LOOPS ⋅ Frequently Asked Questions

On this page, you’ll find information about single source publishing, (machine) translation and LOOPS; the Lightweight Object-Oriented Publishing System by 9to5 Media Services.

1. Technology

“What is your technology stack?”

We have a low-tech / high-efficiency approach to digital publishing. This is the LOOPS technology stack:

  1. Content is marked up using a lightweight markup language called Markdown.
    You have probably seen Markdown markup (or documents created using Markdown) many times. Markdown is a format that has been around for more than two decades, and it is easy to learn and apply; both intuitive for humans and easy to convert into something more complex by applications.

  2. Markdown content is converted to HTML, the lingua franca of the web.

  3. HTML templates are used to place metadata and the actual content.

  4. Content is styled using Cascading Style Sheets, just like any other published web content. Modern CSS styling ensures responsive display of content based on device properties (smartphone, tablet, computer) and viewport adjustments (windows size, device orientation).

  5. Images can be hosted on any web server and are linked from the Markdown documents. Where required, CSS classes are applied to resize and position images. Video and audio file players (both local content and popular streaming content) can also be integrated.

  6. Our custom JavaScript library is used to add user-side navigation features such as a table of contents, bookmarkable anchors and in-document “previous element” / “next element” links to the published documents.

That’s all.

Our web documents can also be converted to PDFs both on the server and by end-users.

“Will we be tied to your service and document formats?”

Or, put differently: “What happens if 9to5 Media Services / Specs and Docs goes belly-up?”

We perfectly understand that brands want to avoid vendor lock-in; especially in an ever-changing technology landscape.

As we keep our stack as simple as possible and use no complex database technology for creating or publishing content, you can easily take back your content: It’s just a set of plan text (Markdown) files with references to images hosted on a run-off-the-mill web server. It doesn’t get more portable than this.

2. Smart documents / semantic publishing

“What is semantic publishing?”

Semantic publishing is about adding meaning to published information. This is achieved through the use of semantic markup. Semantic markup is achieved by adding tags that describe the content rather than just how it should be presented.

Think about it like this (and inspect this page’s source code, if you are interested):

Bold text may seem visually different from regular text, but to a computer program it’s all just text.

Semantic markup goes beyond visual cues and tells browsers, search engines and other applications:

“What are the advantages of semantic publishing?”

“What is information granularity in digital publishing?”

Information granularity in digital publishing refers to the level of detail or depth at which content is presented and organised.

From an author perspective, granularity involves breaking down information into smaller, more manageable units or components. Granularity allows publishers to control the level of detail provided to audiences and provides flexibility in accessing and manipulating content. Think of granularity as having a bucket of Lego bricks that can be assembled into anything you can imagine, rather than just owning one monolithic model.

In the context of digital publishing, information granularity can manifest in various ways, including:

Content Units

Breaking down content into smaller units, such as paragraphs, sections, or chapters, allows for more granular control over the presentation and navigation of information. “Monolithic” documents (where presentation and content are fixed and inseparable) are hard to repurpose – think of clay tablets and handwritten documents. Granular content, on the other hand, can easily be taken out of the original context, reformatted and reused as required.

Multimedia Elements

Granularity can involve the inclusion of multimedia elements like images, videos, and interactive components. These elements can be independently manipulated and accessed, providing a more detailed and engaging user experience.

Metadata

Information about the content, such as tags, categories, and keywords, contributes to granularity. This metadata helps in organizing and categorizing content, making it easier for users to discover and navigate through digital publications.

Responsive Design

Granularity is essential in designing responsive layouts for different devices and screen sizes. Content may be adapted and restructured to suit the specific requirements of various platforms, ensuring a consistent and optimal user experience.

User Interactivity

Granularity enables interactive features, such as hyperlinks, pop-ups, or tooltips, allowing users to explore additional details or related content with a click or tap.

Adaptive Content

Granular content can be adapted to suit different user preferences, such as language, reading level, or topic of interest. This adaptability enhances the user experience and makes digital publications more accessible.

Overall, information granularity in digital publishing provides publishers with the flexibility to customize the presentation of content, cater to diverse audience preferences, and enhance the overall user experience. It plays a crucial role in the effective communication of information in the digital realm.

“What are smart documents?”

A smart document is more than a “wall of text” (and images). A smart document contains structural information that allows software to access, manipulate and extend its elements.

Smart document features in LOOPS include:

3. Translation

“What is machine translation?”

Machine translation refers to the use of software to automatically translate text or speech from one language to another. The goal of machine translation is to enable communication between people who speak different languages by automatically generating accurate and coherent translations.

The most recent and powerful approach to machine translation is Neural Machine Translation (NMT). NMT uses artificial neural networks, particularly recurrent neural networks (RNNs) or transformer models. These models learn to map input sentences in one language to output sentences in another. NMT has achieved significant success and is known for its ability to capture context and produce more fluent translations.

“How good is machine machine translation in 2024?”

While machine translation systems have made considerable progress, achieving human-level translation accuracy remains a challenging task due to the complexities of language, cultural nuances, and the inherent ambiguity of certain expressions. However, for some industries, topics and language pairs, it is definitely possible to publish machine-translated content without any post-editing by a human editor.

“What is “translation-friendly writing?””

Translation-friendly writing refers to the practice of creating content in a way that makes it easier to translate into other languages while maintaining its accuracy, clarity, and effectiveness. Principles and techniques for writing translation-friendly content include clarity, simplicity, consistency and conciseness.

“Translation tiers”

Please note that the following is not a generally accepted and used classification, but a simplified model of content translation.

Tier 1 – human translation

Tier 1 expert human translation refers to a translation process where a document or document set is translated in full by a human translator to another language. Variations within this tier would include…

While full human translation by a professional translator usually produces in the highest quality, it also entails the highest costs, especially if the translations also need to be reviewed.

Tier 2 – post-edited machine translation

Tier 2 – post-edited machine translation refers to a translation process where a document is translated using a neural machine translation engine, and a human translator or reviewer will review and edit this machine translation as necessary before publishing. This process is called translation post-editing.

Tier 2 translations are more cost-effective than tier 1, as the basic translation work is done automatically, and when a high-quality machine translation engine is used, the majority of translation units (sentences) will require little or no editing.

Tier 3 – user-side machine translation

Tier 3 – user-side machine translation refers to a translation process where an end user will initiate machine translation of the currently displayed document (usually an HTML document rendered by a web browser) using a neural machine translation engine. The machine translation will then replace the original document with the unedited (”raw”) machine translation.

Tier 3 translations are the most cost-effective approach because the translations are essentially free. In other words: the cost of the machine translation is covered by an agreement between the browser vendor and the machine translation engine provider. However, as there is no human subject matter expert or reviewer involved, errors and ambiguities are more likely.

4. Accessibility

“Why is accessibility relevant?”

Product literature accessibility is relevant for several important reasons:

Inclusivity

Accessibility ensures that everyone, including people with disabilities, can access and use websites, removing barriers that might otherwise prevent individuals from fully engaging with digital content.

Many countries have laws and regulations that require user-facing sources such as websites, support databases and other published product information to be accessible to people with disabilities. Failure to comply with such laws and regulations on accessibility can result in legal consequences and penalties.

Improved user experience

Accessibility features often improve the overall user experience for everyone, not just people with disabilities. For example, closed captioning on videos benefits not only the hearing impaired, but also users in noisy environments who can’t hear the audio.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engines increasingly consider accessibility as a ranking factor. Websites that are accessible are more likely to be indexed and rank higher in search results, contributing to increased visibility and traffic.

Technological advances

As technology evolves, new devices and platforms emerge. Ensuring accessibility from the start can help future-proof your site and make it compatible with a variety of current and emerging technologies.

Brand Reputation

A commitment to accessibility can enhance your brand reputation. People value organisations that prioritise inclusivity and take steps to make their products and services accessible to everyone.

Financial benefits

Accessible product information can help increase sales and conversions. When product manuals and support content are user-friendly for a diverse audience, it can lead to more satisfied customers and repeat business.

“What disabilities should be considered when creating accessible product literature?”

Cognitive Disabilities

Cognitive disabilities refer to conditions that affect cognitive functions such as memory, attention, problem-solving, and comprehension. Examples include dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and intellectual disabilities.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 15 % of the world’s population lives with some form of cognitive disability.

Sensory Disabilities

Sensory disabilities involve impairments in one or more of the senses, including sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Common examples are blindness, deafness, and tactile sensitivities.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.2 billion people globally have vision impairment or blindness, and over 5 % of the world’s population (466 million people) has disabling hearing loss.

Motor Disabilities

Motor disabilities affect a person’s physical movement or coordination. Conditions such as paralysis, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy fall under this category.

The prevalence of motor disabilities varies, but according to the World Health Organization, around 15 % of the world’s population experiences some form of disability, and a significant portion of this includes motor disabilities.

“How many potential users of our products and product information are affected by disabilities?”

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 16 % of the global population (1.3 billion people) has some form of disability.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 26 % of adults in the country have some type of disability.

According to the World Bank, people with disabilities are often more likely to experience poverty and face barriers to education and employment.

World Health Organization Disability Fact sheet

“How can your semantic publishing solution(s) save us money?”

Put shortly: Using a modern workflow for publishing product literature will save brands money by reducing or eliminating all kinds of transformation processes:

5. Artificial Intelligence

“How and where does artificial intelligence come into play?”

Popular large language models can be accessed either via a public web interface or using APIs. If you want to use artificial intelligence to create, modify, extend or translate product literature, you can use both approaches. Markdown-formatted content can simply be pasted into the frontends of popular LLMs for extending and polishing content. We also offer content transformation using LLMs as part of our editor.

Appendix: General terminology

Product literature

Product literature usually refers to printed or digital materials that provide information about a particular product. This can include brochures, user manuals, spec sheets, datasheets, product catalogs, and other documents that detail the features, specifications, usage instructions, and benefits of the product. Product literature is used for marketing and informational purposes to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions and to assist them in using the product effectively. It may also include technical information for those involved in product development, distribution, or maintenance. Product literature is usually, but not always available on or linked to product web pages on manufacturer or distributor sites.

Semantic HTML

Semantic HTML refers to the use of HTML elements to convey the meaning or structure of the content they enclose, rather than just dictating its appearance. In other words, properly used semantic HTML tags describe the purpose or role of the content they are assigned to. Semantic HTML improves the readability and maintainability of the code and provides benefits for accessibility, search engine optimization (SEO), and interoperability with other web technologies. Screen readers, search engine crawlers, and other tools can better “understand” the structure and meaning of the content when semantic HTML is used, leading to improved user experiences and better search engine rankings.

↻ 2024-07-06