STC Summit 2015

STC Summit 2015


Posted on July 2015


STC- Not Your Grandfather's STC

Columbus Summit Overview

The annual Summit was held at the end of last month in Columbus Ohio. I've been participating in STC conferences and seminars for many years, while I was CEO of Information Mapping and now as CEO of Simply XML.  I am impressed with the new leadership of STC and more importantly, three trends that were prevalent.

First, STC has further embraced technology in support of better authoring and content management.  This was apparent from the number of sessions that took XML and even DITA for granted as a standard, and also from the new exhibitors representing CMS and other technology companies.

Second, STC is expanding its focus beyond strict technical writing to communication that is broader, but also somewhat technical in nature, including content like SOP's and compliance documents.

Third, there was evidence of a new spirit beginning to embrace the contract and millennial workforce.

All of these will change the focus, but enhance the value of STC membership and participation.

When Pigs Fly at STC

I gave a presentation at STC showing that pigs can now fly. Yes, technical staff can get XML they need, eliminating intermediate editing, improving reuse, and giving information consumers the content they need in the appropriate publishing format. And the billions of MS Word-based authors can retain their familiar tool and simply contribute content to the enterprise content supply chain. With apologies to my convoluted stars, the Simpsons and some of George Orwell's Animal Farm characters, this presentation will become a webinar and/or video on our web site.

Unabashed Company Impressions

From my obviously prejudiced market view, here are some comments and I hope you will find interesting and useful:

Adobe has some new tools to easily convert MS Word-based content to Structured FrameMaker.  If you are committed to an exclusively Adobe platform, this could work, but we are aware that most organizations want to find a way for their MS Word-based authors to stay in Word.  However, they want to get control of that content and implement a standard with an underlying XML architecture

RoboHelp and Flare are used to help implement content standards and take advantage of multi-channel publishing. Many of their customers are considering a broader XML architecture.

easyDITA is moving its focus beyond TechPubs to the enterprise level.  Content Mapper is nicely integrated with easyDITA, providing an easy to use authoring tool with modern Content Management facilities.

Amplexor is a professional IT services company of 1300 professional and they are increasing their presence throughout North America. They "get it." We are working with Amplexor and Componize in a number of opportunities and the combined solution of our three companies is powerful and cost-effective.

Information Mapping customers were everywhere at STC.  Many are looking for a way to retain the "software for the brain" while moving to modern authoring and publishing tools and techniques. We've got just the answer with Content Mapper and either Simply Structured or Simply DITA. 

Precision Content, with deep roots in content development and management, is also helping organizations to modernize their technology, architecture, and processes in back of users of Information Mapping and other structured writing methods.

Conclusion:  It is finally happening and I'll say it again.  Structured writing and structured mark-up are moving outside of TechPubs and organizations are demanding ease of use, simplicity (love that word), and transparency to achieve the promises of content development and management in this exciting and important time.  Reality demands that organizations adopt and support an XML standard that makes content smart, accessible, and interchangeable.

Open Issues:

I always try to leave these conferences with some new pens and maybe a toy or two for Frank, but also with some action items and things to think about. It would be great to have your comments on the following:

Document Orientation:  It's complicated!  DITA is very well suited for topic-based writing and the construction of larger documents called DITA Maps.  We have found that some organizations have trouble with this approach and want to construct content at the document level and this led us to develop our Simply Structured document type.  But it seems that some early adopters of DITA want to think in terms of documents using Composite Documents which are essentially strings of various DITA structures.  The advantage of these composite documents is familiarity for newcomers, but there is a serious trade off with limited reuse potential.  We would appreciate comments regarding Composite DITA Documents from any of our customers that have used both Simply DITA and Simply Structured, but also from organizations moving to DITA with composite documents.

Back to the Dog Park:  I'm more convinced than ever that there will never be a single vendor solution for the cost-effective modernization of the content supply chain.  There are too many entrenched products out there, so innovative vendors need to focus on playing well together.  Toward that end, watch for Simply XML announcements regarding integration with IBM's FileNet CMS.