Adobe Technical Communication Enterprise Summit: Structured Authoring

This month, I was fortunate to attend the Adobe Tech Comm Enterprise Summit, a free conference on the latest trends in technical communication, held at the Adobe facility, in Boston, MA. It was a full and lively day, complete with informative presentations on trends in technical communication, from various thought leaders on structured authoring, including Scott Abel, CEO, from The Content Wrangler,  Inc., and Max Hoffman, from Globalization Partners International, Inc. Others presenters included Adobe’s own Kapil Verma, Ankur Jain, and Tom Aldous, followed by a detailed case-study on how to leverage Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite 3.5 , from Accenture’s Rick Thompson.

Technical Communicators, as Content Management Consultants

As described in my earlier post, Scott Abel’s keynote suggested that technical communicators are now more management consultants for content, as opposed to creators of content. Working alongside product management, Abel called upon technical communicators to continue breaking down the cylos within their respective organizations, with the objective of optimizing every part of the content delivery process. The end result, according to Abel, is re-usable content, developed for multiple delivery channels, audiences, formats, and languages.

Key Trends in Technical Communication Today

Adobe’s Kapil Verma described key trends in technical communication
today, driving the evolution of Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite 3.5:

  • Globalization, opening up new markets, in
    emerging economies
  • Multiple devices, requiring multi-screen, multi-channel
    publishing options
  • User-generated content & democratization of
    content creation
  • Increasing demand for rich media
  • Increasing demand for highly personalized content

Later that day, Thomas Aldous made a strong case that the
Adobe Tech Comm Suite, which includes both unstructured and structured
authoring versions of FrameMaker 10.0, sets technical communicators up for long-term success, as market requirements continue to evolve.

Structured Authoring: Reasons for Making the Change

Verma provided helpful guidelines, for when making the
change to structured authoring may make the most sense. Structured authoring
may be suitable for your organization, Verma advised, when you’ll be…

  • Translating doc into multiple languages
  • Transfering documentation, between systems
  • Managing dispersed content production
  • Creating and maintaining a large volume of
  • Making frequent documentation updates
  • Supporting multiple production variants
  • Publishing multiple formats
  • Following a standard documentation structure

Verma followed up these recommendation, with a meaty analysis, on how to derive the highest ROI from your migration to structured authoring.

More Information

In my next post, be on the lookout for highlights, from Ankur Jain’s presentation, on developing an enterprise social collaboration strategy.

I haven’t used the structured version of FrameMaker, or Robohelp in a few help authoring assignments, so in the comments, please feel free to add your experiences with these tools, or comparisons with other authoring tools. Past versions of FrameMaker (up thru version 9.0) have spoiled me for all other desktop publishing tools. How has making the transition to version 10.0 been for you?

And oh, before I sign off, a very Happy 25th Birthday, FrameMaker. Thanks to Adobe and all the presenters for their time and for the generous knowledge share. 

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Taking Stock of Content Technology Vendors

Disclosure: In June, I attended the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, Boston, MA, on a free press pass, which covered the preconference workshops as well as the full  three-day conference, held at the Hynes Convention Center.

In my travels on Twitter, I often encounter vendors, tweeting links related to their various businesses. Even with a background in technology, I’m often unsure how to classify these products.

For that reason alone, I’m glad I attended the “Insider’s Guide to Evaluating Architectures and Selecting Vendors,” at the recent “Enterprise 2.0 Conference” in Boston.

There, analyst Tony Byrne from the Real Story Group explained how to evaluate technologies and vendors, combining business and functional approaches.

Through the free 2011 Content Technology Vendor Map, the Real Story Group (an independent evaluation firm) visually organizes various content technology vendors, in these categories:

  • Document and Records Management
  • Web Content Management
  • Portals & Content Integration
  • Search & Information Access
  • Collaboration & Social Software
  • Digital Asset Management
  • SharePoint Ecosystem

The Real Story Group’s site does a nice job explaining what each of these categories mean. At the site, you’ll also find a downloadable .jpg of the Content Technology Vendor Map, as  well as a high resolution PDF.

If you’re interested in content technology options, here’s a good place to start taking stock.

What resources do you recommend for evaluating options, in this space?

About This Blog: Copyright Information

Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Moving on Up: Web 1.0 through 3.0

A recent MarketingProfs Get to the Po!nt newsletter highlights the differences between Web 1.0, Web 2.0. and Web 3.0. The newsletter summarizes an excellent, fuller explanation from the B2B Insights Blog, Upgrading your B2B website – what version is in your marketing plan? by J. Leigh Brown.

According to the MarketingProfs summary (portions quoted below) of Brown’s post, here are ways to understand the Web’s evolution:

“Web 1.0: One-way information flow.

“Web 1.0 was the Web as an information portal,” Brown says. “Content was owned. … Publishing was static with no interaction.”

“Web 2.0: From publishing to participation.

Then along came the savvy, demanding user. “Web 2.0 (coined in ’99, made popular in ’04) revolves around information-sharing and collaboration,” says Brown. “It’s about user-generated content … and the power of the community to create and validate information.”

Typical examples, Brown notes, now include “blogs, forums, communities, social networking, video & image sharing, wikis, mashups, tagging, and content syndication.”

“Web 3.0: Marketing buzzword, or unrealized vision?”

“Web 3.0 (made popular in ’06) is a large work in progress,” Brown writes, “and it crosses into several different areas: semantic Web, personalization, intelligent search, and mobility.”

“You could say that Web 3.0 is an intelligent Web 2.0,” Brown explains. “The vision is that the Web understands how to personalize your experience and recommend what you are looking for—and lets you take it with you.”

Peg’s Note:

With real-time search and social search now at hand, I can’t help but think that we are moving into the realm of Web 3.0, before many have even come up to speed on Web 2.0 technologies. What a major competitive advantage for those organizations, disciplines, and individuals who are keeping up, with this accelerated rate of change and opportunity on the Internet.

Are you keeping up?

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog


A Baker’s Dozen: Links on Cloud Computing

Understanding Cloud Computing

1. The Internet Industry Is on a Cloud — Whatever That May Mean
Explains the confusion over the term “cloud computing.” The Wall Street Journal provides these takeaways:

I have no idea what anyone is talking about,” said Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison, when talking about cloud computing at a financial analyst conference in September. “It’s really just complete gibberish. What is it?” He added: “When is this idiocy going to stop?”

In its broadest sense, cloud computing describes something apparent to anybody who uses the Internet: Information is stored and processed on computers somewhere else — “in the clouds” — and brought back to your screen.

“But no two clouds, apparently, are alike. A company’s backroom mass of servers and switches is cloudlike. So are social-networking sites like Facebook Inc., or the act of buying a book on Amazon. Some clouds, like Google’s email service, Gmail, are public. Others, like corporate networks, are closed to outsiders.”

2. A Surprise Cloud-Computing Powerhouse

Provides a very good general description of cloud computing.

So, what the heck is ‘cloud computing?

Before: If you wanted to type a letter, create a spreadsheet, or play a game, you’d have to go to the store, buy the software, and install it on your hard drive. And each time you used one of these applications, everything you did took place inside the computer sitting on your desk. But then the Internet came along.

Nowadays: …if you want to watch a video on YouTube, share photos with friends on Flickr, listen to music on MySpace, or post an ad on Craigslist, all you really need is a browser and an Internet connection.

That’s because nearly all of the applications we use and all the data we access is now stored on a remote server somewhere out in “cyberspace.” And these servers are housed in massive data centers that are all interconnected via the Internet to form a giant computing grid or ‘cloud.’

According to The Economist, 69% of Americans now use some kind of “cloud service,” be it Web-based email, online data storage, or online applications such as Google Docs.”

Furthermore, businesses are using cloud computing to drastically cut their IT budgets — hence the explosive growth of enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies such as (NYSE: CRM) and NetSuite.

3. Cloud Computing from Wikipedia

Cloud computing is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet.

The concept incorporates infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) as well as Web 2.0 and other recent (ca. 2007–2009) technology trends that have the common theme of reliance on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users. Examples include and Google Apps which provide common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers.

4. The Five Defining Characteristics of Cloud Computing

Notes many variations on the definition of the cloud.

For example, “William Fellows and John Barr at the 451 Group define cloud computing as the intersection of grid, virtualization, SaaS, and utility computing models.”

James Staten of Forrester Research describes it as a pool of abstracted, highly scalable, and managed compute infrastructure capable of hosting end-customer applications and billed by consumption.

This article takes the definitions a step further, providing five characteristics of cloud computing:

  • Characteristic 1: Dynamic computing infrastructure
  • Characteristic 2: IT service-centric approach
  • Characteristic 3: Self-service based usage model
  • Characteristic 4: Minimally or self-managed platform
  • Characteristic 5: Consumption-based billing

5. Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing

Provides a more technical description of cloud computing and describes three types of cloud computing:

  • Utility Computing:  “Amazon’s success in providing virtual machine instances, storage, and computation at pay-as-you-go utility pricing was the breakthrough in this category…Developers, not end-users, are the target of this kind of cloud computing.”
  • Platform as a service: “One step up from pure utility computing are platforms like Google AppEngine and Salesforce’s, which hide machine instances behind higher-level APIs. Porting an application from one of these platforms to another is more like porting from Mac to Windows than from one Linux distribution to another.”
  • Cloud-based end-user applications. “Any web application is a cloud application…Google, Amazon, Facebook, twitter, flickr, and virtually every other Web 2.0 application is a cloud application in this sense. However, it seems to me that people use the term “cloud” more specifically in describing web applications that were formerly delivered locally on a PC, like spreadsheets, word processing, databases, and even email. Thus even though they may reside on the same server farm, people tend to think of gmail or Google docs and spreadsheets as “cloud applications” in a way that they don’t think of Google search or Google maps.  This common usage points up a meaningful difference: people tend to think differently about cloud applications when they host individual user data.”
  • “It’s not the database software that matters, but the data that it holds, and the services that can be built against that data… The company that creates the right platform for network effects in data” has the best opportunity for scalability.

6. Cloud Computing = Repackaged Grid Computing and Utility Computing

In many ways…cloud computing is simply a buzzword used to repackage grid computing and utility computing, both of which have existed for decades.

7. Demystifying SaaS vs. Cloud

Describes the differences between SaaS  (Software as a Service) and cloud computing.

The technical distinction…is clear: cloud delivers computing as a utility, SaaS delivers an application.

 Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

8. Cloud computing and the Return of the Platform Wars

Cloud computing represents return of platform wars and these “old” issues: “proprietary, commercial systems running our applications, very real risks of vendor lock-in, the requirements of adapting our businesses to difficult-to-customize one-size-fits-all computing models, and many others.”

Describes significant advantages of cloud computing: economies of sale, business and IT agility, and  centralization of best practices and competency.

Describes how to achieve success in the cloud. Speculates whether more agile, small to medium size businesses will adapt better to cloud computing and ultimately eclipse older, traditional firms.

Cloud Computing and Openness

9. The Varieties of Openness Worth Wanting in the Cloud

Defines cloud computing as “leveraging 3rd party computing capability over the network to cut costs, increase sale, improve agility, and access best practices.”

Discusses Microsoft’s pre-emptive move against the Open Cloud Manifesto and questions the meaning of openness in cloud computing. Describes different meanings for “open” in the information technology space, including open source code,  open APIs, and open data formats. Suggests criteria for defining openness.

10. Moving Toward an Open Process on Cloud Computing Interoperability

Proposes how to define an open process on cloud computing interoperability. Recommends a process open to the public, principles and standards that are not vendor specific, and a recognition that the cloud computing industry is still maturing.

Cloud Computing and Compliance

11. Cloud computing and compliance: Be careful up there.

Describes the impact of cloud computing on settings that must comply with the following standards: Auditing-related standard SAS 70, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA.)

In these settings, compliance means companies must know where “their client’s data is, and what parts of the network it passes through, even if that complexity is invisible to the client.”

Cloud Computing and Vendor News

12. Amazon’s Cloud Is Locked and Loaded

The online retailer is a pioneer in cloud computing, thanks to a willingness to extend the IT infrastructure that powers its own sites and services into a rent-by-the-hour computing service of its own. And now the time has come to lock customers into long-term contracts. These virtual machines on Amazon’s robust infrastructure can run any service you like, and they already power dozens of business-class applications.

13. How To Set Up High Availability Web Applications in the Cloud using GoGrid

Describes how to implement a secure, redundant, load-balanced web application in the Cloud, using GoGrid.