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Starting With the End in Mind

A guest blog post by Val Swisher, Founder and CEO of Content Rules, Inc.

Once upon a time, actually many many years ago, I was doing a content strategy workshop for a technology customer. It was an Introduction to Structured Authoring class, which delved into the basics of structure, XML, content reuse, and so on. On a break towards the end of the day, I asked one of the students what their plan was for moving their legacy content into their new DITA/XML environment. The student looked at me quite confused and said, “Oh, I thought that just happened.” He was serious. He thought that somehow (magic?) his legacy MS Word content would end up as DITA topics in the new CCMS, all componentized, rewritten for reuse, tagged, and ready to go. I thought to myself, “If only.” As anyone who has been through the process knows, moving your unstructured content into your CCMS and getting it ready to be used and reused is not for the faint of heart. The process involves several steps:

  • Convert the file format.

  • Componentize the content into chunks.

  • Import the chunks. (Sometimes this happens at the same time as componentization, sometimes before.)

  • Rewrite content for structure and reuse according to structured authoring best practices. (For example do not refer to things in space or time such as, “As seen earlier in the chapter.”)

  • Find all the instances of content that is reusable.

  • Pick the version to keep or rewrite one version to replace all the others.

  • Delete extra versions of reused content.

  • Rebuild maps where needed.

  • Republish.

The more content you have, the longer this process takes. Also, the more disparate the versions of reusable content are (the more tweaking you’ve done), the longer it takes to settle on a single version. Content Rules, a DCL partner, recently published an eBook called Content Transformation: Breathing New Life into Legacy Content. This popular eBook goes through all the steps you need to take and decisions you need to make when moving your content from one ecosystem to another.




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