RE: Structured stuff for the beginner

Subject: RE: Structured stuff for the beginner
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Dave C'" <davec2468 -at- gmail -dot- com>, "'Tech Writing'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:22:48 -0400

The structured revolution is actually stalled in a protracted and bitter ground war against the forces of WYSIWYG. Structured writing is about writing in a way that conforms to a prescribed structure. Structures may be prescribed for many different reasons, but the key point is that if you want writers to conform to a structured, you have to show them the structure, not a preview of a particular output.

The partisans of WYSITYG (which is to say, most of the large vendors) fight back against this by aggressively wrapping WYSIWYG shells over any structured format that is propose, and by preferring and championing any structured format that is easier to mask behind WYSIWYG, or is so complicated that it is indecipherable without some kind of interface over it. DITA happens to be a format that meets both these criteria, which is why so many vendors are pushing it now.

The reason for this is very simple: tools need a viable economic model, a way to sell you something that is proportional to the size of your operation and the extent of your usage. Pure structured writing tends not to do this. It supports writing in pretty simple and inexpensive editors, does not require a live connection to a repository, and performs publishing in batch. There is no way for a vendor to make money off that (and only limited ways for a consultant to make money off it). DITA, on the other hand, provides a viable economic model for vendors and consultants.

Thus if an organization insists on a commercial solution, they are unlikely to get a true structured writing solution. They are likely to get a solution that requires the use of an expensive proprietary editor with a live connection to an expensive proprietary CMS, because this model allows vendors to sell more seats as the client expands. Thus the structured writing revolution is kind of stalemated, except for those willing to use more open-source solutions and do a little thinking and building for themselves.

What this means on the tools front is that you have another kind of stalemate between the traditional WYSIWYG kind of tools trying to bring the structured formats (largely DITA) under their traditional interfaces, and the structured tools (mostly XML editors) trying to create interfaces that look as much like Word as possible. There are certainly people in the industry that would like to break out of this stalemate, but the economics of the thing make it difficult.

I have a book on this subject that will be coming out later in the year.

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 Dave C
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2017 11:39 PM
To: Tech Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: Structured stuff for the beginner

Jumping back into the tech-wr âsoupâ again, I find I missed the whole structured revolution.

Some basic questions: what authoring tools are being used to generate, for example (for no particular reason), DITA?

Are word processors like Word now going by the way in favor of structured authoring tools? Is MS upping Wordâs game to join the structured fray?

Any pointers to web sites you can recommend?

Thanks,
Dave
(running before he hits the groundâ)
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Structured stuff for the beginner: From: Dave C

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