Thursday, September 6, 2018

Is Single-Sourcing Dead?

Matthew Dorma of Calgary, AB pointed me to a post by Mark Baker (https://everypageispageone.com/) entitled “Time to move to multi-sourcing” (https://everypageispageone.com/2018/04/06/time-to-move-to-multi-sourcing/). I discussed that post with several people and have thought about the implicit question it poses – is single-sourcing dead – for a while. This post is the result.


NOTE: The first part of the post – Is Single-Sourcing Dead? – discusses problems with single-sourcing in general. The second part – Alternatives to Traditional Single-Sourcing? – briefly addresses the specific points that Baker raises in his original post.

Is single-sourcing dead?

In my opinion, no. The single-sourcing concept – write once, re-use many times in many ways and many places – has some problems. But the basic concept is so useful that I see nothing that can replace it yet.

What are those problems? Can they be fixed, and how?

 ·       Inappropriate tools – Today, single-sourcing is based on using tools like MadCap Flare (note that I do a lot of training and consulting for MadCap), or standards like DITA. However, companies aren’t going to buy those tools for every employee who has to write something; the cost is too high. Instead, most of those employees will use Microsoft Word because companies see Word as being free. And employees can use Word to create print and PDF output – technically, single-sourcing but lacking the flexibility and output options of full-power single-sourcing.

The result? Trying to do single-sourcing using the wrong tools.

The solution? Simple in theory. Identify which employees create what material that has to be single-sourced and buy them the appropriate tools.

 6       Inappropriate training – In the early days of word-processing, specially-trained operators did the work. Today, employees get a copy of Word and are largely on their own to figure it out – with no training. The results are often inconsistent and with ugly code, but no one cares as long as the document looks good when printed. But if that document has to be imported into a single-sourcing tool like Flare, ugly code often causes problems that few authors know how to avoid or fix. Authors need at least some training in how to use Word but few companies offer it.

The same is true in single-sourcing. Authors may have the right tool but are often not trained on how to use it, or on the concepts of single-sourcing. I often meet Flare authors who were given the tool and told to figure it out on their own. Sometimes the results are surprisingly impressive but often the authors are just terribly frustrated.

The result? The best tools are often worthless if authors don’t know how to use them.

The solution? Obvious. Train the authors on the tools. And for subject matter experts upstream who use Word et al to provide content to the single-sourcing authors, provide at least minimal training and support in how to use their tools. How minimal? Two examples…

o   A client in Austin, TX whose authors used Word asked me what those “styles” were. I explained what they were and how to create and use them. The client was ecstatic at the amount of work they could save. From a five-minute discussion…

o   A client in Connecticut was having trouble getting their authors to create consistently-structured material. They had defined a structural standard but the authors deviated from it constantly. I explained how to create topic templates that could be added to their authoring tool’s interface. The client’s employees spent about an hour at a white board laying out a template which I then turned into an electronic one and added to the tool interface in about five minutes.

          Inappropriate standards – People often have no standards to follow to when it comes to using their tools – no templates for different types of material, or style usage standards, for example.

The result? People do whatever provides the result they want, even if that causes trouble down the road when it’s time to import the material into a single-sourcing tool or output to a new format.

The solution? Surprisingly simple. Identify authors’ pain points and create standards for them. Better still, embed the standards into the authoring tools as much as possible to make their use automatic. For example, create topic-type templates with embedded prompts – “type the list of tools here” – to guide authors as they write. Or create a stylesheet with clear style names and make it the project’s master stylesheet so that it will be applied automatically to every topic.

Adding standards is surprisingly straightforward. What’s harder is getting authors to use them. That will take training and time and perhaps some management muscle to insist that using the standards is a requirement, but that’s not a new task.

          Increasing complexity – Single-sourcing requires many tasks beyond just writing the content. Authors have to decide which output is primary in order to decide which features to use because some won’t work well or at all on different outputs. That means understanding those features. Authors have to create and assign conditions to control which content to use for which output. Define re-usable chunks of content. Create style sheets that behave differently depending on the output. Perhaps define microcontent. And more. And this all must be documented somewhere for reference by the current authors and later ones.

The result? The increasing power of our tools and increasing customer demands are leading to increasingly complex projects that that can easily go out of control.

The solution? Again, simple. Document your project. (See my book “Writing Effective Online Content Project Specifications”, available on Amazon, for my suggestions on how to document your projects and what can happen if you don’t.)

·        Lack of motivation on authors’ parts – Single-sourcing isn’t on most authors’ radar so they have no reason to move from the tools and workflows they know to something new to support some vague goal of single-sourcing.

The result? Authors type their content and make sure it prints well and that’s that.

The solution? Several parts. First, make single-sourcing a job requirement. Second, and crucially, explain why single-sourcing is important to the company and show how it can solve authors’ problems. Without that, authors will do the bare minimum needed to meet the single-sourcing requirement and even skimp on that unless there’s management oversight.

Alternatives to Traditional Single-Sourcing?

What about the “shared pipes” (from Sarah O’Keefe) and “multi-source” (from Alan Porter) models that Baker describes? Each seems to fix some problems of single-sourcing. However, each one has to add a complex black box in the center of the process, where the conversion and coding is done. In my view, the more that this conversion and coding can be pushed back upstream to the individual authors by giving them templates, style sheets, and other tools and leaving the black box central processor to the tool vendor, the easier life will be. No need for a dedicated IT person managing and maintaining a proprietary system that, in my experience, languishes after its initial champions have moved on.

What about the “subject-domain” model that Baker describes? In my view, this model can be handled by creating information-type templates for authors to use. We generally think of templates as specific to types of information/topics, but there’s no reason why templates can’t be applied to specific domains of information as well.

Summary

Single-sourcing isn’t perfect. No authoring model is. But it’s worked well for years and its problems seem to have straightforward solutions. Try those before throwing the single-sourcing baby out with the bath water.

20 comments:

Christine Christensen said...

This is a good explanation of some of the pros and cons of single sourcing, especially for organizations trying to break out of their silos and manage content at an enterprise-wide level. Thanks, Neil!

Mark Baker said...

No, it's not dead. But it may be changing. Or it maybe should be changing. https://everypageispageone.com/2018/09/10/is-single-sourcing-dead/

Dr Purva Pius said...

Hello Everybody,
My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of $250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:(urgentloan22@gmail.com) Thank you.

SEO BACKLINKS said...



good article,buying backlinks in here

Victor Eric said...

Hi Viewers Get your Blank ATM card that works in all ATM machines all over the world.. We have specially programmed ATM cards that can be used to hack ATM machines, the ATM cards can be used to withdraw at the ATM or swipe, at stores and POS. We sell this cards to all interested buyers worldwide, the card has a daily withdrawal limit of $10,000 on ATM and up to $50,000 spending limit in stores depending on the kind of card you order for, we are here for you anytime, any day. Email; (blankatm156@gmail.com ) I'm grateful to Mike because he changed my story all of a sudden . The card works in all countries except, contact him now (blankatm156@gmail.com )

Abdur Rahim said...


Good, Thanks for sharing this amazing Post !!

Server 2016 High Availability

rashid ali said...

thanks for sharing information. its very important for user and us .i hope you will again post more informative information. if you are looking for a Product Brochure Designing in India .ekprint offer to all type of printing service with very premium price for more information visits

Brochure Designing in India

Augurs Technologies Pvt Ltd. said...

Leading Cloud-based ERP Software Development Company in India. We build best ERP software that takes care of all aspect of your business. Grow your business with cost-effective Cloud-based avaERP System.

Unknown said...

PLEASE READ!!!! Hello Guys,This is a Life Time transformation !!!Am so happy I got mine from Jamie. My blank ATM card can withdraw $2,000 daily. I got it from Her last week and now I have $8,000 for free. The blank ATM withdraws money from any ATM machines and there is no name on it, it is not traceable and now i have money for business and enough money for me and my family to live on .I am really happy i met Jamie because i met two people before her and they took my money not knowing that they were scams. But am happy now. Jamie sent the card through DHL and i got it in two days. Get your own card from her now she is not like other scammer pretending to have the ATM card,She is giving it out for free to help people even if it is illegal but it helps a lot and no one ever gets caught. I’m grateful to Jamie because she changed my story all of a sudden . The card works in all countries except Philippines, Czech Republic and Slovenia, Jamie’s email address is Jamiehacking99(AT)gmailcom

Sukana Murtaja said...


We take the frustration out of parking management for Apartments, Home Owners Associations, Condominiums, Townhouses Co-ops, and other parking areas.Webparkingsoftware.com has reinvented how parking management should be done.

Parking software condominium
email blast to tenants
Guest parking

Sukana Murtaja said...


It is an excellent article, Thanks for sharing the marvelous info.

Roll Up Banners
business card printing

Abdur Rahim said...


Great Useful Information,Thanks for sharing..

Server 2016 Hyper-V Experts

Md.Riday Khan said...

Thanks.best tech site

Unknown said...

This post is very very useful for the newers specially for me. Thanks for sharing this article. The Peak Place

Unknown said...

We offer Credit Card Processing for Automotive Shops, Auto Repair Payment Processing, Payment Processing for Automotive Shops, services to integrates with the shop's existing management system.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a nice blog with full information. here you can get wide range of Managed IT Support Services in south africa.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a nice blog with full information. here you can get wide range of Managed IT Support Services in south africa.

Sukana Murtaja said...

free parking software
apartments
violation management
Explore the Web Based Software of Web Parking Software:
For those people who are in search for the best web based software that are creatively developed, designed and intended for solving parking problems, you don’t need to look any further since Web Parking Software is the ideal choice that you should take into account. In addition to this, the company strives hard and work together to make their parking related services quickly accessible from the Internet. Web Parking Software has a professional, dependable and competent management team with in-depth expertise in the field of parking management, business management and IT computer software.
The well trained and fully skilled engineers of Web Parking Software spent almost two years with their parking management team to create their first parking management and permit system. Apart from this, the company took daily procedures on snail mail, fax, phone and paper for almost a decade and at the same time applied a cloud based internet delivery system to enhance the reliability, organization and method. On the other hand, the web based software of Web Parking Software has an excellent deal of programming complex code and man hours.
The entire interface was built to look simple and with a few mouse clicks, you will have a full control of your own building. They also include other non parking components that have the ability to facilitate management that include CRM components, email blasts and a lot more. Moreover, Web Parking Software together with their sister company Callbeforetow are part of CBT software that is fully operated by CBT Inc. The company wants to take the dissatisfaction out of parking management for townhouses, condominiums, home owners associations, apartments and other parking areas. This is one of the reasons why Web Parking Software has reinvented how the parking management should be done.
The web based software of Web Parking Software was built for commercial property, board members, apartment managers, property managers and anyone involved in overseeing a managed parking environment. With the existence and help of Web Parking Software, you can be sure that all your parking problems will be completely solved by simply using the web based parking software of Web Parking Software. The web based parking software of Web Parking Software is a great system that will allow you to have a full control over your buildings whether onsite, by using your phone and even at your office. Most people who already tried and avail the services of Web Parking Software are all astounded and satisfied with the quality of their web based parking software.
Once you decided to use their service, you are assured that you can able to eliminate about 75 percent of your paper work. Web Parking Software will guarantee their valued clients that they will never be disappointed with their services and most especially their web based parking software. If you want to learn and know more about the web based parking software of Web Parking Software, just feel free to visit their website at http://webparkingsoftware.com and see it for yourself.


Sukana Murtaja said...


parking permmits
text message to tenants
Cloud based parking management
software for condominiums

New Parking Software for Condominiums and Apartments:
WEBPARKINGSOFTWARE.COM has a new product on the internet nowadays that can provide maximum satisfaction to all businessmen and vehicle owners who want to find the perfect parking area for their vehicles in a very convenient way especially while in the city. This powerful parking software is something that vehicle owners and businessmen can use in condominiums, apartments and other business establishments that were designed to accommodate several consumers or clients every day. It’s already available in the official website of the online company that has been stated.
The software can be used by vehicle owners for free for a limited period of time only. It has been reinvented by the company to show to the world the most systematic and effective way of organizing and managing all parking areas that are available in licensed condominiums and apartments all over the country nowadays. People can easily use it with the use of their smart phones. Therefore, it was designed to make the process of providing a vehicle with an excellent parking area in outdoor places more convenient and much easier to accomplish. This product can help businessmen to experience all benefits that an excellent parking management method can provide.
The new parking software for condominiums and apartments at WEBPARKINGSOFTWARE.COM will be very useful in the daily business operations of all businessmen who want to make sure that the parking areas in their business establishments will be managed perfectly every day even if their time for their additional tasks and relaxation is very limited. The product comes with a set of innovative features that can make parking management more convenient and full of satisfying results for all businessmen every day. This software can also assist a vehicle owner in securing an excellent parking area for a vehicle in one of the most popular condominiums or apartments in the country.
The product is equipped with an advanced parking management system that’s highly compatible for all types of building sizes that can be found in the different parts of the country nowadays. It provides professional parking permit to all vehicle owners who will never hesitate to use it regularly. In addition to that, this software has an amazing ability to assign parking spaces for tenants. This software possesses everything that can make parking management more enjoyable and free from stressful moments every day. One of the things that people will surely appreciate in the design of this product is its amazing ability to detect ticket violators.
The new parking software of WEBPARKINGSOFTWARE.COM will always be an excellent choice for all businessmen and vehicle owners who can’t afford to be victimized by the negative effects of stress and misunderstandings while aiming to have a better understanding of the idea of parking management. The product embodies an internet-based cloud model that makes it far better than any other brand of parking software that can be downloaded on the internet nowadays. One of its best advantages is the fact that it’s compatible for all brands of smart phones and modern electronic gadgets. This app has been created to make parking management a paperless procedure that can be accomplished in just few seconds.


Calgary Movers said...

calgary movers
Moving Calgary
Moving to calgary
Moving companies calgary