By Julio Vazquez
posted on February 11, 2011 11:41
Last week (has it been that long already), there was a discussion on Tom Johnson's blog about learning materials and incorporating media in learning materials. (If you missed it, take a look and come back.) In that discussion, I did mention that there are already constructs in place in DITA that would allow you to integrate video with your other content, should you want. In fact, I even pointed to Seah Healy's website because I saw him present this at DocTrain West a couple years ago. (Unfortunately, the website doesn't describe the DITA integration coding.) In fact, his methods were so interesting that I've invited him to talk to the RTP/Boston DITA User's Group about the topic.
The one thing that I didn't really discuss in that thread is that it may not make sense to include media in all learning material. In fact, there are some challenges in doing that sort of thing. First, you have to figure out how to address the accessibility issues for someone with hearing impairments or with visual impairments that may make a video relatively difficult to view. These are not insurmountable, but have to be balanced against the ROI, especially as media production can quickly build unaccounted expenses.
The other thing to consider is whether including media is appropriate in the content stream. Appropriate? You ask with a puzzled look when you think back to some of my recent posts and what I've included. Yes. Appropriate.
Let me give you an example based on what I just experienced on vacation. I was in Charleston and went on the Ghost Jail Tour. It's a good tour and there was some interesting information about the jail that I enjoyed. However, before the tour began, the guide mentioned that there is a Ghost Radar app for smartphones that can detect ghosts in the area and sometimes even let the ghosts "speak". I and another tour member downloaded the app and launched it.
You see where this is going. Although the guide tried to incorporate some of the words our phones spat out, there were some words she had to ignore (such as baseball). The folks closest to us were distracted by the sounds coming from our phones and there were many times when the app "spoke" different words on the two phones. Some of the content the guide was imparting was lost amidst the noise.
The bottom line: make sure that the media enhances the content and doesn't wind up distracting from the main message.
Have you encountered "ghosts" detracting from your message?
About the Author
Julio Vazquez is a Senior Information Architect at SDI with over 30 years of experience in technical communications and information technology. As one of the members of the initial DITA task force, he takes his share of blame for the current architecture and language structure. Julio holds a bachelor’s degree in computers and information systems from Empire State College of the State University of New York and has spoken at technical communication and STC conferences about DITA and information architecture and is the author of Practical DITA.