Podcast: Organizing Help Content: Breaking Out of Topic-based Hierarchies

Breaking out of topic-based hierarchies
The recording is available in a variety of formats:

I recently gave a presentation at the STC Summit in Sacramento titled “Organizing Help Content: Breaking Out of Topic-based Hierarchies.” I would have recorded my presentation, but recording is not allowed. I did, however, record a practice run-through in my hotel room the morning before.

I included a variety of links here. If you want to view slides while listening, click the Audio with Slides option.

Comparing the practice presentation to the real presentation, the practice presentation ended up being about 15 minutes longer. This means I had more time for questions and discussion during the real presentation. Some participants gave me great feedback in the discussion and follow-up afterwards. This presentation is only one part of an ongoing journey in my effort to solve the findability problem with help content.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, JavaScript, front-end design, content strategy, Jekyll, and more. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

  • http://j1m.net Jim Campbell

    Hi Tom,

    Shaun McCance of GNOME has done some preliminary work on faceted navigation in Yelp, the GNOME help browser. We don’t yet have this in production, though; we had to write a lot of completely new content for the GNOME 3.0 release, and we hadn’t yet done the work to plan and include the necessary metadata in our help topics.

    You can see some of the preliminary work here; http://blogs.gnome.org/shaunm/2010/04/26/faceted-navigation/

    We have also tried to supply multiple entry points in our current help. Here’s a little video: http://j1m.net/2011/04/12/help-for-ubuntu-11-04-we-are-working-on-it/

    Your interest in this topic will surely push along our work on this. We would surely welcome any feedback.

    • http://idratherbewriting.com Tom Johnson

      Jim, thanks for pointing me to the GNOME help example and also linking to the video. You’re right — these examples are right on target. I like it. I may use some of these examples in an upcoming presentation. Thanks again for commenting with these examples.

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  • http://www.blogspot.com/cookingcholent Laura Cane Mahalel

    I enjoyed listening to this podcast on my bike ride in to work. I’m worried that even metadata is just one more layer of author-imposed artificial order on information. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. In fact I believe that a well-ordered TOC still has its place in the world, even if search is king. But a user may not see herself as “intermediate” or if I’m searching for running shoes I may not yet have a clue if I want high or low arches. Still, lots of ideas worth sharing and exploring here. Thanks for posting!