Before I move ahead with the rest of the content ecosystem, I want to spend a bit of time talking more about organizing content for XML. Many of Content Rules’s customers are either converting to an XML authoring environment or using XML already. As anyone in this situation knows, the entire approach to organizing content for reuse and repurposing is very different from a non-structured environment. The process of searching, organizing, writing, tagging, and reusing content really changes the way a writer’s brain needs to work.

I decided to search the Internet using the search terms: XML, organize, and brain. I came across a very nice Powerpoint presentation from Emantras. The title is “This is Your Brain on XML: Why Publishers Should Care About the XML Revolution.” It is a great little primer on XML that covers the basic concepts very well. Unfortunately, there is no date on the slide deck, but the information is quite current.

Slide 5 has the following information:

If your brain were on XML, you could…

I think this slide really sums it up.

Back in the good old days (1990s), if I had a technical document to write, I could sit down at my computer with a stack of specifications and simply start writing at page 1. I could write pretty much sequentially through to the very last page of the document. I didn’t have to think about mundane things like:

  • Does this next piece of content already exist on my CMS someplace?
  • How do I write this next piece of content in a way that it can be reused and repurposed?
  • What metadata should I include with this next piece of content so that other people can find it when they want to include it in their document?

I was blissfully cocooned in my single-use, single-purpose document about a single product. Oh how times have changed.

So, if you are planning on converting your documentation from some other authoring tool  to XML, remember that you need to do more than simply create templates, copy the information, and paste it into XML. WAY more. In fact, the physical part of converting the file types is really the easy part.

The real work in converting to XML or using an XML authoring environment is organizing your brain and your content so that it is:

  • As generic as possible
  • Applicable to many modes of publishing (web, print, mobile, etc.)
  • Tagged well so others can find it
  • Not already in existence in one form or another (or two or three)

A Vulcan mind meld is sounding pretty good right about now…

Val Swisher
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