Terminology is a slippery commodity. And especially when viewed over time. The meanings we assign to words evolve. Contending meanings battle it out for dominance and frequently there is no clear winner left standing when the dust settles. Now what is true of language in general seems to be doubly true for the words we use in the technology field. And ironically it is three times as true when we look at what we mean by the moniker "Web 3.0". It is ironic because early on, say 15 years ago, when we said "Web 3.0", and very few people did,... Read more →

People have questions. Sometimes they find answers. More often than not they construct answers from what they find. More frequently still they construct provisional answers and muddle along. This has always been the case. But as with so many things, what we have always done is being thrown into a new digital light as we grapple with a landscape filled with new technologies and novel techniques. One thing we can say with confidence is that, relative to the past, we have managed to stir up even more questions and simultaneously we have made it more difficult to find or construct... Read more →

Prologue I have a bad habit of tackling unnecessarily big topics at inopportune times. After a year of near-complete silence, I will make a gesture in that direction once more. As this is a particularly bodacious topic, I suspect that I will be coming back to it several times both with revisions to this post and with follow-on posts. But in just the same way as applies whenever you are confronted with seemingly overwhelming challenges, the best way to start is to start. One of my less welcome aphorisms goes something like this: Think about something long enough and you... Read more →

What better way to emerge from a year of distractions than to tackle an impossible topic. Even if this attempt was only tangentially successful, it would feel like being a phoenix emerging from the ashes. Hence my choice for a signature graphic and hence my choice of a case study with which to illustrate, or at least gesture towards, what the content of systems might be. My choice of case study is a mega software project within the Canadian Federal Government - one appropriately called the Phoenix Pay System. It may sound a little too provincial to be instructive beyond... Read more →

Each year, I select an idea and proceed to pummel it relentlessly in a series of presentations, posts, and tweets. Last year it was the idea of Integrated Content. In 2016, it was the idea of Content 4.0. This inquiry was prompted by a number of concurrent discussions that have been exploring the relationship between the work of technical communicators and the emergent concept of Industry 4.0, also referred to at times as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). As I would, I took up the challenge and carried it further than was probably wise. Nonetheless, I am hoping there... Read more →

It might just be the effects of a particularly cold February day but for whatever reason I have found myself thinking about the question "Has XML failed Publishing?" That same question sparked my last post which tracked an admittedly quixotic path of inquiry into "Why Content Technologies are Hard to Implement". And this question has stirred up a number of distant, and hopefully germane, memories. And these memories have tended to cluster around a very specific figure in the history of markup languages and content technologies - someone who we would do well to reaquaint ourselves with more often than... Read more →

Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind One question that I regularly encounter amid projects deploying new content technologies is "why is this always so hard?" Another variation on this theme takes the form of "why is XML so hard?" Most recently a blog post entitled "Has XML failed publishing?" sparked a stream of interesting exchanges delving into the different sources and aspects of implementation challenges. Considering these questions puts me, naturally enough, in mind of Don Quixote, Cervantes' knight-errant whose overindulgence of reading emboldened him... Read more →

It was early March 2012 and I was making my way to Austin Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW). This particular event is such a large draw that there were literally no flights into Austin to be had at any price. So this meant that I would be flying into a nearby city, in this case Houston, and driving to my conference hotel. Not ideal but not the end of the world either. Arriving in the evening, I collected my rental car for the journey and punched my destination into the navigation system. I naively thought that this would yield... Read more →

Early in 2012, I found myself at a venue that was new for me. It was the South by Southwest (SXSW) event that was convened in a rainy Austin Texas in March 2012. The venue was new for me because the event was one that was so very focused on the art and craft of designing and developing the latest portable device or the next social media nexus. In reality, it was not a new venue for me. It had just been so many years since I had found myself at one of those events that serves as a cross-roads... Read more →

The question sometimes come up of what the value of an arts education might be in the modern world. Acknowledging that this is quite a sprawling question and that the better answers will be the least welcome ones, we can chose instead to focus on a much smaller version of the question. What value, if any, can be realized by projects that seek to apply modern technology to handling and analysis of literary and historical materials? What value might there be in what is often called the "digital humanities"? There are two sides to this question. One is fairly obvious... Read more →