Blogger: Craig Roth
I’ve been researching trends in next-generation (NextGen) content authoring since the spring and I just ran across a fun blast from the past. It’s a review of the very first version of Microsoft Word for Windows in Software Magazine. The article quotes Bill Gates saying that Microsoft Word is "the word processor designed for the 1990s". Now, here we are within sight of the 2010s and the 13th version of Microsoft Office, and the question that comes to my mind is this: are we still using the word processor of the 1990s? Or more accurately, are we still caught in the paradigm of the tools of the 1990s (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, email), even though needs for collaboration, reuse, living documents, and quicker authoring cycles have evolved?
Well, from the title of this post you can guess I think there is something more: NextGen authoring. The core authoring suite has certainly evolved and will continue to play a major part in the lives of information workers. But I have identified several trends that point out how much further these tools have to go and how valuable some categories outside the core suite can be. The trends are:
- Collaborative authoring
- Content reuse
- Living documents
- Freshness preference
- Dangerous findability
To a large extent, organizations haven't tackled these needs head-on because they are not a pain point. Indeed, they have become a numb point. Authors have become used to clumsy workarounds such as e-mailing files around for comment, creating a new request for proposal by copying an old one then hollowing it out, or click-and-dragging sections of slides from one presentation into a starter template to generate a new presentation (thereby leaving multiple fragmented versions of slides scattered and out of sync across enterprise file stores). They are so used to this by now they don't generally think of tools to make this better.
But some information workers have decided not to sit waiting for the organization to give them new tools. They've applied new methods of collaborating, finding, and reusing content with existing productivity suites, collaborative workspaces, and web conferencing. They've also begun using tools that have evolved along with NextGen authoring needs such as wikis, blogs, XML authoring, mind mapping, concept mapping, and note management. These tools have proven that authors don't mind authoring collaboratively, in small chunks, and doing a little bit of metatagging if it gets them something in return. And once authors are primed for granular reuse, the standard productivity suite can evolve into something much more useful than Bill Gates could have conceived when praising that first Windows word processor in 1990.