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Adobe Day @ Lavacon 2013 – Rich Media in Framemaker with Matt Sullivan

photo from www.portlandoregon.gov/parks
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
photo from http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks

Matt Sullivan presented the last individual presentation for Adobe Day at Lavacon 2013, and it was a little different than what I had seen before. To me, it was like Portland’s Crystal Spring Rhododendron Gardens, because while Portland is known for its rose gardens, here’s something that’s different, but not out of place either.

MattSullivan
Matt Sullivan doing his presentation.

Matt recently co-authored the book, Unstructured Framemaker 11 with Sarah O’Keefe, and took the time to show us some of the more special features of Framemaker 11, specifically in reference to the use of rich media and XML. What made this a different presentation from what I had seen before was two-fold. First, Adobe prides itself in presenting these Adobe Day Thought Leadership events as the antithesis of a long commercial for the Adobe Technical Communications Suite applications, so having this presentation about Framemaker specifically seemed to go against that. But the deeper the presentation went, it was obvious that it wasn’t as much about how to include rich media in Framemaker (although that was certainly presented), it was about opening up minds to the idea of using rich media in digital documentation, and Framemaker happened to be the tool used to demonstrate this. Matt Sullivan is one of the foremost experts out there on the use of Framemaker (he did co-author a book, after all, and I’ve seen the book–it’s a hefty tome), so this made a lot of sense. The second part that seemed different was that it was a demonstration at all. As mentioned before, I was a little confused that an aspect of Framemaker was being demonstrated.  For those who were familiar with the product, it was easier to follow along. For those who weren’t as familiar with the product, they could keep up, but it didn’t necessarily have the same impact, but opened eyes to possibilities.

All that aside, Matt gave a lively demonstration of how one can produce rich media output from DITA/XML. Because this was a live demo, it was hard to track all the nuances of the presentation, so there weren’t a lot of notes taken as it would be difficult to describe the processes step-by-step as he was doing them. The audience went along for the journey through these processes, and we could see how Matt used Framemaker to include of rich media. Matt showed us how one can place videos, flash components, and other multimedia into Framemaker docs. He also showed us how to integrate these into the DITA map, and how a PDF document can be produced for both print and interactive versions. One of the best examples Matt showed us was  how 3D models can be used in Framemaker documents in addition to control tables. Matt explained that the beauty of the ability to add rich media to documentation is that it’s all about the single-sourcing features to be able to integrate the rich media.  The other part of what makes it optimal is that rich media can be saved to online formats. He stressed that rich media can be used in unstructured Framemaker as well as structured Framemaker.

Matt has also done several Adobe webinars covering much of the information presented in this presentation and more. As a refresher, he offered a 45-minute demo with the details found at http://wp.me/p1KX8V-4P, which is also available on his blog at http://mattrsullivan.com.

While it was a little difficult to cover and summarize this presentation (no fault of Matt’s–he did an excellent job), as I said before, this was something new for me to experience at an Adobe Day.  I learned not only about how to include multimedia objects in Framemaker specifically, but Matt was also showing how valuable rich media can be when used correctly and methodically in almost any kind of documentation and content out there, which is really the more important part of the bigger picture. As technical communicators, we need to remember that we don’t have to be limited by text and stand-alone images.

(Matt, if you need to correct anything I’ve said here or would like to add anything, please feel free to add in the Comments section!)

Next in the Adobe Day -Lavacon 2013 coverage: Val Swisher’s presentation.

(Yes, I’m going backwards with how everything was presented. Why? Because I can. 🙂 )

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Blast From The Past – Volume 3: Interior Design Influence on…Tech Comm and Social Media?

For this week, I decided that I would post another one of my “Blast from the Past” entries from my graduate school blog. When I go back to review these, many of which were written when I was just starting to understand what technical communications were all about, I see some pretty decent reflections.

I’ve lost direct contact with the person in this entry, as life moves on, and Twitter exploded, but I still learned a lot from the experience. Perhaps I still need to follow-up on the blog entry I proposed at the end based on his books! He’s still out there and making the most of social media and media at large, and has always been ahead of the curve in this regard, continuing to make the most of both marketing communications as well as instructional design with his television shows and now instructional videos on his website.

Enjoy this entry that was originally from March 20, 2010, originally titled, “Interior Design Influence on…Web Design?”:


Recently, I’ve struck up a Twitter friendship with renowned interior designer, Christopher Lowell. He is a very thoughtful, sweet guy. He also posts these great dishes he’s having for dinner that make me hungry! But I digress…

Christopher has always been a little bit ahead of the curve when it comes to media and the wave of the future in communications. He was revolutionary in breaking down the basics of interior design in a user-friendly way, and bringing it to the public on the then-new media outlet of cable television. Between his shows and his books, which eventually branched out into his own product lines of furniture, fabrics and other home accessories, his goal has always been to make interior design about making a home, and making it with your own special stamp. All these years later, he still has that goal of bringing things that seem so lofty down to earth for all of us to enjoy.

One of the things I like about corresponding with him through Twitter is that he really seems to be exactly who you see on TV and read in his books. He’s down to earth, he can be silly, but he really does care about important issues and cares a lot about other people and really using social media as a means of communications. I know that I’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know him little bit by little bit.

So, today he posted on Twitter that he had a new blog post, in which he talked about how he likes how reality TV is starting to be used more constructively, and used Jamie Oliver‘s show about how Jamie is trying to change the diets of school lunches to more wholesome foods for kids as a good example.  He segueways into how he feels that the internet is what the next big wave of information and entertainment will be– more so than it is now, much like cable TV was in its infancy. He alluded to the fact that part of the reason we don’t see him on TV (cable or otherwise) much these days is that he’s exploring these new media. He wrote, “As we continue to open new portals and refine new media platforms, you can bet, I’ll be there, doing what I do best.” That seems appropriate for a guy who has always been on the cutting edge of things.

So what does this have to do with technical writing? Well, a lot. You see, I feel inspired by what Christopher has been talking about, because it’s not only about what he’s doing, but where the future in technology is going, and technical writing is part of that.  I’ve thought of two projects that he’s inspired me to do, but I don’t have the reason to do it other than “just because I feel like it” at the moment, so since I’m busy enough, I’ll have to wait until I have a little more time to work on them, or can work it into a school project for my e-Portfolio. The first idea was just to interview him, and get more details of where he thinks internet media is headed, and the sorts of projects he wants to do, or sees happening. You know, get inside the head of one of the big “movers and shakers” to understand future trends. The other idea is to write a piece called, “The Seven Layers of Technical Writing” or “The Seven Layers of Web Design,” or some similar theme, as Christopher was the one who revolutionized the idea of the “seven layers” of interior design. (Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he invented the Seven-Layer Dip!) In my mind, it would be an article that would show, especially for the newbie technical writer, that by sticking to some basic rules of thumb, like the Seven Layer of Design, that you too can master what it takes to be a technical writer.  I’d really have to think it through, because I’m sure it’s not that easy to whittle anything down that has so many variables, like tech writing, like web design, or interior design.

Kudos to you, Mr. Lowell, for giving me some inspiration outside the (technical) box, and getting a new dialogue started in my head…