DocTrain West 2009: Richard Hamilton on “Managing the Move to Structured Content”

Richard Hamilton ran a session to talk about managing the move to structured content. Richard is a really pragmatic guy, so he talked about the why, what and how of managing the transition.

He started with several reasons of why and when not to transition:

  • When there’s neither a benefit for the bottom line nor for the customers/users
  • When it leaves you without a productive and operable documentation environment at any stage
  • When you cannot commit to the new process (i.e., you’re afraid to burn your bridges behind you)
  • When you cannot train or run a pilot project

To select what to carry over, he advocated converting only the used, required contents – and when in doubt to leave it out. He also said to carry over all the existing semantics, but not to add any new semantics, unless they add a proven value at reasonable cost: Don’t let the perfectionists run wild and build a more perfect solution – it’s difficult enough as it is.

For the “how”, he suggested to get outside help, esp. with the actual conversion – though that may require to clean up legacy content to get it ready for sensible conversion.

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