Associate Profile: Ann Rockley


June 1999

Associate Profile: Ann Rockley


This year brings a number of exciting initiatives to Ann Rockley. Earlier this year, she and JoAnn Hackos started a partnership, SingleSource Associates, to assist corporations in designing, creating, and delivering information more effectively from a single source (see feature article, Best Practices Vol. 1, No. 2). Rockley also began a corporate partnership, Information Architecture Inc., to provide information and technology solutions to corporations moving information online. She has clients in Canada, the US, and Europe.

Rockley has provided consulting services through The Rockley Group Inc. (TRG) for four years and for seven years prior to that as President of Information Design Solutions. TRG focuses on providing effective and accessible online documentation and training. TRG provides services in WinHelp, SGML, Internet/Intranet/Extranet, multimedia-based CBT, Web-based and classroom training, document management, document databases, and XML and single sourcing.

Rockley started in the field in 1985 when she developed online Help for an educational microcomputer. The computer sported a graphical user interface and a Help key on the keyboard. After users complained that nothing happened when they pressed the Help key and after much cajoling by Rockley, the company let her develop Help. She began with a review of all the research and literature on Help. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t much available. This inspired Rockley to share her experiences in a May 1987 STC presentation, Online Documentation-From Proposal to Finished Product.

In 1987, Rockley became Manager of Instructional Design with Apple Canada where she developed HyperCard training for use across Canada. In her role as HyperCard guru, Rockley went on to develop multimedia-based computer-based training and full multimedia online documentation.

Apple’s downsizing led Rockley to her next phase of online development and consulting as she moved to Windows Help and SGML. As her contracts moved from 100-500 equivalent pages of online documentation upward to 100,000-plus page suites of documentation in multiple languages, Rockley’s focus moved to effective document databases and document management. She works with most of the top document management tools including: Dynabase, Documentum, FileNet, PCDocs, OpenText, and Lotus Notes.

As the Internet, Intranets, and Extranets became more important vehicles for providing information, Rockley started ground-breaking work in the design and creation of effective Web-based materials. Moving to HTML after SGML was both pleasant (it was so easy to author) and frustrating (it had so little power and was limited by non-standard uses of HTML). Not to be deterred, she tested the authoring tools and where they lacked power, she created Javascript and active server pages.

In the past eighteen months, Rockley has moved into designing single source materials. Her experience with SGML and document databases-combined with clients’ shrinking budgets-made this an effective move. Many clients develop materials with multiple outputs and multiple types of information. While it is possible to do much of this in SGML, most clients are not interested in moving to SGML so Rockley started to look at the possibilities given the standard tools that build on MS Word and FrameMaker. Also in the last year, two new products-HyNet and Canterbury (see reviews in Best Practices Nos. 1 & 2)-have made single sourcing painless.

Rockley is an active member of STC; she resurrected the now-thriving Toronto chapter in 1985. She has also presented at ACM Hypertext (European and USA), SIGDOC, Interac, Info Online, HR Internet/Internet/Extranet, WinWriters, and IEEE IPCC. She has been an invited speaker at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute and a number of Canadian Institutes in Technical Writing.

Rockley holds a Master of Information Science degree from the University of Toronto where she teaches Information Design for Multiple Media. CIDMIconNewsletter