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A method for generating online documentation from task models Disclosure Number: IPCOM000033635D
Original Publication Date: 2004-Dec-20
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2004-Dec-20
Document File: 2 page(s) / 44K

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This article describes a method for generating XML-based documentation from an abstract model of human activity represented as a Hierarchical Task Analysis.

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A method for generating online documentation from task models

Task models are structured models of human activity expressed as a recursive decomposition of goals, subgoals and associated tasks. Task models are widely used by ergonomists, interaction designers, instructional designers and technical writers. Technical writers frequently create task models to conceptualise human behaviour as a prerequisite to designing a corresponding task-oriented structure for user documentation. These models may be created using pencil and paper, general purpose diagramming tools, or other specialised tools. A task model typically contains a large number of tasks organized into complex structures. Within the model, each task may have a name and an extended text description and an arbitrary set of additional attributes of interest to analysts.

    XML-based documentation consists of a set of discrete, independent information units, represented and integrated within a navigation structure. The navigation presents, organizes, and hyperlinks the content within the topic files. Both topics and navigation are implemented using a strongly specified XML dialect. Examples include DITA, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, and the TOC and topic files used by the Eclipse platform.

    An author constructing XML-based help content from a task model would need to follow the steps described below: 1) construct a task model, 2) manually transcribe the task model into an XML navigation file obeying the constraints of the XML syntax and reflecting the recursive structure of the task model, 3) manually select a unique file name for each task, 4) manually create the topic file for each task and transcribe the corresponding name and description from the task model, 5) add appropriate HTML tags to the transcribed content, and 6) manually add a reference to each topic file to the navigation file. This process is intensely manual and, given a potentially large number of tasks, correspondingly error-prone and inefficient. As a direct consequence, writers may be discouraged from the desirable User-Centred Design practice of iteratively prototyping, evaluating and revising documentation derived from alternative task structure designs.

    This submission describes a...