a few new forum sessions about the future of information and Documentation 4.0.

We have discussed statements about short term and long term expectations during the Future of Information forum, with Ric van Westhreenen, Eva Vangenechten, Joyce Karemann, Kate Thomas, Paolo Peraro, myself and other conference attendees. Common themes were augmented reality, artificial intelligence, open source collaboration.

During the two days I have seen quite an interesting mix of workshops and talks, from concepts and tools to real applications of content design. Just as a sidenote: the iRobot vacuum cleaner was mentioned in at least three talks, including mine. I wonder, what intelligent product is going to be the IEn favorite next year?

It is always interesting to see teams coming from different areas of information design working together and learning from each other. This was again the case in my wokshop and I was glad to see the discussions continued afterwards.

The closing Documentation 4.0 Forum assigned us some homework: join the doc4 LinkedIn group and help define the direction, terminology, consensus, and the skillset for techcomm.

Workshop Abstract: Modelling intelligent content

Know the touchpoints of your customers’ journey with your technical content. Use methods from your information architecture toolkit to research and plan for intelligent content.

Modelling Content Workshop IEn2016

In the age of connected experience, you have to accompany youraudience at all times and across media, as they research and use your product or service. Your role is constantly evolving from technical writer to communicator/ infomedian and you have to add skills and methods to your toolkit to create rich, intelligent content for your users.

Most technical communicators are already familiar with methodslike persona, use-cases and task analysis. In addition, let’s see how drawing the customers’ journey map and identifying their touchpoints with your content channels can help you discover an information model.

To deliver the right content that serves your audience where and when they need it, we’ll plan the main content publishing pipelines and we’ll wireframe a few publication types.

Finally, using a DITA-XML project, we’ll draft the information architecture (metadata, linking and reuse strategy) and we’ll set up the semantic markup structure of the content topics.

Join the workshop, June 8 on “Modelling intelligent content” to experiment with a few research and analysis methods and to create a sample content project.

Unfolding the Techcomm Box

[Originally posted on the Information Energy Blog, on March 29th.]

No doubt, the “techcomm box” keeps growing as we discover new dimensions of our digitally intertwingled lives. Without aiming to outline the history of technical writing here, I’d say we went through stages like typing, layouting, help authoring, single sourcing…

Folding-box template from templatemaker.nl

…and now, as we are still struggling to implement structured, semantic writing, we are unfolding one by one the sides of the techcomm box, extending our expertise towards multiple disciplines.

  • We are consolidating our roles as content experts through user research, information typing, minimalism, and instructional design.
  • We adopt standards that make our content interchangeable and part of the linked web of data for man and machine.
  • We collaborate across departments in our organizations, integrate with other systems and publish enterprise content.
  • We learn techniques from information architecture, UX, web design, and social media, to reach our audiences and accompany them along an intelligent, omnichannel experience.

Utrecht is the perfect place to meet and talk about information modeling and design. The infomedian gathering every June gets, as its name says, the information energy flowing and encourages us to think outside the box.

Looking forward to meet you in Utrecht and to discover further dimensions we need to explore as we “Design for Knowledge”!

Join the workshop, June 8 on “Modelling intelligent content” to experiment with a few research and analysis methods and to create a sample content project.

Building a DITA pilot project

The DITA pilots were hard at work again at TCUK. We have discussed what changes may come with the DITA implementation, but also what should stay the same… if done properly, namely the research and planing phase of a documentation project. The four working groups designed personas and use cases for a specific product line, then drafted the documentation outline that formed the basis of their DITA project.

ditapilots

You can see the prezi I used for the first part of the workshop here:

workshop prezi

Click the image to open the Prezi slideshow

Once we had a documentation outline, we started a DITA skeleton project in oXygen XML Editor. It is called a skeleton project, because we started a simple ditamap, just by replicating the outline, without actually creating any topics. We just added symbolic topicref elements and inserted the titles from our outline in navtitle attributes. A skeleton map can even be published for review.

Thus the writers have the entire outline model in the ditamap from the beginning and would be ready to start creating topics and developing the content using the ditamap as guidance, then adding the actual topics to the map in href attributes. This approach can be applied not only to provide orientation while creating new topics and enhancing the model, but also to ensure consistency across documentation sets… at least until fancier project templates are in place.

In case you’d like to try out building a DITA skeleton project, you can download the tutorial as PDF file ico_PDF.

Happy DIT’ing! More entertaining TCUK keepsake from Glasgow coming soon.

DITA linking best practice at IEn2015

Infomedian of the YearThe three days at Information Energy 2015 in Utrecht have passed too quickly. Everyone seemed to feel at home, the sessions were interactive and fun, speakers and attendants eager to share information and show how they create and publish content in most diverse forms and channels… that’s what makes an infomedian. To round up the experience, apart from teaching a master class and giving a presentation, I had the honor of giving a short interview and being part of the jury in one of the workshops.

Seats2Meet
The venue also gave it special “energy” – first, Master Classes and presentations at Uni Utrecht, a historical site with classical and retro chambers where the eyes of scientists, professors and artists watched us from old paintings or billboards, followed by workshops at Seats2Meet, a very interesting concept with themed lounges in vintage look.

After the full-day Master Class on the pre-conference day, I also gave a short presentation the next day about DITA Linking Best Practice. We have seen examples and done exercises in the workshop. We have also talked about structured, topic-oriented writing and about DITA architecture: map structure, reuse strategy, authoring environment and publishing pipelines. The presentation afterwards was just the shorthand version of the workshop, but it served to start further discussions. Thank you all for attending! It was great meeting everyone in Utrecht.

Enjoy the prezi and let me know your thoughts:

DITA Linking - prezi

Click the image to open the Prezi slideshow

For the advanced use of keys on topic references, don’t miss the contributions of Gnostyx and Eliot Kimber to the dita-community repository: dita-demo-content-collection

So how are you managing your content linking?

Related posts 😉

Mit Legos in Stuttgart

Auf dem Weg nach XML-Prag, habe ich versucht meine Artikel-Reihe über die letzten Konferenzen weiter zu schreiben. Ich schreibe diesen Artikel auf Deutsch, weil es gerade um die tekom Jahrestagung 2014 in Stuttgart geht. Ich hatte die Tagung in den vorigen Jahren schon besucht, diesmal aber habe ich meinen ersten Vortrag und einen Workshop auf Deutsch und nacheinander sogar gehalten.

Mein Workshop – Das DITA-Implementierungsprojekt – und der Vortrag – Verstehen Sie DITA-Architektur? – haben erst am dritten Tag stattgefunden. Nichtdestotrotz waren sie gut besucht. Ich hätte mir gewünscht, dass die Workshopräume besser isoliert würden und jeder Teilnehmer einen Platz am Tisch hätte, sodass man bei den Übungen mitmachen konnte… So mussten wir Vieles überspringen, aber die Gruppe war trotzdem aktiv und stellte gute Fragen.

DITA Implementierung - Folien

Gleich danach dürfte ich mehr über DITA-Architektur im riesigen Plenum-Raum berichten… was so komisch auf mich wirkte, dass ich fühlte wie mein roter Faden dahinschwindet. Die Blokade war glücklicherweise nicht von Dauer, da gleich in der nechsten Woche habe ich noch einen Vortrag gehalten und es lief alles prima. Für den Teil über DITA-Architektur hatte ich eigentlich ebenso einen Workshop vorgeschlagen, dürfte aber diesmal nur einen Vortrag daraus machen. Vielleicht klappt es mit dem Workshop bei der Jahrestagung 2015 🙂 So würde ich meinem Publikum durch konkreten Beispielen und Übungen beibringen, was ich ihnen noch schulde.

DITA Architektur Folien

Darüberhinaus war ich in Stuttgart zum ersten Mal als Aussteller mit meinem neuen Arbeitgeber PANTOPIX dabei. Wir haben Freunde und Messebesucher eingeladen, mit uns über ihren Datenmodellen zu reden und dabei mit den Lego-Steinen zu spielen. Außer einer Reihe von Firmenlogos, entstanden ein paar einzigartige Objekte aus der Zusammenarbeit der Standbesucher. Danke fürs Mitmachen!

PANTOPIX Legosteine

IA and TechComm at EUROIA14

Continuing my flashback notes, after Brighton and Bucharest, let me take you to the third B-named city I had visited within a month: Brussels. I finally managed to attend EUROIA, the Information Architecture conference in Europe last September. They closed the 10-year loop back in Brussels and I joined just in time to celebrate and received a cool anniversary T-shirt.

This was quite a change from the usual techcomm conferences. In my “scrapcloud” attempt I mentioned only a few of the terms that stuck with me from EUROIA14, but it was so much more. It took me to the… “liminal”-zone 🙂

EUROIA14 scrapcloud

We were shown the artistic side of information architecture through presentations about design, architecture, innovation, anthropology and psychology. But in the same time, workshops and presentations confirmed that info architects and user experience designers are facing similar challenges technical communicators do. Lots of familiar images: spreadsheets for content auditing, models to sort, chunk and reuse information. One page per thing was an often mentioned rule, as well as MRUs (minimum reusable units). Ontologies and linking are of course vital, since they are the very mechanism that keeps the web running. Does CORE model sound familiar to tech writers yet? It should: Create Once, Reuse Everywhere. And the statement that probably got just as much ovation and Twitter coverage as the marriage proposal in the end, was the reminder that Content is f*** King!

What also seemed a déjà vu, was the effort of info architects to establish their role and responsibilities within companies and workflows. we are all in the center

After seeing in various projects and books those diagrams with all team members or skills in their little circles, all pointing to the project manager (call it scrum master if you will) in the center, then seeing the same in slides trying to define the technical writers’ job and how they should position themselves and communicate with all other roles in their projects… it was the IA and UX designers’ turn to flip the charts.

Good to know we’re not alone and interesting to see we are trying to connect with the same roles in our projects: managers, developers, engineers, testers, etc.

Can hardly wait for the next EUROIA and I hope to see some more conferences adopting their agenda model:  workshops every morning, presentations and lightning talks in the afternoon, dozens of books to give away each evening.