RE: adopting structured authoring best practices - for unstructured tools

Subject: RE: adopting structured authoring best practices - for unstructured tools
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Monique Semp'" <monique -dot- semp -at- earthlink -dot- net>, "'TechWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2016 22:54:44 -0400

Monique, I think you are absolutely right that you can do DITA-style of authoring with Word, Frame, and Flare. But I think it is incorrect to call this structured authoring.

Structured authoring is about applying constraints to content. This can mean style-guide type constraints that don't require any special tools, or it can mean mechanical constraints that require a schema and a markup language (or some other form of mechanical constraint, like a database or a form). It is in no way specific to DITA's default style of topic-based authoring (which is by no means the only style of topic-based authoring). It is in no way specific to the kind of component content management system that DITA is often used with.

You can use structured writing techniques with any information design. Structured writing techniques allow you to provide author guidance and to automate production, management, and validation tasks that otherwise you would have to do by hand. But designing the constraints and programming the automation is also a cost. In some cases it will be cheaper to do the work by hand, and in some cases it will be cheaper to constrain and automate. This is true of all style of information design and all approaches to content management, not just the standard DITA approach.

DITA represents an intersection of certain structured writing techniques with certain ideas about information design and content management. You can certainly imitate the information design and/or content management aspects of this without the structured writing techniques, and that may or may not be cheaper, depending on your circumstances.

But there are other approaches to topic-based writing and other approaches to structured writing, some of which do things that are far harder to emulate with non-structured approaches (though nothing is impossible, given time).

Mark



-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Monique Semp
Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2016 4:48 PM
To: TechWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: adopting structured authoring best practices - for unstructured tools

Hello, WR-L-ers,
Thereâs been plenty of discussion on this list about structured authoring and DITA. I believe that a common misconception is that structure/DITA is an all-or-nothing thing, that requires a full-blown structured authoring ecosystem of complex tools. But in fact, you can adopt many of the best practices from structured authoring in the regular, non-structured tools that many/most of us use: Word, FrameMaker, and Flare.
So I (along with a collaborator) created a presentation on the topic, which I gave to the STC-Berkeley chapter last night.
I hope itâs not too self-serving/promoting to share the presentation with this listâit was recommended that I do so (by a person whoâs on both this list and the [Framers] list, where weâve had a ton of related discussion).
Itâs on SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/msemp/adopting-structuredanddita-best-practices-for-any-toolset?qid=38e06f93-0828-471c-a39b-54267a5660d4&v=&b=&from_search=1, and on my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/moniquesemp (for now in both the Summary section, and in the experience entry for Society for Technical Communication).
(To download the presentation, vs. simply viewing itâwhich unfortunately renders the many reference links non-liveâyou need to log in to SlideShare.) Iâd certainly welcome comment and discussion, -Monique

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adopting structured authoring best practices - for unstructured tools: From: Monique Semp

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