WaDaYa KnO!

Getting surprising results from strategic project management, business analysis, content management, development, and delivery

Senior Technical Writer Needed

This is a staff position with full benefits. Must be local to the Orlando, Fl area.  Pentaho is an up trending, open source, software development firm located down by the Orlando Airport. We are a small team of three writers looking to add a fourth. The subject of our writing is Business Analytics, Data Visualization, ETL, and Big Data.

Candidates may send resumes to Paula Toth at ptoth@pentaho.com. Principals only please.

Overview

Work with a dedicated, fun-loving, and flexible group of technical authors and software developers, who are serious about providing readers with high-quality content.

The Pentaho Senior Technical Writer works as a member of the Technical Documentation Team within the Engineering Department. Qualified candidates must have a proven background writing technical documentation to a diverse audience, including end-users, solution developers, business analysts, system administrators, and software integrators. The successful candidate works symbiotically with software developers, product management, and quality engineers to enhance product documentation for the Pentaho Business Analytics and Data Integration products and related projects, initiatives, and technologies.

Reports To: Manager of Technical Documentation
Job Type: Salary
Benefited: Yes
Location: Orlando, Fl

Primary Responsibilities

  • 4 or more years experience writing and editing technical communications materials related to business analytics, development and deployment of business analysis software applications and solutions, IT systems, and technical services
  • Lead technical documentation projects and acquire specific expertise using Pentaho software products
  • Conduct interviews and attend meetings with technical representatives and other stakeholders to gather pertinent background and technical input for writing projects
  • Participate on sprint teams and in product development meetings to stay abreast of product changes
  • Actively work to enhance documentation based on customer and employee feedback
  • Work with task-oriented, topic-based content, DITA automated publishing, and WIKI-based publishing
  • Mentor team members and share expertise to make technical writing processes and procedures more efficient
  • Work with technical communications teammates to develop standards, templates, information architecture and to ensure the quality of Pentaho’s technical communications products
  • Interact with and support customers, partners, and the open source community
  • Reliably meet deadlines related to scheduled content updates, content changes for immediate release to customers and prospects, and software release dates
  • Simultaneously handle multiple tasks and projects

Required Qualifications

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in a team environment including advanced spelling, grammar, and information modeling skills
  • Experience editing HTML
  • 4-year University degree in English, Journalism, Technical Writing or equivalent in related field
  • Strong problem solving and organizational skills
  • Focused team player, who takes pride in high quality
  • Self-motivating, self-managing, responsible, independent thinker, who works well in a fast-paced, Scrum, flexible work environment
  • Fearless about approaching and learning new technologies

Desired Qualifications

  • Knowledge of Business Intelligence tools and concepts including ETL, OLAP, Charting, Dashboards, and Reporting
  • Understanding of Agile, Scrum, or other iterative software development methodologies
  • Experience with DITA and topic-based authoring
  • Familiarity with commercial open source software business practices

Location

Pentaho Office Location in Orlando Florida

Best Practices are Always Best

If asked by a relatively small company to recommend tools and workflows for a moderately skilled author to create, manage, and deliver a body of content that might need to be consumed on multiple devices and exchanged with corporate wikis, websites, or other content repositories, what would you recommend?

This topic has long been close to my heart!

DITA

The most logical answer these days would be DITA or some XML authoring standard. When you use something that is non- proprietary, open, and standard, you have a better chance of withstanding the pace of changing technologies and being able to integrate with other systems without blowing a gasket.

DITA authoring tools have come a long way to be fairly simple to manage and deal with. Authoring in DITA is no longer the pain point it once was. Neither is storage, as you can now use SharePoint, or a number of well priced cloud solutions, such as DocZone or EasyDITA, or traditional locally hosted CCMSs, such as Blue Stream or Ixiasoft. SiberSafe even is offering their repository for free.

The pain point for DITA is still having to custom build the output transforms or customize the workflows. You almost have to be a programmer to handle that. Most authoring groups would prefer to be able to change their own outputs. WebWorks is a more writer-friendly tool for creating output and it takes DITA inputs. The WebWorks team have a nice selection of PDF, Help, and mobile device formats. I have been wanting to try it out for quite a while now, and  I suggest contacting WebWorks to get their white paper about linking their tool to DITA.

When you use tools that make it easier to produce outputs from DITA, or when you elect to use proprietary tools, like MadCap Flare and even the Adobe Communications Suite, you have to accept that you must live within their BOX. When you try to do things that these vendors have not built into their proprietary tools, you spend a lot of time trying to build out the customizations you need.

Ultimately, it depends on the specific requirements at hand. Today, there are so many options, including documentation frameworks like Dozouki and Vook for ePub. So, in my heart of hearts, I would stick to best practices and do not skip the requirements analysis and design phase. Even if it is done casually!

Treat Content Like a Corporate Asset & Increase User Satisfaction

Giving readers fast and easy access to information they need to get their jobs done is the goal of every technical writer, content developer, or content manager. But figuring out how to do this often means rethinking how you treat your content, choosing new authoring and publishing tools, and ensuring that the solution can adapt as technology changes. These changes take time and have many layers of complexity. The good news is that sticking to industry best practices and proven tools helps simplify the effort and puts you on the path to treating your content like a corporate asset.

Just Systems XMetal Author

DITA authoring tool

In this live demo using XMetaL, an affordable content management system, and DITA, TechProse content strategist Paula Toth will show how TechProse helped a large, global shipping firm put the pieces together to reduce publication costs and production time, while also increasing reader satisfaction. During this webinar, Paula will cover:

  • Identifying pains and drivers for change
  • Creating solutions to address pain
  • Selecting content for a pilot project
  • Understanding the components of an automated authoring and publishing system
  • Deciding when DITA is right
  • Making decisions about authoring and publishing tools
  • Content conversion
  • Publishing to multiple output targets
  • Getting the results

Join Paula and learn how you can increase YOUR readers’ satisfaction with structured content and automated publishing!

Presenter:

Paula Toth, Best Practices Leader/Single Sorceress at TechProse, has time-tested methods for helping corporations envision how content assets can be put to work to increase user adoption of products and services. These methods include careful content curation, as well as automated content creation and delivery for web and print output targets to multiple devices. To do this, she uses efficient single-source and structured authoring techniques coupled with information architecture, taxonomy management, writing and formatting style standards, and topic-based reusable content. To these techniques, she adds careful selection of content management and automation tools. Paula is in very mindful that today’s content delivery systems and processes must adjust quickly to changing technology demands. With this approach she ensures that the cost of creating, storing, and publishing content is sustainable, and most importantly, readers have the best possible experience with the content.

Paula has done projects for FedEx, Tom Sawyer Software, Integral Systems, Wells Fargo Bank, and Safeway, to name just a few.

Register for the webinar today! Can’t make it to the webinar? Register anyway and receive the webinar recording.

Measure Productivity by First Asking Why

A recent post on the STC Managers’ SIG list asked about how to measure productivity. Many chimed in with exactly what you would expect: measure length of time and volume of output. This is important to measure, but I can’t help but step back a bit. Rather than starting by calculating metrics and seeing what you can count, start from the opposite end of the stick. First define what productivity/quality is and then figure out the proper metrics to use. Try asking the question, WHY do we produce what we do? I found the Golden Circle helpful to answer this question. Simon Sinek has a way of describing this that is very clear and inspiring. http://www.startwithwhy.com/About.aspx?n=1.

A diagram of what Simon Sinek calls 'The Golde...

A diagram of what Simon Sinek calls 'The Golden Circle'. In his TEDx talk, he says 'People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it."
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is an example of what came out of one exploration of the Golden Circle.

1. WHY do we do what we do? Why, in the publications division, do we write one single word?

We write because we believe that we can INSPIRE users to achieve great and wonderful things when they use our products and services.

2. HOW do we do this? Not what tools or process do we use, or how many publications
we output. Think bigger!
For example, …

We INSPIRE users by creating engaging, accessible, findable, well curated, and organized content that…

-Motivates readers to want to use our products and services, and
-Makes it seem easy to use our products and services to get things done that readers want to get done and to achieve the results readers want to achieve.

3. WHAT is the result?
As a result of our believe that we can INSPIRE readers to do wonderful things, we have created a content model and framework that looks like <this> and …
increases sales of our products and services (this is why we are in business–to sell something)

-Decreases support questions
-Increases customer retention
-Increases reader satisfaction ratings
-Engages readers

-Readers provide feedback that shows us what they like and don’t like
-They talk about our products and services in social media and in professional groups
-They refer our products and services to others
-They contribute their time to helping us improve our products and services

Once you have answers to 1 through 3, you can then write a statement that describes what productivity/quality really is and decide …
-What true productivity and quality looks like
-What and how to track metrics that validate productivity and quality
-What are reasonable achievement goals

When I explore productivity/quality in this way, I see that it has nothing to do with how many pages/words or hours, or how much money. It has to do with changing outcomes and making a difference.

Caveat: Yes, we must be aware of the cost to INSPIRE, but the costs don’t mean much if the outcome of our work has no effect.

Grist for the mill!

Killing Adobe Flash on Mobile Devices: We Saw This Coming

HTML5In his November 9, 2011 article titled “Jobs was Right: Adobe Abandons Mobile Flash, Backs HTML5,” Mike Isaac of Wired.com wrote about Adobe’s decision to stop developing its Flash Player plug-in for mobile browsers, and shift its focus to Adobe Air and HTML5. The decision to abandon Flash and embrace rival HTML5 may be controversial to some folks in the industry, but here at TechProse, we saw it coming. That’s why we have a production-ready HTML5 help solution for DITA-based content. (For details, see the September 2011 posting in this blog.)

There are many reasons why Flash and even Adobe Air are not the best solution for delivering content. Mobile devices need stealthy, small footprint apps, and the Flash footprint is just too large to manage on mobile devices. And, search engines can’t index content in Flash or Adobe Air. Search engines cannot penetrate Flash content, and Air uses frame sets that cause indexing to fail. What good is comprehensive help content if users can’t find it on the Internet or access it from their tablets and smart phones?

Many help authors think that by putting their help systems on the Internet, or on a corporate Intranet or Extranet, they have made help topics available to users. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Now that Amazon has released Fire, its new tablet that costs under $200, tablets are more accessible to more people and the market will continue to grow. With technology advances like this, readers will expect more from content delivery systems. They will want to use powerful search engines to fetch precise answers that can be found within the top search results. To make that possible, help authors need to understand what impedes devices from accessing content and search engines from indexing it. Authors also need to know how to use metadata and manage it to enhance search results, how translation can be managed for help topics, what types of help systems support these tasks, and how to convert from what they have now to something that is capable of delivering content when and where it is needed.

It is time to trade in CHMs, RoboHelp, MadCap Flare, Adobe Air, Eclipse Help, and some WebWorks Help in favor of systems built using straight HTML5, JavaScript, CSS, and other open technologies that can provide access to content from any device or search engine.

Don’t Hide Your Content in a Traditional Help System

Internet Search

Don’t you find that when you don’t know how to get something done, the first thing you do is turn to the Internet and search for help?  That is what I do, and I get dang frustrated when I can’t find an answer that will get me up and running again quickly!

We had to face exactly this issue recently when TechProse was asked to build a new online help system.  On this project, we had inherited a very labor intensive process for creating help that involved FrameMaker and MadCap Flare.  It took four weeks to create the help and a lot of hand manipulation of the resulting MadCap Flare HTML outputs to get the typography we needed.  That was not going to be sustainable and we knew could find a better way.

In addition, one of the main requirements for the help was to  ensure that the topics would be accessible on the Internet. You might think that all we had to do was find a better pairing of authoring tool and help output,  and then put the resulting help system on the Internet.  That made logical sense to us too, until we got into researching the tools.

Most Help Systems are Closed

Much to our surprise, we quickly learned that CHMs, Robohelp, MadCap Flare, Adobe Air, Eclipse Help, and some WebWorks are not indexable by Internet search engines. Most of these help systems rely on framesets or iFrames and tables to control formatting and place text elements on the page. This causes search engine indexing to fail.

Some of these help systems rely on plugins, such as Flash or Flex, to display help topics. This requires that the device accessing the topics have the plugins installed and have the capability to run them. Not all companies allow users to install these plugins and not all devices can use them.

Eclipse help requires a service to be actively running on the web server. Occasionally, this service needs to be manually reset. While the service is inactive, help topics are not available.

Being Open

We found that all these issues can be resolved by using an straight forward HTML help system that does not rely on these technologies:

  • Framesets/iFrames
  • Tables for page formatting
  • Plugins/Flash/Flex
  • Services running on the web server

That is why TechProse selected HTML5 and DITA, managed by the DocZone CMS, to deliver our help output to the Internet. HTML5 is designed with search engine optimization and accessibility in mind. Further, DITA enabled us to reap the many benefits of single-sourcing and automated publishing. By switching from FrameMaker and MadCap Flare to DITA and HTML5 help, we reduced publishing costs by 15%, increased the quality of the user experience, and made help topics accessible from any Internet-capable device.

To add more velocity to our publishing process and help us manage the DTIA topics, we also went out shopping for a content management system (CMS). By choosing DocZone, a SaaS XML CMS, we were able to get the content management and publishing functionality we needed at half the cost of a traditional CMS.

DITA + DocZone + HTML5Case Study

We will be showcasing the case study for this project at the 2011 Best Practices Conference in San Antonio, September 12-15.  On September 28th from 1-2 pm Eastern, you can attend a free webinar hosted by DocZone where we will present highlights from this case study.

Does DITA Fail?

The Single SorceressThere was a recent conversation on a Linked In group about what makes DITA projects fail. Most comments were centered around not properly analyzing the requirements, choosing the wrong tools, and various implementation challenges, but what was not talked about is the effort it takes for authors and users who are new to DITA to adopt it.

Non-DITA Native

Authors coming from a FrameMaker or MS Word background are used to lots of things being transparent to them. They don’t think about these things because they’ve trained themselves how to get them done. For instance, FrameMaker gives you a report of unresolved links and often takes you right to the area where the broken links are so you can easily fix them. If you want to delete a condition you have set on some content, you can just remove the condition from the conditions list and Fame removes the condition from the content. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to worry about linking or reuse strategies or information models. Further, when using FrameMaker and MS Word, it is most common to author using a simple, uncomplicated linear book model, whereas DITA topic-based authoring allows authors to have very complex information models, mixing and matching topics in all sorts of fancy ways.

OMG

When FrameMaker or MS Word authors begin to retrain their conditioned minds to embrace and adopt DITA, they often experience a period of major angst! You know, that OMG shock of “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” When you first start authoring in DITA, although the writing of content is fairly straight forward and the style formatting is all automated, you have to learn how to tag the content. And, if you have never thought about reuse, conditionalizing, filtering, how to identify what should be a topic, how to find reusable topics in a CMS, then you might feel like you are trying to climb Everest while simultaneously keeping up with the release schedule!!

Dita Never Fails

In my experience, DITA technologies never fail. The machinery works and delivers as promised when properly configured according to well thought out business and functional requirements.

However, if the people who are using DITA systems are not properly set up for success, it is possible that they will struggle deeply and develop a resistant mindset that DITA is a failure.

Proper change management and training is essential when transitioning to a DITA system. So is maintenance of the system, enabling it to grow with its authors and users.

Paying experts to plunk down a starter DITA system and then leaving it to inexperienced DITA authors and users expecting them to get the most out of it, does not guarantee success.

DITA is an investment in mature and efficient content automation and management technologies, in training and growth for the people who use these technologies, and in a future that has proven over many years and implementations to deliver a substantial ROI along with an abundance of productivity and soft benefit gains.

Keys to Success

In a nut shell, my secret to success has been …

  1. Provide proper change management, including early and ongoing communication with all effected team members. Make them part of the change process.
  2. Set up the initial system according to well thought out business and functional requirements.
  3.  Engage users of the system in Initial and ongoing training, providing experienced support as they work through their learning curve and growth with the system.
  4. Plan for periodic reviews with adjustments of the systems, processes, and training to ensure that they are all producing the results you expected to get from the transition to DITA.

Do this, and you can make the effort of transitioning to new DITA technologies an exciting growth journey for all involved. And remember, when taking a growth journey, a playful attitude never hurt.

Happy authoring folks!!

CMS Road Blocks Report is here!

Early this year, Paula Toth, TechProse Single Sorceress, sent out a survey to find out why organizations resist Content Management Systems (CMS) solutions. Here’s what she found: http://www.techprose.com/pdf/CMS%20Roadblocks_Report_2011.html

We’ll be at the STC Summit! Come see us!

Over the last ten years, single-source technologies have evolved to be fairly straight forward and predictable. They can be relied upon to do exactly what they are designed to do. Yet, organizations continue to struggle with the amount of adaptive change that accompanies a single-source implementation. In other words, the organization’s ability to successfully cope with changes to jobs, positions, and skills has not kept up with the progress of the technology. This inspired Paula Toth, Best Practices Leader at TechProse, to take a deep dive into adaptive change methodologies with the idea of creating a simple and fun way to support team members as they navigate the change factors involved in single-source projects.

Paula will be making a presentation at the STC Summit  entitled Change, Trust, Collaboration: Adapting to Single Source Technologies to share what she has learned. You can find this presentation in the in the Communication and Interpersonal Skills Track. If you are interested in leveraging your ability to adapt to single sourcing, drop by and see how you can applying this simple methodology to ensure the success of your single-source project.

http://www.softconference.com/stc/sessionDetail.asp?SID=232476

Meryl Natchez To Host Webinar on Single Sourcing, Managing Major Corporate Change

On Thursday, April 7, TechProse founder Meryl Natchez will host a webinar on Managing Major Corporate Change. This webinar details how a global shipping company made the shift from standard to single source documentation development. It covers both the corporate and vendor point of view, from analysis through implementation, including lessons learned by both the company and TechProse, the vendor selected to implement the single source solution. The presentation covers:

  1. Factors that indicated the need for a new approach to corporate product documentation
  2. Why single source was the solution selected
  3. The RFP process
  4. Challenges and opportunities
  5. Processes and best practices
  6. Lessons learned

Register here: http://stc.org/education/online-education/live-seminars/item/managing-major-corporate-change-two-perspectives?category_id=53

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