AODC – web technology and standards

This week I’m attending the Australasian Online Documentation and Content Conference (AODC) on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. One of the sessions today covered web technology and standards, presented by Joe Welinske.

Joe is the president of Seattle-based WritersUA. This is the second of his sessions that I’ve attended. The first is covered in my earlier blog post, on trends, tools and technologies in online documentation. Today’s session was more technical, covering various standards in the following groups:

  • W3C standards such as HTML, XHTML, XML/XSL, Web Accessibility Initiative, CSS.
  • W3C hybrids such as HTML 5 (more below), AJAX, RSS and jQuery.
  • OASIS technologies — DocBook and DITA.
  • Other open source technologies — Oracle Help, IBM WebSphere.
  • Proprietary technologies that are still relevant and useful because they are so widely adopted and stable, such as Adobe PDF, AIR and even Microsoft Silverlight (emerging)

As well as talking about the above standards, Joe discussed each one’s possible application to technical communication.

In this blog post, I’ve extracted the subjects that were new to me and a couple of interesting items. Joe covered a lot more than I’ve mentioned here.


HTML 5 is an emerging standard that Joe feels we need to keep on our radar. It’s also known as “Web Applications 1.0”. It includes capabilities that are relevant to technical writers. Specifically, it supports new modular objects as part of a web page e.g. <aside>, <article>, <nav>. So a web page can recognise chunks of content in a non-linear way. Here’s a link Joe gave us to a demonstration: HTML 5 Support by Browser

I found this really interesting, after all the discussion in previous sessions about modular documentation and structured authoring.

Joe thinks that, because HTML 5 has a high amount of interest from some big players, it will probably go ahead.

A question from the floor led to a discussion around HTML’s leniency as opposed to the strictness of XML / XHTML. So HTML 5 may meld HTML’s leniency with the semantic tagging provided by XML. This is potentially useful for the less-technically-savvy authors, because the browsers and other viewers will be instructed to render a page if at all possible even if it contains formatting errors.

Other snippets

Some more interesting items from Joe’s talk:

  • Comparison of XML rendering via XSL versus CSS: Printing XML: Why CSS Is Better than XSL.
  • Neat use of Flash for an online tutorial, from Verizon Wireless — demonstrates how to use a mobile phone. Click the ‘Interactive “How To” Simulator’. It has a movie of a hand clicking the buttons, plus a block of text in the right-hand panel. The text is in sync with the movie, and you can influence the movie by clicking the text.

My conclusions

Joe covered a huge area in this short session, and his knowledge is huge too. Thank you Joe! The next two days of the conference include other sessions with more detail on some of the areas which Joe has introduced, including one on AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) tomorrow.


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 14 May 2008, in AODC, open standards, technical writing, xml and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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