To illustrate how my replies on other blogs have evolved, let’s take a look at a few examples. After playing it too safe or trying too hard, I think I’ve found a new confidence in my own judgments.

Watch Dogs: Skills Tree

Watch Dogs: Skills Tree

September 2014

Jay Manaloto (30 Sep 2014)

Hi Mark, another amazing article!

Another aspect that might be worth mentioning is that beyond social curation, the expectation of social interaction too is killing the traditional content hierarchy. When we see this interaction everywhere from WordPress blog comments to Wikipedia article “Talk tab” discussions to Amazon product reviews, it’s natural to expect it elsewhere.

Sadly, even if a topic hierarchy provides commenting functionality, I rarely see folks using it, at least not to the frequency of tweets or likes. I’m not sure if this inactivity is related to the sense of indifferent “static” content, or if it’s the comparative lack of “cohesion” among hierarchical topics (i.e. it’s easier to reply to a self-contained article than to fragmented topics with low cohesion), or if it’s a combination of both, but something is definitely missing.

In fact, something else that might be overlooked is that the social comments, discussions, and reviews themselves can add a content “richness” and fill in the gaps or touch related ideas that weren’t necessarily contained in the original topic or article. Just as an Amazon product page with a dozen different reviews and perspectives can yield much more insight than the same page with none.

Mark Baker (02 Oct 2014)

Thanks for the comment, Jay. You raise an interesting point. Certainly the social aspect of a site like StackOverflow is vital to its success, and to its organization. Reader response is a vital part of the way the Web is filtered. Google does it implicitly. StackOverflow does it explicitly. Readers clearly look for it and appreciate it.

One of the points I often make about how the Web has changed our informations seeking habits is how it has changed our attitude to authority. It used to be you the way you sought information was to first find and authority, then ask your question. Now the approach is first ask your question, then consider the authority of the answer. And authority here is socially mediated. You trust the guy on StackOverflow with the high reputation more than the company’ official word on the subject.

I would love to know how much social interaction with content corresponds to how EPPO it is vs how hierarchical it is. I suspect that EPPO content is more commentable, because it is complete and sets a context. It is clear what you are commenting on. I would love to have a chance to examine some examples to see if that is true in practice.

I definitely agree that comments can add richness and fill in gaps in content. I don’t have to look any further than this blog — indeed, than this topic — to see evidence of that. And I think it changes how we write too. We don’t have to write “the final word” on a subject. We just have to start a discussion.

Hierarchy, of course, is about having the final word on the organization of content (and thereby the final world on its significance). A post-hierarchical world says that the author does not get the final word on the organization or the significance of the content.

Jay Manaloto (11 Sep 2014)

Thanks for sharing, Helen. Yours is one of the few good metaphors I’ve come across. Mark Baker applies a similarly strong metaphor comparing content strategy to military strategy, tactics, and logistics. While I still prefer the traditional definitions of the high-level strategy, the lower-level tactics that execute the strategy, and the logistics that support the tactics, Mark adds an appealing “fractal” twist that each role in the ladder has its own relative view of what their own content strategy, tactics, and logistics are. Personally, I sometimes tend to think that as long as you know what your goals are, all of these buzzwords are just glorified plans or lists. I mean, when I drive to the local supermarket with my weekly grocery list, should I call this my “agile grocery strategy”? :)

Helen (11 Sep 2014)

Agility is a buzzword I only employ in one situation: When describing my ability to adjust my training information when Facebook or other social networking sites adjust their platform. And I used to work for a military association–still do voiceover work for them, actually–and MAN when you get a lot of those buzzwords (or agency names) in a row, it’s a mouthful! Thanks for stopping by, Jay!

Jay Manaloto (02 Sep 2014)

Hi Mark! Let me start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed your MadCap-hosted webinar on EPPO last week. It validated many of my own observations and ruminations in my own “killing XML” posts.

Having said that, I’m a bit confused by this post. My most immediate question is “Reuse what?” After all, there’s a big difference between reusing low-level *text* and reusing high-level *ideas*. Reusing text in a snippet or conref might be a great nuts-and-bolts tactic. Meanwhile, reusing ideas or expressions in videos, blogs, and tweets might be a great social-media strategy. Both levels can be addressed independently and concurrently. So I’m confused about which level you’re addressing.

For example, let me replace “reuse” with “redesign” — “Redesign is a good tactic but a poor strategy.” Well, redesign what? Redesign low-level names and phrases? Redesign high-level expressions and stories? That’s all. I hope this makes sense. Nevertheless, I like how your ideas encourage me to think or rethink my own. Thanks for sharing!

Mark Baker (02 Sep 2014)

Thanks for the comment, Jay.

Agreed, reuse is a slippery word, and it is easy for people to talk past each other based on only slightly different ideas of what reuse means or what is being reused.

August 2014

Jay Manaloto (19 Aug 2014)

Hi Tom, another thought-provoking post! One bullet that caught my eye was the frustration that: “You can’t easily re-use content for different audiences… Imagine having to update the same paragraph on six different WordPress sites.” To make the leap from DITA to WordPress, this issue would probably be one of the bigger obstacles, if not the biggest, to overcome. But after a bit of digging, I stumbled across the shortcode-friendly “Reusable Text Blocks” plugin ( If you’ve already tried this across your multisite, I’m wondering how it fell short or failed. If not yet, then you might be able to combine this plugin with the “WordPress Conditional Content” plugin ( to refine the reusable content even further. In any case, I’d like to hear your thoughts, not so much on their benefits, but particularly on their limitations. Thanks!

Tom Johnson (19 Aug 2014)

Jay, thanks for the tip. I hadn’t see the Reusable Content plugin, but I’m familiar with shortcodes, and they work pretty similarly. I guess the challenge here is deciding whether to commit fully to WordPress. If you pepper your content with various shortcode tags, what happens if you want to output to PDF or push your content into some other format? You’d have the HTML, for sure, and could get it out that way. I’m just wary of inserting too many tags into content that are proprietary to a specific platform.

Then again, if you aren’t thinking of swapping out platforms, I’m not really sure what the benefits of authoring externally are? Overall, I’m just a little too timid to dive whole hog into WP for content authoring, but certainly the ability to update on the fly without republishing all the content is a much more practical workflow. I’m not quite at that point yet.

Jay Manaloto (18 Aug 2014)

Thanks Tom, thought-provoking! By putting your posts together, I’m getting the overall message that while DITA represents one of the more widespread forms of source “currency”, DITA simultaneously fosters a healthy range of tool “diversity”, whether advocating or avoiding it. “And we need more people to think differently.” Coincidentally, I stumbled across your posts at a time when I blogged about related signs on a wider and darker scale. For example, with the explosion of socio-mobile technology, it’s not unthinkable that the universal mobile-app experience might eclipse and eventually smother the “old school” web-browser experience where traditional topic-based content thrives. “Would it be poetic if IBM, which introduced DITA-XML authoring in 2001, helped to kill it by 2021?” I guess we’ll just have to wait… or innovate.

Jay Manaloto (18 Aug 2014)

Hi Linda, although my experience focuses on testing the XHTML and PDF content after the DITA source has been translated, transformed, and returned, sometimes as many as 14 languages per release, I’m not aware of any tool-specific gotchas in Oxygen XML. Unless your Oxygen XML tool is heavily configured or customized to change the source in some unique way, the DITA source should be independent of the preferred DITA tool. So your translation process should be the same whether you’re using Oxygen XML Author or Arbortext Editor or other DITA-XML tool. Just as your ZIP-packaging process should be the same whether you’re using WinZip, WinRAR, 7-Zip, or other standard ZIP tool. But George Bina would know for sure. :)

jaymanalotoibm (17 Aug 2014)

Hi Maamar, just in case others might have the same question, can you clarify your statement that “The set of offerings runs on IBM Bluemix”? As I understand it, the BlueMix offering runs on the SoftLayer IaaS as a PaaS sandbox for developers to quickly assemble and deploy their application ideas. As a beta, Service Engage might’ve temporarily run on BlueMix as another emerging idea. But now that Service Engage is a public SaaS portal, this might no longer be true. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that “its SaaS offerings run on IBM SoftLayer”. In other words, beyond the portal, its SaaS offerings are not necessarily built with BlueMix PaaS tools, if at all. However, you can certainly use the APM SaaS offering to monitor your own BlueMix-built apps! Finally, although the current Service Engage FAQs discuss SoftLayer IaaS, I haven’t found anything yet about BlueMix PaaS. If I misinterpreted something, feel free to let me know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

May 2014

Jay (14 May 2014)

Hi Jennifer! This is going to sound funny. I’m not sure if you remember my tweet about “speeding ahead” to MadCap Flare 10. But when I attended my first local STC chapter meeting last September, I was exposed to MadCap Flare for the first time too. Well, guess who gave that online presentation? Daniel Ferguson! It’s a small world. One of our STC members was a former colleague of Daniel, so she invited him to introduce Flare to our small Las Vegas group. And I was truly impressed by Flare. The funny part is that many months later, not only was I inspired to use a Japanese street racing metaphor, but Daniel used a Formula 1 racing metaphor too. As a newer Flare “racer”, I wasn’t crazy after all. Actually, it was reassuring. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but Flare seems to stir a lot of racing emotions. :) ~Jay

jay_ibm (10 May 2014)

I guess I can understand targeting the less-technical mobile users — since typical mobile apps don’t show URLs — but there are still many technical folks who prefer to see or manipulate standard URLs on full websites too. It might not be wise to sacrifice one demographic for another. I think we all remember what happened with Windows 8.1.

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