Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Future Proofing Your Content: The Importance of Content Strategy in An Increasingly Mobile World

Ann Rockley gave the LavaCon closing keynote.

More and more publishers are putting out eBooks, mobile, smaller chunks of information.

89 percent of people in the U.S. access the Internet from their mobile phone.It's more than just reading. It's finding things. It's doing things. There are 5.3 billion people worldwide using mobile, and many are skipping the landlines.

So is it all about designing for a small screen?

With eBooks, page size, resolution, navigation is different. As with mobile. We have to re-think our content.

No more "re-thinking." Do it right from the beginning. It won't impact you when that next device arrives. And it will arrive.

Don't fall into the format trap. Handcrafting is unsustainable. Devices are proliferating just too fast. Functionality varies across devices. You just can;t keep up.

The solution is to design a format-free content strategy. That doesn't mean "eBooks first" or "mobile first."  Think content first!

Develop structure-free content models. You also need a reuse strategy and a metadata strategy.  Metadata is key for accessing and repurposing information and telling devices about your content.

Publishing eBooks is not easy. But you can't get it done, keep up with changes, by using a print-centric model.
  • To future proof content:
  • Determine the primary content.
  • What content can be layered or scrolled?
  • What content can be eliminated?
  • What alternate content should be presented, and what structure will support this?
If you think modular and succinct, you can support just about anything.

As long as you have structure, you're not tied to any format. It can go to multiple channels. It can be filtered, layered, it can be progressively revealed.

Identify structured writing guidelines. Come up with a reuse strategy.Come up with a good taxonomy and good metadata.

XML provides an industry standard for structured content. There are many implementations and structures, and it doesn't have to be in your face.

Look at ROI over the first 3 years. You're not going to see any in the first year, and if your company expects that, they are just wrong. 

How to Produce Amazing Webinars

Sharon Burton gave this as one of the final breakout sessions of the 2012 LavaCon, and I decided to take this one in as something that looked interesting, rather than necessary.

Weninars should be part of your social media plan, part of your content strategy and content develpment plan. They are a way to engage with your customers and users.

Webinars increase product and industry buzz, introduces your product to potential customers, positions your company as a leader in the field, and supports current users with in-depth demonstrations on advanced topics.

you and your company can look clueless if you have bad topics or a badly run webinar, or look like a genius if you have great topics and an exciting series.

Sales is not a good option to run webinars, although they will want to.  Marketing may be, if they are a technical marketing group, but if it's all shiny, customers will see that there is no content and leave. Support sees it as a way to reduce support calls, but they tend to only to webinars on the topic of "how to work around X," which makes your company only interested in making products that require workarounds. Upper management wants to talk about the company vision, but customers want concrete content. Tech comm people are perfectly positioned.

Webinar ideas don't appear like a bolt of lightning. You have to come up with ideas. Do research about what the competition is doing. You have to schedule them--and be careful about when: watch what else is going on, both in your industry and in life (such as holidays). Finding and managing guest speakers can be interesting. And of course you have to write webinar content, including white papers. People like having a thing when they are done with a webinar.

Afterwards, follow up. Write survey questions and evaluate results. Include a question on suggested topics for further webinars.

What are good topics? Think about the audience. Current customers? Potential customers/ Decision makers? C-level executives? Industry influencers?
  • Advanced topics for existing customers are always in demand.
  • Product demonstrations--but these are not sales, but pick a thing that your product solves (and never talk about how to buy the product).
  • In-depth product dives.
  • Survey results.
  • Top 5 or 10 things you need to know abou... (and "about" is not your product)
  • Where the industry will be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years (if your C-levels really want to give a webinar)
 Make your topics product-neutral.

You'd be shocked to find out how many people are willing to speak in your webinars for free.

Start internally to find speakers, from support, management, and training. Find conferences, work your network, look on Twitter to find external speakers.  Happy customers are one of your great speakers bases,, and they are doing interesting things. People trust case study information more than just about anything else we do.

As far as scheduling, probably want to do 1 ever 2 weeks, per track. If your company has a lot of verticals, this can take a lot of time. (But you don't have to start with that much.) Nothing says "we care about you" like a lot of free information. Find a time that works for the bulk of your markets, but understand at least half the world is not going to attend live--and that's OK!

You're missing as much of 50% of your audience if you're not recording your webinars. 

There is no "best" tool. Look at:
  • Is the UI easy to understand?
  • Is it complicated to create webinars? Can you create templates for reuse?
  • Can you have multiple speakers without adding accounts?
  • Can you create and sent email notifications?
  • Does it manage the signup process for you?
  • Does it record? And in what format?
  • Can you mute attendees?
  • Does it host recordings? And if so, what are the space limits? (And make sure you archive your content locally.)
  • Can you run polls during the webinars?
  • Can you send surveys after the webinar?
  • Do you get attendee reports?
  • Can you brand invitations and other public-facing pages?
  • Does it require Flash or other tech your users don't have?
  • Can attendees chat with you and other attendees?
Dos and Don'ts

Mute your audience. Business areas are not quiet. Attendees want to hear you, not your audience.

Use backup support. Someone to answer questions behind the scenes, handling technical support, etc. Make this a non-speaking person. You can't manage this while you are trying to present.

Give enough lead time. At least a week's notice. People have busy workdays, and you need time for social media to get the word out.

Don't do a bait-and-switch presentation. Don't publicize a topic and then do whatever you want. This almost always happens when you let your C-level executives do their thing. Do what you said you were going to do.

Learn your webinar technology. If you don't know, you lose credibility. If you have a guest speaker, make sure they know beforehand.

Once you have a webinar, you have an hour of content. Can you break that content up into pieces and reuse those pieces?

Monitoring Social Media for Documentation Customer Feedback

Rhyne Armstrong, who used to write scripts for haunted houses, started by saysng that the alternate title for this presentation is....

<cue haunted music>

It Came From the Intenet...!"

First, you have to prepare yourself. The Internet is a spooky place. For a long time, we could write in our cubes, send stuff out, and never get any feedback. We've gone from where we can hide within our organizational structure to where we have to get out there.

Because they are talking about you--and your documentation. If you're not in the conversation--if you're not leading the conversation--you may have this "crapstorm" going on about you without you knowing about it.

Social media does not belong to the marketing world.

Lots of free tools to do tracking, including Google Alerts, retweetrank.com, Klout, Bitly, SocialBro, and others. There are pro versions of many of these, and you can also pay 9big bucks sometimes) for monitoring. A number of companies are in the social media monitoring space.

Most people aren't looking for your manuals--that they can find on your website. They are looking for "how do I do X with Y?" 

3 ways to distribute documentation for feedback: passive, seductive, and aggressive.

Passive is like a mummy. When you publish and wait for feedback, it's a good start. Results can be skewed (usually negative), and you can always be putting out fires. Feedback is because they had a problem.

Seductive is like a vampire. It brings users to your content. Can be done through Facebook or Twitter. Asking them to come to your content, but not necessarily asking for feedback.

Aggressive is like a werewolf. Go where your users are. Put a face with the content. Announce, solicit, and respond. Communicate! It can be dangerous. It can be a full-time job to do this. But it becomes your documentation as much as your documentation.

Don't forget to use your braaaaiiiins...... (tips for surviving the zombie holocaust as well as social media.)

Sharing is better than feedback, which is better than silence.

 Never stop running. If you go silent, at least leave a breadcrumb trail to reach you.

Stick together. Work with other teams.

Unleash the beast. Let your documentation go.

Don't freak out. Don't get anxious when you get negative comments. You never know who is on the other side of the twitter ID. Gracefully, calmly respond. But don't always automatically capitulate.

Stay out of the woods. Don't use too many tools. Better to stay in the clear, where you can see things coming at you. You can't spend so much time distributing documentation that you forget to write good documentation.

You really have to consider the source. If CNN retweets something, you have to respond. Look at how many followers tweeters have. Try not to get management involved; C-levels either want to do something Right Now or they deny that it's an issue. 

When you're compiling metrics, don't use individual tweets.

New Voice, New Tone, New Information Architecture: Writing for the Modern Developer

Keith Boyd has spent 13 years (today!) at Microsoft, all of it in the Content Publishing group.

There are now (at least) 3 playforms that developers can develop for globall. So we asked how content strategy can better help developers work with Windows.

The problems were typical, lots of legacy content, siko'd teams, and so on. With Windows 8, trying a new approach.

Dev Content 101, 1980-1997: Big book, literally printed, out-of-date before shipment.

Dev Content 2.0, 1997-2010: moved to the web, semi-continuous publishing, MSDN became center of gravity.

Now: Dev Content 3.0.

Want an experience that inspires and motivates developers to bet on Windows. Give only relevant content, filter the rest. Content & samples that support end-to-end experience--tthe "horizontal layer" instead of narrow content about each feature. Make content feel like a conversation, not us talking at you. Access to everything in one place.

Now created a single unified Windows developer portal. Content focuses on the how, not the why. The architecture focuses on software development lifecycle.  The latter is an emphasis on building apps quickly, from getting started to sales. Content is organized by that lifecycle. Still have deep conceptual guidance, but not everyone needs it, so it's de-emphasized.

Samples are the backbone of the experience. It's in a pyramid. At the bottom is reference material with code snippets. Above that, feature material with API feature level samples. Then is cross-feature guidance. And finally end-to-end demos show the value proposition.

Changed the voice. Made is collegial, not colloquial. Part of it is admitting when something is going to be hard or complicated--and helping developers through the pain.

Code samples are checked in to the Windows code source tree and tested nightly, which raised the bar for sample code quality. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Galileo's Dilemma: Satisfying Information Consumers in the Post-PC Era

SDL's Andrew Thomas gave Tuesday's closing keynote. The idea of living is a post-PC world is driving change. What does "post-PC world" mean?

It means channel explosion. Your customers get information not just from you, but from social media sites and more, and you have very little control over that. The idea is to not fight that, but to embrace that.

As soon as you add language and locale to that explosion, you've multiplied the challenge.

Your customer is the center of their own universe, not your company or your product.

Good content makes a really good impression. Good content is media rich, it's contextual, and it's meaningful.

Good content provides better support then people.Self-service is growing. A growing number of people want to do it themselves. They don't want to interact with a real person. They expect that the information they are looking for will be available.

Content reuse enables efficiency, consistency, and quality. If you find a chunk of content that's of poor quality, you have to fix it only once.

If your content sharing model involves copy and paste, you have failed.

If your customer can't find the content they need from you, they will go somewhere else.

Content has to be compelling, useful, and easy to create. The latter is where XML has fallen down: it may make sense to a tech writer, but not to anyone else. 

Influence Without Authority: Applying the Art of Motivation

Andrea Ames subtitled this presentation "mind tricks of the Jedi masters." It's about how to affect cultural change at your company. This should be a half day workshop, but have to cram it all intyo 60 minutes.

You can be introverted and be influential.

This is the piece that makes progressive design work.

I create beautiful architectures with stubs. If the writers don't think it's a great idea, well, there are a lot of passive-aggressive writers out there.

Lots of people perceive that influence is about personality, but don't think influence has anything to do with that. Influence is almost entirely about credibility and trust. A little bit of follow up and follow through and commitment and responsibility makes a huge influence on people.

But it's really, really, really hard.

Figuring out how to deliver what you say you will or to negotiate very early is critical. It's not something that we;re used to. It's not something you're born with, but it is something you can improve.

It is part of your attitude, how you interact with people, how you present yourself.

Influencing is not a zero sum game. You don't have to influence everyone, but you do have to influence the important people.

We have a leg up: we are good communicators.

Manage up is an important skill. Being able to manage and lead in all directions is important.

It's the 75-25 rule. I like to be the one who brings the 75 to the relationship.

There are critical components of respect. You have to treat people with respect (even if you think they are crazy). If you want people to believe that you are a trustworthy person, you have to show that to them.  You may have to make some assumptions. But in some way or another, others are worthy of respect. One of the best ways to get the respect of others is to be the first to admit a mistake.

One of the most important factors to be successful is to get a mentor. Someone you can trust, someone you can bounce stuff off of, someone who can give you good advice is really, really important.

Always overcredit other people.

Err on the side of being transparent. When you are trustworthy, people will share with you.  And take a little risk: share with others. Then evaluate. Be conscious about how you build that rapport with others.

Understand the escalation path for all of your relationships.

If you do not have a good relationship with your manager, you have to figure out how. Otherwise, you might have to start polishing your resume.

The most important thing is to figure out how to lead yourself. Figure out what makes you tick, how to control your behavior. Focus on you, and it will positively impact the relationships you have with others.

Effective Tablet Strategies for the Mobile User Experience

Kenneth Davila took on this subject, substituting for the scheduled speaker who was feeling a bit under the weather.

To start, you have to decide if you want to do native development or responsive design. Native development leverages device and OS specific features. Responsive design leverages current architecture.

User experience during development can be broken into three layers. These layers correspond to the components of web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Rich content is a key term when talking about the web. You want to have a "rich share." So a UI design is driven by the goals of the site,  is influenced by the content strategy, is defined by the system architecture, and is developed in context of the target audience and device.

Your site's content acts as a road map for users. Keep language, styles consistent. Don't break the Back button.

Managing Content Development Projects in Agile-Like Environments

Bonni Graham Gonzalez began noting that agile is all about letting people be good at what they do.

There's a definition of "agile" and there's how everyone does "agile." It's a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental methods where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams.

Extreme programming and rapid application development are variations on agile. Then there's "FrAgile," where we've thrown requirements out the window and everyone just hurries a lot. Also known as "kill the developers."

Where does content fit in? Ideally, in from the beginning. Should be in stand-ups and scrums.

The advantages of agile is that it's inherently iterative. Things change so quickly so we know the content we create first won't be what we end up with.  It can be easier to create embedded documentation (if you're in the early user story creation stages).

So many error messages admonish the user instead of trying to help the user.

There are challenges. You MUST practice minimalism. You must start layering and prioritizing of information.

When people go to any type of content, they have questions. But they don't wake up in the morning thinking that they want to read documentation. Those questions boil down to four key elements. What is it? How do I do it? Why do I care? What just happened? These questions give the opportunity to prioritize content creation based on what you know about your users. You can add more layers later. They don't have to be all in place all at once.

If users understand why they are invested with a feature, they will muddle through.

Buyers are dumber than we think they are, but users are smarter.

Other challenges include not often being able to "touch" working software before we get started, at least for the first few sprints. And team burnout. If you're working in an environment that you need downtime between releases, it's exhausting.

It's not necessarily bad for docs to not start until the second sprint. 

We're all making agile up as we goo along. Even the teams who do it really, really well. 

Rethinking Content From Paper to Tablets, Mobile Screens and ePubs

Adobe's Maxwell Hoffmann began by going through a bit of writing and content history, noting that early writing forms were on tablets. And in a way, we've come full circle. But the question is, will the information on modern-day tablets last 3000 years like that engraved on cuneiform tablets now in museums.

We don't always catch on to how things have changed. Mobile phones have surpassed landlines. Yet, for example, political phone polls call only landlines. What are they missing? Who are they missing?

Any time you can get something cheaper, quicker, faster, they will ditch quality in a heartbeat.

A re imagining of computing devices. "Then," we had desktops and notebooks. "Now," we have tablets and smartphones.  Tablets are terrific devices for delivery, but don't think they will take over for content creation, at least for now.

There's a concept of "leapfrogging." Areas of the world that have no electricity, no cable or Internet connectivity, yet they have cell phones and smart phones. They will order from Amazon on their smartphone and then go home to their kerosene-lit room.

The landscape has changed for content creators. Readers have less time and have shorter attention spans. They expect the latest and greatest version of your content, and they want it ASAP. There are fewer writers and artists. We have less time from shorter delivery schedules--and the workload is 2-3 times more than just a few years ago. There's an increased pressure to serve a global audience. We have "fat" legacy content and less space for it.

How did we as technical communicators become a "page-based" lens for content? Page size or laptop/computer screens have long been the :lens" through which we visualized delivered content. And we write words to fill up those spaces.

How do you write content that's small enough for small screens? Use alternate templates that simulate screen and font sizes.

Keynote Panel Discussion: The Content Revolution

Monday's LavaCon opened with a panel discussion with Tom Aldous, Adobe Systems; David Ashton, SDL; and Nolwenn Kerzreho, Componize, moderated by Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler.

Scott suggested today is a "time of recognition." Customers are in control. Everyone is a publisher.

4 out of 5 "traditional" publishers produce eBooks.And the majority publish more than half their catalog as eBooks.

But they still think they sell books. They don't They sell content, and a content experience. Because, they still employ a print-based editorial, publishing, and marketing workflow. It's not scalable. They need to learn from us, to learn how to do things better, faster, quicker.

The first question that the panel tackled what the most important innovative change is and why. Tom mentioned that smartphones have made it possible for many people to access information. It's an opportunity for us to communicate with them.  David agreed, adding that it gives us the ability to deliver dynamic content.

Next, Scott asked if structured XML content still needed today. David said yes, reiterating his dynamic content theme, noting that technology hasn't really been able to meet the need. Nolwenn noted that structured XML content can increase modularity and decrease time to market.

Next, panelists were asked for advice on how to face the challenges creating content in a new global economy. David noted that everyone who you want to deliver content to is unique. And that;s what DITA and structured content is for. Nolwenn asserted that translation of content brings you new customers. Tom recognized that it's not about just translation, but about cultural differences, and that rich media can bridge that gap. Nolwenn piped in that you have to be very careful when using images.

Turning to content production, where is opportunity hiding? Nolwenn talked about the concept of minimalism, where you can save money in translation.Tom agreed; it's low-hanging fruit. Terminology management is also critical.

Value comes from eliminating waste and saving time. What are important time savers? Reuse was the theme in answers here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

And Then Everything Changed

Adobe Evangelist Tom Aldous began by going through a long history of content development, from drawings on caves to more "mobile" methods of stone tablets. There then came a time where people began to understand that if you control the information, you control the population.

Once we began to use paper, more people could communicate. This was dangerous because it was harder to control communication. The printing press added speed, reduced costs, and made information very easy rto disseminate and difficult to control.

As we progress, people will want to hold you back. Don't let them do it. Question everything. Where were moving, HTML5, DITA, content management, it's all good for the enterprise. 

DUH! x 3: Maintaining Accessibility While Multichannel Publishing

Char James-Tanny opened by giving some statistics about disability, different types, how they can affect people of different ages.

But it isn't always possible to accommodate 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time.

Many disabilities aren't visible. Many people with disabilities are online, for example in gaming. And no one knows they are disabled.

More benefits than just making documents and web pages accessible. It makes your content more searchable,

30 percent of mobile searches are for restaurants. And what do I want when I'm searching? Your location, your hours, and your menu.

Everything that is good for localization and translation is good for accessibility.

Interestingly, char talked about things such as formatting of content. But typographic consistency and alignment is important because dyslexics can have trouble reading otherwise. 

Contrast is important. But the best contrast, black on white, can cause some people trouble when reading online. One solution is to make the background off-white. For example, instead of #FFF, try #FFD or #FFC.

If you want to test for colors, print in grayscale and see how much contrast you have. If you don't have any, that's what many color blind people will see.

Why are headings important? Screen readers can pull out headings. (Also why you don't want to use more than one h1 per page.)

It's important to understand that there are many types of disabilities, which include vision, hearing, speech, physical/motor, learning, psychiatric, cognitive, and intellectual.

When Worlds Collide: Improving the User Experience by Applying Progressive Information Disclosure

Andrea Ames points out that Jakob Nielsen has been talking about this notion for years: "Progressive disclosure is the best tool so far: show people the basics first, and once they understand that, allow them to get the expert features. But don't show everything all at once or you will only confuse people and they will waste endless time messing with features they don't need yet."

For information, provide just what they need where they need it.

It assumes a "competent" to "proficient" performer, not novice, not expert. If you put text in the UI aimed at novices, that text will be there "forever."

You reduce complexity by revealing only the essentials for a current task in the UI, and the offer more as users advance through tasks. 

Layers build on each other. Progressive disclosure reveals information in an ordered manner. It provides only the necessary details for the context. It provides information that's necessary, not to simply create information to cover everything. We are fixated as an industry to writing information for everything. Don't repeat information. For example, don't repeat labels in hover text.

Doing this right means a fundamental understanding of user goals. That's hard work.

The process of helping users reach their goals is "a guided journey, not a scavenger hunt."

Design for the absolute best experience. Then when you have to negotiate what you can do, you'll know what the most important things are. 

Job #1 is the user task. So we should be writing user task oriented content.

At IBM, progressive disclosure doesn't begin with writing. It's first about making the UI clear. And if it's going to take a lot of words to describe it, it's probably wrong.

Customers never read documentation. Reading documentation is never a business goal.

Goal: think more, write less.

Giving Customers What They Want: Integrating Content in the Customer Lifecycle

Naz Urbina found himself a back-to-back talk, this one with more of a tech comm focus.

Tech comm isn't about manuals, single sourcing, or even content. It's about transferring contextually relevant product knowledge to staff and customers. This increases customer satisfaction and increases business.

The notion is customer lifecycle. A lifecycle is both cyclical and evolutionary, not linear.

More and more in the software world, getting asked for embedded user assistance.

Rather than have one large system, can have web content management system, component content management system, and document management system, as long as they all communicate with each other.  All province metadata, search, etc. If you call things consistently within all 3 systems, they can integrate.

The benefits of embedded user assistance. It doesn't break user context; it's within the experience. It's fast. It's a learning tool. That learning is both for the user and for you. Analytics can tell you what content users use.

The customer does not care about your org chart.

How do you get where you want to go? Map the customer journey. Map the content model and assets to that journey. Do a gap analysis. Build a modular model to bridge the gaps. And then build a cross-silo strategy to fill the information architecture and taxonomy standards and process.

Content strategy has to be driven by user and task analysis.

You can't assume that the content being dynamically delivered is good. You still have to check, to make sure the content is accurate at the point of use.

Tomorrow Was Yesterday: Mastering the Future of content Creation

At LavaCon, we get presentations during lunch. Naz Urbina tackles this topic on the first day.

 Looking how we think about time, about progress. The Cray 1 supercomputer in 1976 ran at 80Mhz. They sold 80 at $5-8 million each. Now, our smartphones work at 1Ghz. The cutting edge never happens! it's an ongoing thing.

 Maps are only as good as their data overlays.

We're now using multiple screens to get stuff done. Most is still sequential: start on one screen (phone), finish on another (desktop). Moving toward being able to work on different screen simultaneously.

The way we're perceiving information is changing from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, so we must now think of creating content like a database. If we change how we fundamentally see information, search, reuse, and more looks differently.

Modern content experiences aren't authored, but designed. 

KPIs and Metrics for Managing Content Development

Bernard Aschwanden is a tremendously dynamic speaker. So although I've never been a big metrics guy, I decided to attend. Besides, understanding metrics when they can be usefully applied is a very valuable thing.

Metrics are calculated measurements, and have to be planned and devised. They can have value as it pertains to particular projects. You have to consider all parts of a project, even if the parts do apply specifically to the metrics you track.

What to measure: time, cost, resources, productivity, quality, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and and other items you may value.

Some of the benefits from understanding and using metrics include you can create more accurate project estimates, you can speak clearly, numerically, and with authority why a project took longer, you can say "no" to increased project scope, you can present information that is easily consumed by management, and you can estimate the benefits of moving content to a CMS. (For the latter, you can show the business reasons for making your decisions.)

Are your FAQs the same from release to release? If your customers are having the same problems, fix the problems! Fix the software!

To start, you have to review your existing state. You need a baseline. What are your known costs? As you move forward, your metrics become more and more established.

Asset reorganization includes content, processes, people, and tools. If you have people who have specific skillsets, take advantage of that.

Moving to an XML-based content system can drastically reduce your content storage space, and can reduce content production costs as well. 

If you need 10 percent of your time to publish to the web and another 10 percent for publishing to PDF, how much can you save by automating the publishing process.

Once you've gotten your estimates, don't touch them. Track actual elsewhere, and then you can compare when you are done.

Exploring the World of Content Reuse

Mark Lewis presented at this session I attended to open LavaCon on "Supporting the Business Plan."

Starting with reasons to move to XML. Translation is really the number one reason. When content is in proprietary software, it's more difficult for translators because they have to have that software. There's no formatting in XML. And you can take advantage of translation memory systems.

The savings on translation alone can be enough reason for a company to move its content to XML.

It can eliminate duplicate content and enables content reuse. As reuse increases, the cost of documentation decreases.

These metrics help define the business case to adopting an XML-based methodology.

For example, you might find that the desktop publishing cost of page layout is 0.1 hours per page. If you can eliminate that, that could account for a significant percentage of your time, which means money, that you could save.

On the flip side of the coin, if you're able to reuse content, the time to produce your documentation can decrease, which will reduce costs and can also reduce time to market. The latter is a goal management cares about. You can also reduce time to market for translated products.

Traditional metrics look at measurements such as cost per page, and looking at how long it takes to create different types of topics, such as procedural topics, definition topics, window and field description topics.

XML-based metrics are different. A DITA task topic comprises several chunks, each its own information type. So you can look at how many times each element occurs. For example, you might find yo average 6 steps per procedure. Then estimate how long it take to develop each element and add them up.

But topic elements can be reused! Sometimes an element might need to be tweaked a little bit, perhaps made a bit more generic, to be reused. And when you reuse elements, you don't have to spend the time developing them, which reduces the cost per topic.

Then again, writing for reuse typically takes additional time. Yet that time is often more than made up for by overall efficiency. And if you can produce more "pages" by reusing elements, what many consider to be a mark of productivity increases.

So you define two types of costs: the cost of reusable content and the cost of unique content. Compare that to the cost of writing everything from scratch and you find the cost savings.

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Jack started by noting that LavaCon grew out of technical communication roots. But it covers so many areas. But many content strategists don't consider themselves technical communicators. CEOs, CTOs, content strategists, directors of content development, and more are some of the titles represented this year.

We're talking about content this weekend, content development, content strategy, and user experience.

People from Africa, Asia, and across the North American continent.

Hard to summarize this industry because at this conference, there is no one industry. So the theme is about everything that's changing.

The people who are not paying attention to what's going on in the greater world are stuck in their niches. And there are people why don't give a flying rat's ass about what we do. And sometimes they succeed, get to the finish line before we do.

Social media has created a content revolution. People are enabled with a template to connect to the internet and publish worldwide. People are connected to the world like we've never seen before. We're both the scientist in this experiment and the subjects.

Wireless changes everything. South Korea is the most wired country in the world, with 80 percent of its households connected. The U.S. is not in the top five.

People know: coffeeshops are now synonymous with the Internet.

Mobile is the primary access to the Internet for many. 75% of the world population has access to a mobile phone. There are now more than 7 billion people on the planet, which means more than 5 billion have access to mobile phones (and the Internet). IN 5 days, the world adds more than a million people. Of course, people die, bu even so, averaging 150,000 deaths per day, the world population grows by 84,000 people per day.

Netflix video-on-demand supports 837 different mobile device configurations. The technical communication industry's mantra of write once, use everywhere is how they did it.

107.4 million tablets will be sold in 2012.

As devices get smaller, we see fewer page views on the web. The smaller the content on the screen, the more frequent tap errors and accidental activations. Users are more successful when using sites optimized for mobile. Repurposed designs for larger screen sizes work terribly on smaller screens.

20% of all books sold this year are eBooks. Readers prefer to buy eBooks instead of borrow them. Corporate publishing is the new black; eBooks, apps, and the mobile web are the new products. 

HTML5 is a specification, not a standard, but it's not supposed to be complete until 2022. But we're not waiting; we have to adopt it now.

Here's a photo of Scott getting ready to present:

Almost there....

LavaCon is about to officially begin. Wifi issues still plaguing the Hilton here in Portland.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Making a conference successful

A lot of things go into making a conference successful. One thing is not being afraid to get your hands--or your knees--dirty. Here is conference organizer Jack Molisani boxing up bags stuffed with conference goodies to be given out at registration.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Getting ready

The LavaCon Conference on Digital Media and Content Strategies is just a couple of days away, and I'm excited and nervous and just plain stoked. It's not just the opportunity to gain new knowledge and learn new skills that I can apply to my work, but I'll also be blogging, tweeting, and producing, for the first time ever for LavaCon, a daily conference newsletter. The latter makes for some very long days.

This will be my first LaveCon, but I'm not a conference novice. I've been at every WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance since its inception 20 years ago, and I've attended the occasional other technical communication industry conference as well, including one in Paris, France, once. Interestingly, I've never attended the STC annual shindig.

As with the WritersUA conference, LavaCon looks like a conference filled with heavy-hitter speakers. I've managed to just glance at the program so far, but it already looks like I'm going to want to be in at least two places at once for most of the three days. I'll post soon about what sessions I plan to attend.

I'll be posting live right here from most of the sessions I attend. I'll also be adding additional posts during the day and night and posting random photos from the conference. I'll even be tweeting; my username is @chuck_martin and the hashtag is #lavacon. All this will give those who can't attend a peek into the massive amount of information available here and give those who do an extra resource to look back and revisit great memories.