In technical communication, topic-based authoring is a modular approach to content creation where content is structured around topics that can be mixed and reused in different contexts. It is defined in contrast with book-oriented or narrative content, written in the linear structure of written books.
Topic-based authoring is popular in the technical publications and documentation arenas, as it is especially suitable for technical documentation. Tools supporting this approach typically store content in XHTML or other XML formats and support content reuse, management, and the dynamic assembly of personalized information.
A topic is a discrete piece of content that:
Topics can be written to be independent of one another and reused wherever needed.
The Darwin Information Typing Architecture is a standard designed to help authors create topic-based structured content. The standard is managed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards DITA Technical Committee.
A learning object is "a collection of content items, practice items, and assessment items that are combined based on a single learning objective". The term is credited to Wayne Hodgins, and dates from a working group in 1994 bearing the name. The concept encompassed by 'Learning Objects' is known by numerous other terms, including: content objects, chunks, educational objects, information objects, intelligent objects, knowledge bits, knowledge objects, learning components, media objects, reusable curriculum components, nuggets, reusable information objects, reusable learning objects, testable reusable units of cognition, training components, and units of learning.
DocBook is a semantic markup language for technical documentation. It was originally intended for writing technical documents related to computer hardware and software but it can be used for any other sort of documentation.
Adobe FrameMaker is a document processor designed for writing and editing large or complex documents, including structured documents. It was originally developed by Frame Technology Corporation, which was bought by Adobe.
The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) is a global nonprofit consortium that works on the development, convergence, and adoption of open standards for security, Internet of Things, energy, content technologies, emergency management, and other areas.
Information mapping is a research-based method for writing clear and user focused information, based on the audience's needs and the purpose of the information. The method is applied primarily to designing and developing business and technical communications. It is used as a content standard within organizations throughout the world.
Software development is the process of conceiving, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing involved in creating and maintaining applications, frameworks, or other software components. Software development is a process of writing and maintaining the source code, but in a broader sense, it includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, sometimes in a planned and structured process. Therefore, software development may include research, new development, prototyping, modification, reuse, re-engineering, maintenance, or any other activities that result in software products.
An outliner is a specialized type of text editor used to create and edit outlines, which are text files which have a tree structure, for organization. Textual information is contained in discrete sections called "nodes", which are arranged according to their topic–subtopic (parent–child) relationships, sort of like the members of a family tree. When loaded into an outliner, an outline may be collapsed or expanded to display as few or as many levels as desired.
A technical writer is a professional information communicator whose task is to transfer information (knowledge) between two or more parties, through any medium that best facilitates the transfer and comprehension of the information. Technical writers research and create information through a variety of delivery media. Example types of information include online help, manuals, white papers, design specifications, project plans and software test plans. With the rise of e-learning, technical writers are increasingly becoming involved with creating online training material.
Technical communication is a means to convey scientific, engineering, or other technical information. Individuals in a variety of contexts and with varied professional credentials engage in technical communication. Some individuals are designated as technical communicators or technical writers. These individuals use a set of methods to research, document, and present technical processes or products. Technical communicators may put the information they capture into paper documents, web pages, computer-based training, digitally stored text, audio, video, and other media. The Society for Technical Communication defines the field as any form of communication that focuses on technical or specialized topics, communicates specifically by using technology or provides instructions on how to do something. More succinctly, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators defines technical communication as factual communication, usually about products and services. The European Association for Technical Communication briefly defines technical communication as "the process of defining, creating and delivering information products for the safe, efficient and effective use of products ".
The Darwin Information Typing Architecture or Document Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML data model for authoring and publishing. It is an open standard that is defined and maintained by the OASIS DITA Technical Committee.
Online help is topic-oriented, procedural or reference information delivered through computer software. It is a form of user assistance. Most online help is designed to give assistance in the use of a software application or operating system, but can also be used to present information on a broad range of subjects. When online help is linked to the state of the application, it is called Context-sensitive help.
Single-source publishing, also known as single-sourcing publishing, is a content management method which allows the same source content to be used across different forms of media and more than one time. The labor-intensive and expensive work of editing need only be carried out once, on only one document; that source document can then be stored in one place and reused. This reduces the potential for error, as corrections are only made one time in the source document.
JoAnn T. Hackos is a lecturer, consultant, and author of a number of books about technical communication. Now retired, Dr. Hackos is the founder of the Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM) and the president emeritus of Comtech Services in Denver, Colorado. She is also a fellow and past president of the Society for Technical Communication. She is a member of the IEEE Standards Association and active in the ISO SC7 Working Groups that is developing standards for information developers. She is the co-author of the standards on content management and information-development management.
Microsoft Assistance Markup Language is an XML-based markup language developed by the Microsoft User Assistance Platform team to provide user assistance for the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system. It makes up the Assistance Platform on Windows Vista.
Ann Rockley is a content manager. She is the founder and President of The Rockley Group, based in the greater Toronto Area. She regularly presents papers and workshops on subjects involving the efficient creation, management and delivery of content for organizations in North America and Europe. She was the lead analyst for The XML & Component Content Management Report on Content Management Systems Watch.
Minimalism in structured writing, topic-based authoring, and technical writing in general is based on the ideas of John Millar Carroll and others. Minimalism strives to reduce interference of information delivery with the user's sense-making process. It does not try to eliminate any chance of the user making a mistake, but regards an error as a teachable moment that content can exploit.
Structured writing is a form of technical writing that uses and creates structured documents.
Metadata is "data that provides information about other data". In other words, it is "data about data." Many distinct types of metadata exist, including descriptive metadata, structural metadata, administrative metadata, reference metadata and statistical metadata.
Content Assembly Mechanism (CAM) is an XML-based standard for creating and managing information exchanges that are interoperable and deterministic descriptions of machine-processable information content flows into and out of XML structures. CAM is a product of the OASIS Content Assembly Technical Committee.
A component content management system (CCMS) is a content management system that manages content at a granular level (component) rather than at the document level. Each component represents a single topic, concept or asset.
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