V3 Technical Editors Project FAQ

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HL7 V3 Technical Editing Project

What is the reason for undertaking this project?

There is a perception in the marketplace that the standard is too difficult to implement. Part of this perception results from issues with the documentation. These issues include both methodological problems (gaps or inconsistencies in what is written) and accessibility problems (documents and document sections written by different people at different times can be hard to read, sometimes as a result of divergent assumptions and objectives).

The immediate goal of the TE project is to address the well-known errors of omission, commission, consistency, etc. in the existing V3 documentation. The project's overarching goal is to help the organization probe deeper to clarify specific questions of the form “Is the problem with the documentation or with the underlying methodology?” It is only by having complete, accurate, and consistent documentation that this question can be effectively answered.


What is the project team charged with doing?

The team is charged with "editing the existing set of Version 3 documentation, and all subsequent iterations released to ballot during the contract period, to ensure consistency and coherency." (from the RFP, July 2006)


Who is involved?

Board of Directors: Sponsor project

Project Technical Lead (John Quinn): Provide direction from the Board of Directors

Advisory Group, including representatives from each steering division: Provide Stakeholder Feedback to the team

Ockham (the editing team): Plan and perform work


What are the Advisory Group responsibilities?

The Advisory Group is a consumer advocate organization. We need the members to

>Learn enough about the project to answer simple questions

>Listen to complex questions and concerns and bring them back to the editing team

>Attend a scheduled meeting once a month to report on questions and concerns

>Contact the editing team ad hoc for urgent issues

>Be willing to have their name published to provide these services

We expect the time commitment to run 2-3 hours per month. Significant issues should be conveyed to the team, not engaged by the Advisory Group.


Who is Ockham?

Ockham Information Services LLC is Jay Lyle and Sarah Ryan. We have retained the advisory services of Harold Solbrig and Abdul-Malik Shakir.


What does the team plan to do?

Because the documents are owned by their authoring committees, the editing team will not change the documents themselves, but rather make recommendations. We will work with the individual committees to work out the details, but there is a draft process document posted here.


What has the team found so far?

In a pilot effort this past spring, we found two kinds of issues. For methodological issues, it's clear that the authoring technical committees understand them; bandwidth is the problem. Accessibility problems arise from inconsistent author assumptions about audience and objectives, gaps and overlaps in boundaries between committees, and readers' ability to navigate the documentation as a whole.


Our committee already knows there are problems; how is this going to help?

For methodological issues, simply having an external pair of eyes can help clarify the problem, and having a maintained list will provide visibility and support prioritization.

For accessibility issues, we will provide emendations that the committee may accept, reject, or modify, and we will make recommendations regarding document structure and principles that will help decide whether to accept an emendation.


What is the approach?

Start at the core and work outward

Make document assumptions and objectives explicit

Edit for prose clarity; escalate methodological issues to the authoring committee

Clarify document boundaries to minimize repetition


What's not in scope?

Authoring new material

Solving substantive, modeling, and methodological issues

Dictating anything


Why isn't the project authoring anything?

It is very difficult for writers effectively to edit material that they have written. The assumptions authors make in composition that cause semantic gaps for readers are likely to remain assumptions when they edit. Having an editor who did not participate in the composition is critical to identify these gaps.


Why can't a technical writer do this?

This is as much a coordination and project management effort as text editing. The key issue is to identify the difference between writing problems and content problems: this must be addressed with the TCs. In addition, the team is looking holistically at V3 documentation to help enhance both completeness and conceptual and formal integrity. In order to accomplish all this, the project team is not just emending sentences: it is also producing editorial principles to guide the work with the collaboration of the TCs, a user model to guide the creation of document objectives and identify gaps in composition, a process involving retained experts to advise the team and review the work, and processes to manage the project across multiple TCs and other interested parties.


What's the scope?

Editing all V3 documentation would be an operational task, not a project task: like painting a bridge, it would never be finished before it had to recommence. We have defined scope for this effort as the core artifacts: the RIM, Vocabulary, and Data types.


What has been done so far?

Ockham has proposed a process, a user model, and a document map.

Initial reviews of the V3 Guide and SPL Implementation Guide informed these work products.

The RIM backbone classes are edited; substantive issues are on the agenda for August Harmonization.

Edits to the Data Types Abstract Spec (2) were provided via the ballot process.


What's left?

We plan to complete the RIM specialization classes, RIM introductory material, and Vocabulary documents. The RIM introduction and vocabulary documentation has not yet been drafted: we will be working closely with the TCs to coordinate this work.


Where can I go for more information?

Project documents will be posted on the HL7 Wiki for review. Ockham can be contacted at the e-mail addresses below. The Advisory Group can answer easy questions and bring harder questions to the team.


My TC is up next: what can I expect?

We'll meet to explain (and modify, if appropriate) our proposed user model and process. Then we'll need to prioritize the work, identify a point of contact, and collaboratively schedule our work activities.


How can I help?

Stay informed

If you have concerns, let us know

Review and preadopt the user model


Thank you for your interest

jlyle@ockhamis.com sryan@ockhamis.com