Key highlights from #AdobeDay at #STC13 Summit in Atlanta

Thursday, May 23 2013 @ 12:31 PM, By Maxwell Hoffmann

speakers viewAdobe kicked off the recent Society for Technical Communication Summit (#STC13) Conference in Atlanta with a special half day session of thought leaders called “Adobe Day” (#AdobeDay.)

The demo free sessions included individual presentations on specific themes around content, strategy, and an intriguing journey from past to future with one of our key products. The capacity audience showed up at 8:30 am on a Sunday, indicative of the high interest level in listed topics and the featured speakers. Topics touched on included:

  • an arc of technology from paper to voice
  • essential ingredients for a content strategy in a content economy
  • finding metrics that determine a realistic cost per topic or concept in DITA authoring

Father of FrameMaker shares his journey and vision

Corfield DOS

Who better to begin our parade of thought leadership than the visionary who invented the stalwart program that revolutionized “industrial strength desktop publishing” and eventually lead to accessible DITA “for everyone?” I’ve been friends with Charles Corfield for years; he is the only friend I know who has his own Wikipedia page and has also climbed Mt. Everest!

Corfield kicked off the keynote presentation with a lively visit to key milestones in the early development of FrameMaker. The product was quite unique at its birth in the mid 1980s in that it unified pagination (word processing) and page layout, which were generally accomplished with separate programs during the nascent period of DTP.

The selection of a UNIX workstation for initial development gave FrameMaker the advantage of having disc storage, memory and a multi-tasking OS that enabled all aspects of publishing to occur simultaneously. (Some readers may be too young to remember the days when you couldn’t use your screen on Mac or PC while printing took place!) Long documents (often up to 1,000 pages long) were demanded by early users, and the richness of LateX and troff were required at a minimum to meet the needs of massive user manuals for SW and HW from the thriving Silicon Valley (where most early customers were found.)

Internal references and externally referenced content were featured in FrameMaker early on. Due to the number of platforms that FrameMaker ran on by 1990, single-source publishing for multiple audiences became a pressing requirement for FrameMaker’s own documentation. Conditional text control and variables were a few of the early tools developed to meet this need. As the product reached adolescence, penetration into aerospace mandated frozen pagination, change pages, and eventually SGML support. Thus, FrameMaker actually had a basis for “structured” editing (DITA/XML) before the acquisition by Adobe and even before XML was invented!

Corfield revealed that technically, paper was the first “retina” display, and that the paper-like resolution of new screens will lead to new demands for better screen presentation than we’ve had to do in the past with low-resolution screen display of HTML. He also described an arc of technology that started with paper, extended to structure, the Internet, eventually to the current proliferation of mobile, and will in the near future extend to common use of voice for navigation. You may view Corfield’s presentation slides below:

Crafting a suitable content strategy for the new “content economy”

Intentional Design’s founder, Rahel Anne Bailie, asked the question “Is your content prepared?” for the new content economy. Bailie sees a historic shift in human history through several economic evolutions:

  • Agricultural
  • Industrial
  • Service
  • Knowledge
  • Information
  • Attention
  • Content

Significantly, the last 5 evolutions or revolutions have occurred during the lifetime of the majority of people reading this blog!  A sign of how swiftly human history and communications are evolving and morphing.

The content economy also has several significant subsets:

Location-based

  • Geolocation
  • Geofenced
Verified

  • Endorsed
  • Social relevance

Cultural relevance

If some of these terms or concepts are new to you, you would be well advised to consult a recent book authored by Rhael Anne Baillie and Noz Urbina: “Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand and benefits.”

In summary, Bailie maintains that in the content economy, key goals are getting content: from the right sources; on the right platform; to the right people; at the right times; through the right channels; in the right formats; in the right versions; in the right languages; in the right media. You may view her slides below:

Metrics for the Content Carpenter

Mark Lewis (Tech Writer, Content Strategist and DITA Educator) covered this topic in vivid detail with a series of revealing charts and metrics for support.

Lewis revealed how traditional metrics in techcomm have relied on outmoded forms of production like “pages per day” produced by writers. Since reusable content and topic-based authoring are increasingly becoming a requirement for efficient product/doc delivery, it is more realistic to use metrics to determine the actual cost per topic or concept.

As topics are reused over time, their actual “cost” will change. In addition, authors can be gauged on the amount of reusable content they create, rather than the number of pages. To many of us, this may sound like common sense, but clearly in many enterprises this methodology is not yet the norm.

Lewis’s slides below are filled with pointers to highly useful reference material. You may also wish to read Mark Lewis’s new book, “DITA Metrics 101: The Business Case for XML and Intelligent Content.

Enjoying a Smooth Ride on the Mobile Documentation Highway

John Daigle, of Evergreen Online Learning LLC, provided an original and visual trip down this branch of the “information” highway. Making it clear that we must move beyond our “comfort zone” with earlier online Help distribution methods (like the traditional tri-paned HTML web page), Daigle showed the key benefits of HMTL5 publishing, including device aware content and what resembles “liquid layout.”

Shifts and Trends in the use of Mobile Devices

  • Organizations who are early adopters
  • The Mobile Device Landscape
  • User Assistance vs. Reference Documentation
  • Writing Content for a Mobile Audience
  • Designs where the Content “Flows” to fit the screen
  • Tools and Techniques for tech writers
  • Mobile’s opportunity for Tech Communicators
  • Resources and Links

Daigle provided live glimpses of several websites that make effective use of HTML5. One of the most interesting was http://forefathersgroup.com/ … Try clicking on that website, and slowly squeeze your web browser window to make the width more narrow. As you do, you will see visual elements progressively disappear as the content adapts automatically to a constrained space.

You may view John Daigle’s slides (which contain many references to useful books and websites) in the linked image below:

Panel Discussion: “The Changing Role of Tech Comm Professionals: Looking at the Decade Ahead”

panelScott Abel, The Content Wrangler, moderated questions addressed to a panel of highly respected thought leaders and content professionals, (from left to right in the photo adjacent to this list):

Some responses to questions included:

  • “Ten years from now, we may find that the job title ‘Technical Writer’ is no longer used. We may have multiple titles to match what we are doing at the time.”
  • “If I had one piece of advice to give someone starting out in this industry it would be to learn at least 2 other languages to prepare for globalization.”
  • scottabel“I would amplify that last comment: make one of those second languages be simplified English that computers can understand.”
  • “Five years from now, if the equivalent to Google translate can’t do a decent job translating the English on your website, chances are that over half of your potential customers will drop off of the page.”
  • “Regardless of our age, background or beliefs, we must adapt to the way young people consume content. I look at my teen-aged step son; he starts a conversation on his computer, continues it on his tablet and finishes it on his smart phone. He is connecting with people around the world based on whatever they find in common. He doesn’t care what race they are, what their religion is, or whether they are gay or straight.”

We live in fascinating and swiftly changing times. Adobe Day helped bring together a great collection of thought leaders who helped provide unusually focused vision that empowered attendees to see further beyond the horizon than they might have when they entered the room that Sunday morning.

Adobe presentations by Product Managers after Adobe Day

We’ve had a number or people request access to the slides used by Kapil Verma in both of his presentations. Highly interesting survey results were contained in each presentation, which we think you will find highly useful.

#STC13: Who is today’s technical communicator?

Kapil Verma, Sr. Product Manager – Adobe Technical Communications Products, gave a keynote session with compelling slides from a recent Survey of STC members that gave answers to some of the following questions:

  • Who is a technical communicator and where does s/he work?
  • How does s/he do her work?
  • Is s/he leveraging the latest technology in his/her work?

The answers, and very compelling statistics, are contained in Kapil’s slides, which can be seen in the image link below:

Future of Technical Communications is here — Are you ready for it?

In this presentation, Adobe’s Kapil Verma covered why the “future” of tech comm is here. He began with the 3 “E’s” that effective tech comm must have:

  • Need to be Efficient
  • Need to Excite
  • Need to be Everywhere
  • Need to Engage

Kapil’s presentation data makes clear that more work is being asked from a shrinking work force. The move to structured authoring has picked up significantly in the last couple of years. Structured authoring is more prevalent in larger corporations. Due to YouTube and other factors there is an increasing demand for multimedia in technical communication. By the end of 2013, 90% of Internet traffic will be video.

You can view charts, statistics and visually compelling supportive evidence to the topics listed above in Kapil’s slides, in the linked image below:

Other viewpoints from #AdobeDay …

A number of participants have blogged about #AdobeDay. Here are links to some of the more interesting blogs about this special day:

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