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Single sourcing is more than mechanical document conversion. It is an information development strategy. Although it is often confused with the process of converting paper-based documents into online formats, single sourcing is a writing strategy that enables technical writers to develop centralized information modules, then map them to distinct audiences and media.
For technical writers, single sourcing means modular writing and information mapping. Rather than developing information for a given format, such as a user guide or online help, technical writers develop information modules at the element (section, paragraph, and sentence) level. They then map these information modules to preselected audiences and media.
This guide explains in plain language and by example how to develop single source documents. It shows technical writers how to develop standalone information modules, then map these modules to a variety of audiences and formats using proven information mapping techniques. In essence, the guide provides a flexible framework for modular technical writing that can be applied to any audience in any medium.
The book is a well-executed example of modular documentation. Even before reading the content of the book, the efficiency of single sourcing is evident by just browsing through the pages. Concepts being presented are easily identified, defined and connected to related concepts. Each chapter in the book begins with an introduction followed by an annotated table of contents for the chapter. The ten steps of the single source methodology to building documents are laid out in the second chapter of the book. The third chapter, the largest of the book, covers layout guidelines for structuring content. Lastly, writing guidelines are presented in chapter four. Rules for using abbreviations, sentence construction, punctuation, and other "language configurations" are covered. The last chapter of the book, "leveraging technology" is the weakest part of the work. The chapter almost seems like an afterthought as it lacks the depth of treatment the other areas of the book receive. The chapter presents technology considerations requiring attention in writing guidelines for content development. Overall, the book is strongly recommended for professionals involved in developing online information and corporate and academic library collections supporting technical communication and e-learning development activities.
— James A. Buczynski
About Single Sourcing
Posted June 13, 2003
The concept of modular content is central to single sourcing, but until now there was very little information available on how to actually design and create effective modular documentation. Now Kurt Ament has created the book that helps you do just that. Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation' provides a clear and concise introduction to building modular documentation. The book is divided into five parts. Chapter 1 'About single sourcing' introduces the concepts of single sourcing including the reasons, benefits, types, and what makes single sourcing successful. Chapter 2 'Building documents' gets right into the heart of the subject by providing a 10 step process for building modular documentation including how to identify, label, organize, build, and edit modules then build documents from your modules. He also emphasizes the importance of developing guidelines for authors to follow. Chapter 3 'Structuring content' provides guidelines on creating structured content. Guidelines are provided for such common content types as procedures, glossaries, examples, indexes, notes, troubleshooting scenarios, and many more Chapter 4, 'Configuring Language' emphasizes that good modular content is more than just 'chunks' of information; it is well written content. This chapter provides guidelines for developing consistent standards for writing content such as abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation, tense, and voice. Chapter 5, 'Leveraging technology' provides an introduction to how you can use technology to support your single sourcing effort. What I like best about 'Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation' is that Ament practices what he preaches; the content is highly modular, consistently structured, and full of examples. He provides examples of common content and how the content could be changed to reflect the concepts he presents. The book is an easy read and is chock full of tips and guidelines. 'Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation' provides an excellent resource for creators of single source technical documentation.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2003
Kurt Ament has hit the nail on the head! His latest effort, 'Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation' is a valuable reference for those of us who seek to save time, effort, and money by implementing a productive method of creating information once and reusing it often. Ament covers the issues -- step by step -- that many others only discuss. He lays out a simple roadmap, complete with real world examples that have worked -- or not worked -- for his clients. In Chapter 1 (About Single Sourcing), he carefully defines 'single sourcing' and explains related concepts (reusable content, modular writing, and assembled documents) in ways that are easy to understand and free of techno-jargon. And, he does us all a big favor by addressing the negatives associated with using technology to assemble documents by explaining that it actually takes more creativity to write content that can fit into multiple media, for multiple audiences, than it does to continually rewrite information over and over again each time it is needed. Chapter 2 (Building Documents) and Chapter 3 (Structuring Content) are of particular value to those seeking to understand the shift in thinking required to master single sourcing. Writers, programmers and managers will all benefit from these chapters. Each chapter is packed full of tips and examples you can begin using today! Chapter 4 (Configuring Language) explains how to 'configure' your writing to support and increase usability while Chapter 5 (Leveraging Technology) touches on issues including conditional text, conventions, localization, translation, variables and more. As are the previous chapters, Chapter 5 is written in clear, concise language and is not a chapter business types should skip. In fact, it's just the opposite. Managers and decision makers need to understand the concepts explained in this chapter because many of the benefits a single source strategy can deliver are made possible by combining good planning with the right technology. And, while this chapter is certainly not about selecting software tools, the author helps his readers understand some of the issues they will need to understand as they begin thinking about their strategy and the types of functionality they'll need to support with the tools they select. What I like most about 'Single Sourcing' is that Ament went straight for the meat of the issues. He doesn't belabor points or confuse the reader by jumping back and forth from subject to subject (as so many poorly written IT-related books do). Instead, he supplies us with a book you can read in an afternoon and use the information contained within the next day at work. But, be forewarned. You're going to want your sticky notes and your highlighting markers nearby. Chances are you'll be using them a lot!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.