Structured and Topic-Based Authoring

Structured and Topic-Based Authoring

Structured and topic-based authoring have become hot topics in recent years because of single sourcing and the on-again/off-again DITA. But there’s still confusion over what the two methodologies are, whether you need them, how to implement them, and whether you need structured FrameMaker or DITA. This session addresses those questions.

By way of background…

Topic-based authoring involves creating content in small, largely stand-alone units rather than large, book-style units. Structured authoring involves creating content that follows a structural standard of some sort. They’re different methodologies but most effective when used together, especially in single sourcing. Topic-based authoring’s chunking of content provide the flexibility to create different outputs from one content source; structured authoring adds consistency to those outputs. The combination can support a company’s strategic content direction, which makes the authors more valuable to the company.

As good as this sounds, implementation of topic-based and structured authoring can lead to major operational disruption and expense. This intensive workshop looks at topic-based and structured authoring in ways that use existing tools when possible to simplify the process, focus on strategic fit, and generally try to minimize the pain.

We’ll start by defining what structured authoring and topic-based authoring are. We’ll then look at large-scale environmental issues like strategic direction and cost-justification, follow by specific, detailed implementation issues like information typing, template design, style control, writing, and tool selection.

The 1/2-day version of the workshop is conceptual and ends at this point. The full one-day version adds a set of paper and online exercises that can serve as the basis for a real implementation of structured authoring and topic-based authoring in your company. All without having to switch to FrameMaker or DITA.

Both the 1/2-day and one-day versions are aimed at documentation managers, technical communicators, and help authors who want to explore the concepts behind these methodologies in order to:

  • Determine whether the methodologies make sense for their company.
  • Determine whether they can be implemented using current tools.
  • Find an affordable way to adopt them.

There are no specific prerequisites but experience on at least two online or hard-copy projects, or project or group management experience, is helpful. You’ll also have to get real material for use in the exercises and have access to a PC configured for Word 2003, RoboHelp 8, or Flare 5 or 6. Note that you can use other authoring tools besides these, but you’ll have to extrapolate the online exercise steps for whatever other tool you use.
Introduction To the Workshop
What’s Topic-Based Authoring?
What’s Structured Authoring?

Rationales for Use
Why Now?
Why Not?

Planning Issues
Philosophy and Goals
Environment Issues
Project Management
Information Design
Sources of Content
Control Mechanisms

Planning and Implementation
Hands-On Practice Applying the Methodologies