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Gina Goodson Wadley
Hi Gloria,

Thanks very much for the information. I was actually searching for ways to organize the components of online help and user guides such as concepts and FAQs. It's not the content that I'm lacking. It's just the best way to organize it. (I apologize for not being more specific.) I was also limiting my search to post 2005 (or so) to make sure Web 2.0 and social media were included.

Maybe a better term of what I'm looking for is "taxonomy", which I just realized by looking over your thesis. There's a reference to Figure 5. An Expected Taxonomy of a Content–based Information Structure in a Dual–delivery Project (page 87) in the Figures list, but I can't find the figure in the PDF. I just found a blog post entitled Bloom’s Taxonomy in Technical Writing by Sujoy Dutta which is close to, but not precisely what I'm trying to find ( I'm trying to make the case of structuring online help and user guides to cover these components (e.g., explaining the concept in a user-centric way -- not software-centric where the writer describes "what this button does", but what problem the software can solve for the user).

It would be great to see your thesis evolve into a book!

Monday, 01 August 2011 13:40
Dr. Gloria A. Reece
Hi Gina--

I'll respond based upon my experience with single-sourcing for multimodal delivery for a large-scale product development engineering organization.

One of the best ways to approach the development of this sort of content is to involve the developers and stakeholders in some way. One way is to place your ideas for content on sticky notes in an accessible location and allow others to give you feedback. Once you give folks a manipulative (the sticky notes), then, it gives them something to move around and think about--mental elaboration. Once they can see the structure visually, then, they get new ideas and start annotating the chart. It's really amazing to watch this process occur!

Once things get stabilized, I'd recommend moving to an electronic method for providing the results. Then, that can be edited very easily.

Another way to get content is to use the strategies of a journalist and search through the comments in computer code or design documentation. Sometimes comments in computer code can be descriptive enough that you can extract some content for these areas from that material. Of course, this sort of technique requires access to the code.

Content guidelines for the product may also have most of the material that you need. When I managed a documentation department one of the first things that I did was to write four documents: Formatting Guidelines, Content Guidelines (included legal approvals), Production Guidelines, and Directory Structure (configuration management) Guidelines. The content guidelines provided the information that you are seeking here.

Anyway, I'm hopeful that this information is helpful to you. My M.S. thesis was on a single-sourcing topic. It's a free download here: It also has an extensive bibliography that covers several disciplines. You may find something there that is helpful.

Saturday, 30 July 2011 01:54