Posted on February 2017
What a mess for citizens! Have you ever tried to find information and/or do something government related? Answer a tax question? Find someone who cares about an environmental problem? Fix a mistake? The process is often inconclusive and almost always frustrating.
What a mess for U.S. Government workers and contractors, too! Many are trying to improve information and communication with technology including an XML mark-up called DITA. It's expensive. Often, supporting the technology doesn't seem to work appropriately. And, people don't seem to be able to work together.
What's a country to do? The U.S. Government, like other large commercial enterprises, needs to improve information and communication. That is the defining need of the current stage of this Information Age.
Every US Government Agency may shortly be required to have a program to implement "Analytic Writing" which is directly and indirectly related to the Plain Language initiative. It is also related to grammar, simplified English, taxonomies, structured writing, the modern content supply chain, and more. Simply XML has begun to consider how a consortium of products and services might create improvement momentum while achieving a greater good.
The U.S. Government should build upon the plain language initiative to embrace not only structured content, but also the tools that will enable government employees to better serve the people who read and depend on published content. The business case for improved quality of communications and reduced cost is already clearly evident in the scorecards for the agencies that have adopted this approach.
There is tremendous synergy and momentum that will be realized from a flexible assembly of various skills, services, and products. In my former life as CEO of Information Mapping, we commercialized the structured writing methodology developed by Robert Horn. The US Government was a voracious consumer of that methodology. During those days adoption and rapid growth was achieved through a simple, cost-effective methodology with easy to use supporting software.
We have been involved with structured mark-up since we created an SGML DTD for our long-term customer, Lucent, in the early 90's. SGML was relegated to a small penetration of high end publishers because it was just too darn complicated. Technical people in heavily funded organizations implemented SGML, but it never made it to "ubiquity."
"Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it," said a lot of famous people including Winston Churchill. At this point, we are convinced that XML and DITA can only succeed at the enterprise level if the XML and technology are hidden. This is actually quite easy to do. We believe that the key to enterprise content success involves
Our previous success in the Federal government and emergence of new and more current approaches to structured writing with enabling technologies is important. Simply XML and a number of our CMS and systems integration partners are convinced that a simple, straight forward approach to implementing content standards will mean better information and lower costs for all. It doesn't have to be, nor should it be, complicated.