CIDM e-newsletter
Volume 1, Issue 9
September/October, 2001

A monthly e-newsletter from the Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM)
JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD, CIDM Director

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In This Issue

Persevering in the Face of Challenges

Handling Difficult Conversations

Industry News

Tips for Effective Information Architecture

News From Down Under

“Anything Worth Doing, it is Worth Doing Poorly”

From the Continent

What Does a Good Technical Writer Need to Know?

Upcoming Workshops

The CIDM sponsors the following workshops in October and November 2001.

Structured Writing for Single Sourcing
JoAnn Hackos, PhD or Henry Korman, RA
October 29-30, 2001, Atlanta, GA
November 15-16, 2001, Milwaukee, WI
You will learn to structure the content you produce so that you will increase reuse across products, user communities, delivery media, and other dimensions and so that you will move easily to an XML authoring environment.

Managing Your Documentation Projects
Bill Hackos, PhD
October 29-30, 2001, St. Paul, MN
November 28-29, 2001, Atlanta, GA
If you can keep your projects under control in the midst of chaos, everyone will think you’re a miracle worker. If you can bring a semblance of order into the chaos, you’ll at least be a hero. This seminar gives you the tools to succeed.

User and Task Analysis for Information Design
JoAnn Hackos, PhD
November 28-29, 2001, Fort Collins, CO
You will learn how to apply inexpensive usability methods that yield critical design guidelines, create a user model you can use during the life of the project, choose the right technique for your time and budget, and stay focused on users’ issues.

Persevering in the Face of Challenges
JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
CIDM Director

I hope you were too preoccupied with recent affairs to notice that we missed sending you the September 2001 issue of the CIDM Best Practices e-newsletter. After the events of September 11, we scrambled to find a way to get to Europe for our content-management conference. Despite all the anxiety about flying to Europe, we decided to persevere, notifying everyone concerned that the conference was not cancelled. As it turned out, we made the right decision. With eight speakers and more than 45 attendees, we had a wonderful meeting that exceeded all our expectations. People came from six countries—Austria, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

We have also decided to persevere with the third annual Best Practices conference, despite the low attendance. A wonderful program, fantastic presenters, and a premiere location on Cape Cod hold out much promise that can’t easily be reproduced in print or through a Webcast. Read more about the program details in the following article. By bringing CIDM members together, we foster community building at a time when we need it more than ever, which brings me to my topic this month—persevering in the face of challenges.

Read the full article

The Best Practices Conference helps build a professional community for you
We lead such globally oriented lives these days. We have colleagues worldwide; we travel internationally on a regular basis; we have work teams scattered everywhere.

My hope is that the CIDM provides you with a professional community. I know that the members have done that for me, often on a personal as well as a professional level. The upcoming Best Practices conference is an opportunity for all of us to build our relationships. The people presenting have been extraordinarily generous with their time—planning an event that promises a high degree of interaction among all the participants.

Let me tell you about one part of the program. Julie Bradbury, John Gough, Palmer Pearson, Katherine Dumont, and Kyla Cragg from Cadence Design Systems and Glenn D’Amore from ADP have concentrated on the importance of knowing our customers. They will take us all through a fascinating case study, guiding us with a series of short presentations on Tuesday morning.

The case study describes a fictional department with more than a few customer-related problems to solve. You break into small groups for discussion and exchange of ideas.

You have another opportunity for exchange on Wednesday morning. Christopher Gales of Wind River and Helen Sullivan of Nortel Networks lead us in small groups for the development of a strategy map. By the time the session is over, you will have the beginnings of a strategy map in hand.

Don’t forget to sign up for Thursday’s Technology Update Day. Daphne Walmer of Medtronics describes her team’s recent successful implementation of XML and content management, reducing production time and translation costs. Bob Gruen of SPSS will counter with more than five years’ experience in SGML-based content management. Dave Schell from IBM describes the DITA model for content design. Dick Hamilton of Hewlett-Packard and John Sundman of Curl Corporation describe their new implementation of a content-management solution. We spend 2/3 of a day discussing technology trends and successes. Be sure to add this event to your schedule.

Handling Difficult Conversations
Bill Hackos, PhD
Vice President, Comtech Services, Inc.

As documentation managers, we are frequently asked to take part in stressful conversations. We must bring bad news to our employees, handle confused or dissatisfied internal and external customers, and have difficult conversations with our own management. Holly Weeks in the article “Taking the Stress out of Stressful Conversations” in the July-August 2001 issue of the Harvard Business Review describes a number of tactics that can be used by managers to defuse difficult conversations.

Read the full article

Tips for Effective Information Architecture

In the October 2001 issue of webtechniques, Andrew Chak offers some tips in his article “Effective Info Architecture.”

He describes information architecture as a two-step process. Step 1: define your goals and define your audience. Step 2: determine the content and functionality that will support your goals. To follow through the process, he suggests selecting a target persona from your audience and creating a scenario to fit that persona. Then, base your design and site architecture on that specific persona and scenario.

Create a bottom-up design that uses wireframes (mockups) that show the basic layout and content of your pages and a navigation map that shows how the pages are linked together. Also, decide if your approach should be to guide your users through a process or through your content.

Next, consider your site’s architecture. Use a technique called card sorting to find out what ideas users may already have about the structure of your site. Write the main components of your site on cards; then ask your users to group the cards. Additionally, name your sections so that users can find exactly what they need, use a site map to focus on the overall structure of your site, and maintain a consistent structure by creating wireframes for the site-level components, such as your home page, main section pages, and search.


“Effective Info Architecture”
Andrew Chak
webtechniques Oct 2001

“Anything Worth Doing, it is Worth Doing Poorly”
Robert N. Phillips
CEO, Lasotell Pty Ltd.

This catchy little quotation comes from “Microsoft Project 98 for Dummies” by Martin Doucette. He goes on to say, “By this he

[the business friend who made the statement] means that if something is important enough to accomplish, it needs to be completed even if it falls short of perfection.” The flip-side saying is: “There is never enough time to do it right but there is always enough time to do it over.”

Read the full article

What Does a Good Technical Writer Need to Know?
Vesa Purho
Research Analyst, Information Design, Nokia

What does a writer need to know to write documents? In my mind, there are four main knowledge areas:

  • Knowing the users of the product
  • Knowing the product
  • Knowing basic technical writing skills (language, style, organisation, graphics, and so on)
  • Knowing the tools

Read the full article

The Center For Information-Development Management
The Center for Information-Development Management is an organization of information-development, training, and support managers across the United States and internationally. The CIDM is directed by Dr. JoAnn Hackos, international leader in the management of the design, development, and dissemination of information to customers and employees. Under her leadership, the CIDM conducts benchmark studies among member organizations and elsewhere, sponsors research into information development and its management, gathers and disseminates results and resources through newsletters, the Web, seminars, an annual conference, and research white papers. The CIDM facilitates the sharing of information among the most skilled managers in the information industry.

If you are interested in reading more in-depth articles, you should consider subscribing to the Best Practices newsletter.

Have you found this issue useful? Got a great story idea? We’d like your input and suggestions. Email our editor,

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