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Publishing in the Cloud with HTML5 at stc17

This week I’m attending STC Summit 2017, the annual conference of the Society for Technical Communication. These are my notes from one of the sessions at the conference. All credit goes to the presenter, and any mistakes are mine.

David Coules from eGloo Technologies presented a session called “Disrupt Your Ownself: Streamlined Publishing through the Cloud with HTML5”. He described a light publication stream for self-publishing complex technical documents.

Current problems

Even in 2017, we have a number of problems in delivering content. Examples include long-standing print-based workflow, bespoke website development, complex technology, and no easy go-to solution. There are delays in reaching target audiences, loss of control of the versions of content that your audience is using, and authors spending too much time on layout rather than on content.

Technology enablers

David talked about a set of technologies, including HTML5 and CSS3, which turned the web browser into a solid platform for app development. These apps are available on every device that supports a web platform. Such a system can be a single point of delivery for the content developer, while to the user it seems as if the content is available on all platforms.

Web browsers, such as Google Chrome, also offer a number of tools for developers to examine and update their web apps. There are also a number of tools built on top of the browser.

Progressive web apps are apps that run in any web browser, are responsive to fit in any form factor, are available offline when necessary, and feel like an app because they separate content from functionality.

Continuous integration and continuous delivery allow for rapid development and delivery of features.

Developers build apps with the intention of providing integration with other apps, via APIs.

The Cloud provides global scalability, high availability, and integrated connectivity.

Creating content

Assuming your content is published on the web, how do you author the content? David mentioned that you can author content in existing formats, such as DITA or other structured authoring environments, or even Word with templates, and you can build a process for end-to-end automation.

You can package your content and deliver it to your web app in the Cloud. This takes a few seconds. And because your web app is viewable on all devices/platforms, that’s your job done.

An eReader can provide an API, which developers can use to embed the content in their own apps.

David walked through some case studies. One company took only 4 hours to come up to speed with the new publishing process.

Illustrating the use of APIs, David mentioned a case where the company integrated the published content inside a CRM system (SalesForce). Staff could instantly access the published information when on a call to a customer.

A scenario for the future

What about the IoT (Internet of Things)? David mentioned an idea where the technical documentation could pull in information from an IoT machine, about the problem that the machine is experiencing. That information could activate a particular section of the documentation, such as a troubleshooting guide.

Next steps

Hold a conversation about what’s possible. Depending on your environment, this sort of technology may be a long way off or immediately available. Raise awareness at first. Work towards publishing in this way, taking a step towards the potential for innovation that the modern web offers. Think about augmented reality, for example.

Thanks David for a cool intro to modern web technology.

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