A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Hackos, JoAnn T.

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Are You Ready For Conversion (to DITA)?

Learn from Dr. JoAnn Hackos, President of Comtech Services, Inc. and Director of the Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM), how to evaluate your legacy content and assess how close you are to the DITA standard. Understand the decision-making process you need to follow to prepare for the conversion process. Consider if your team should first restructure your content in your current tool environment or wait to restructure and rewrite following conversion.

Hackos, JoAnn T. YouTube (2011). Presentations>Information Design>XML>DITA


Building Usability in from the Beginning: Analyzing Users and Their Tasks   (PDF)

In this interactive session, attendees will practice their skills in interviewing users, creating task scenarios from the users’ perspective, and turning the task scenarios into designs for information products.

Hackos, JoAnn T. and Janice C. 'Ginny' Redish. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Usability>Methods


Creating An Information Model

An Information Model provides the framework for organizing your content so that it can be delivered and reused in a variety of innovative ways. Once you have created an Information Model for your content repository, you will be able to label information in ways that will enhance search and retrieval, making it possible for authors and users to find the information resources they need quickly and easily.

Hackos, JoAnn T. WebRef (2002). Design>Content Management>Single Sourcing>Web Design


Customer Partnering: Data Gathering for Complex Online Documentation   (PDF)

Technical communicators today must document complex applications used in complex environments. Information about users and use models is important under these conditions, especially if documentation will be presented online. Customer partnering, a method of information gathering that supplements surveys, contextual inquiries, usability testing, and interviews, provides a way of involving the users of complex applications in the design of information delivery systems. We used this method to help a client gather important information about user and use models and design a new information library for complex server computer systems.

Hackos, JoAnn T., Molly Hammar and Arthur Elser. ComTech Services (1997). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design>Collaboration


Demystifying Information Modeling   (PDF)

The information model is a framework for organizing all the information people need.

Hackos, JoAnn T. ComTech Services (2002). Design>Information Design>Project Management>Metadata


Distributed or Centralized: How to Maintain Quality When They Keep Reorganizing Your Organization   (PDF)

Is there a 'best' way to organize technical publications? One central organization? Many small organizations per business unit? Communicators distributed through the development teams? Discuss the pros and cons of organizational structure and its relationship to quality.

Hackos, JoAnn T. STC Proceedings (1998). Articles>Writing>Quality>Technical Writing


Focus Groups: Planning the Education of Technical Communicators During the Next Ten Years   (PDF)

These focus groups continue the dialogue begun in focus groups organized by Ken Rainey and Katherine Staples, Education and Research PIC, at the 1993 annual conference in Dallas. Participants discussed the topic of how partnerships among the Society, business and industry, and colleges and universitates could strengthen academic programs in technical communication, empower the profession, and promote research.

Barnum, Carol M., Saul A. Carliner, JoAnn T. Hackos, Rita Reaves, Stuart A. Selber and Sherry G. Southard. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Education>Industry and Academy>STC


From Theory to Practice: Using the Information Process-Maturity Model as a Tool for Strategic Planning    (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Strategic planning is no longer an option for an information-development organization that hopes to survive and thrive in the current climate of downsizing and outsourcing. Information developers must prove their value to their products and their organizations and demonstrate that they are aligned with corporate goals and objectives. Use strategic planning both as a tool to improve your organization and as a sign that you are willing to look closely at the old and comfortable ways of working and make significant quality and process improvements.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Technical Communication Online (1997). Design>Information Design


From Third Grade to Today

We've come a long way with technology, but I've never regretted the hands-on education in what makes text readable and usable. Despite the technological changes we have experienced during the past 30-plus years, the real work of information development has actually changed very little. We still must understand how our users work and think and how information can enhance their job performance and make them more productive and successful.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Intercom (2010). Articles>Writing


The Future of Technical Communication: The Perspective of a Management Consultant   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This commentary summarizes the seven articles in this special issue and also argues that technical communication as a profession is in the midst of a disruption caused by low-cost innovators. Technical communicators can counter this trend by drastically reducing costs and increasing productivity in current operations. But the most valuable strategy is the difficult task of pursuing customer knowledge, which is difficult to replicate by those with little access to customers. Working for the customer and providing them with the information they need to be successful in using products and systems is critical to the future of technical communication.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Technical Communication Online (2005). Articles>Management>TC


Getting Started with DITA

DITA is not another tool like FrameMaker or MS Word. It is a standard and a specification that is supported more or less effectively by open-source and commercial tools. As a standard, DITA is a way of working, a way of thinking about the structure of information. It's greatest benefits come from understanding the architecture and deciding if you're ready to make the leap into a new authoring and publishing environment. It's definitely worth the effort because the benefits to productivity and quality are huge.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Info Management Center (2011). Articles>Information Design>Standards>DITA


Global Transitions    (PDF)

This panel will examine continuous publishing movement from paper to HTML formats, and localization management, which are currently in global transition. Panelists from a translation agency, a consulting firm, and a hardware computer corporation will address how the technical communications organizations must transition in these areas to meet the global requirements of the industry.

Hackos, JoAnn T., Deborah Rosenquist and Jaap van der Meer. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Publishing>International>Localization


Information Development in a Flat World   (PDF)   (members only)

The flat world has had a clear impact on information development and will continue to increase competitive pressure on the profession in the foreseeable future. By adapting to the realities of global organizations and global audiences and instituting a disciplined work environment that thrives on standards and best practices, technical communicators can remain competitive.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Intercom (2008). Articles>TC>International


Integrating Training and Documentation   (PDF)

The potential problems I detailed in working to integrate training and documentation functions do indeed occur in many organizations. They have also found that working out the problems is worth the effort.

Hackos, JoAnn T. ComTech Services (1994). Articles>Documentation>Tutorials


Is a Documentation Wiki in your Future?

If we can solicit user participation in a Web 2.0 knowledge community (a volunter wiki documentation, for example), we might have a powerful means for creating high quality content. But how should this process work?

Hackos, JoAnn T. Center for Information-Development Management (2007). Articles>Documentation>Content Management>Wikis


Is DITA Going to Tip?

We seem to be heading in the right direction. The danger is that we keep talking to one another rather than evangelizing to a broader community.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Center for Information-Development Management (2005). Articles>Documentation>Standards>DITA


Let's Stop Writing Documentation and Start Working for the Users   (PDF)

Technical communication's long-time focus on task-oriented documentation has left customers with too many tasks and too much information; itï¿Âs time for a new approach. A user-centered approach reflecting a thorough understanding of users and how they engage the product is the surest route to effective documentation and training. To understand what users need, we need to get closer to them by spending time in their workplaces, watching them execute everyday tasks, and listening to them. Through this kind of ethnographic activity, we will become user experts, gaining credibility within our own organizations and our user communities.

Hackos, JoAnn T. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design


Making the Business Case for Single Sourcing   (PDF)

Discusses ways to communicate the financial benefits, customer value, learning and growth opportunities, and internal process improvements made possible by single sourcing.

Hackos, JoAnn T. and Tina Hedlund. ComTech Services (2004). Articles>Content Management>Single Sourcing>Business Communication


Minimalism Updated: 2013

The Minimalism Agenda has been an important contributor to best practices in information development since its origins in the work of John Carroll at IBM more than 30 years ago. It has influenced the development of many common practices among information-development professionals, including a focus on user tasks, user language, scenario-based design, comprehensive solutions content architecture, and just plain good writing. We continue to follow the important work done in the Netherlands by Hans van der Meij, the continuing contributions of Janice (Ginny) Redish, our colleague, and researchers who believe as we do that minimalism contributes significantly to high quality information best suited for users of all stages of use and in all disciplines.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Indus (2013). Articles>Writing>Minimalism


Moving Legacy Documentation into DITA: An Interview

JoAnn Hackos, content management and information design expert, gives her best advice on what organizations need to know about moving legacy documentation to DITA.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Data Conversion Laboratory (2007). Articles>Documentation>Content Management


Oblivious Organizations and Content Management: Not Yet Ready for Prime Time   (PDF)

In brief, documents are created everywhere by everyone. They each develop the documents any way they like, with no common look and feel. Company officials have vehemently opposed hiring technical communicators for the R&D teams. They feel that the engineers know the products best and should be able to write about them. Marketing materials are created independently by many different marketing staff and even by executives who regularly post announcements to the company intranet and Internet sites.

Hackos, JoAnn T. ComTech Services (2003). Articles>Content Management>Single Sourcing>Case Studies


Process Maturity Model for Publications Organization   (PDF)

Since 1994, I have continued to develop and test the Five-Level Process Maturity Model. The model has been validated with a number of publications organizations. As a result, the assessment questionnaire is complete, and an assessment process is in place. I have isolated eight significant characteristics that help the publications organization efficient and effective in meeting user and customer needs.

Hackos, JoAnn T. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Project Management>Publishing


The Responsibilities of an Information Architect in the Technical Information-Development World

In working with information-development groups who want to move into content management and a structured writing environment, I often find that the potential for role of information architect is not well understood.

Hackos, JoAnn T. Indus (2005). Articles>Information Design


Selecting a Content-Management System   (PDF)

Your output requirements will drive many of your decisions when selecting a content-management system. An abbreviated version of the checklist from JoAnn Hackos’s book, Content Management for Dynamic Delivery, follows to aid you in defining your output requirements.

Hackos, JoAnn T. and Tina Hedlund. STC Proceedings (2002). Design>Content Management>Single Sourcing



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