Re: apologia pro vita sua (was Re: The Old Argument: FrameMa

Subject: Re: apologia pro vita sua (was Re: The Old Argument: FrameMa
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 13:42:03 -0500

Harry Hager wrote

> Please don't take offense with any of this

I'm not offended. I'm baffled. Why are people attacking things I didn't say?

> but for one that is so
> dogmatic in your statements about the skills needed or not needed by
> technical writer

I haven't talked about the skills needed by a technical writer. I have
talked about the things companies require technical writers to do. I have
said that companies should not require technical writers to do graphic
design, layout, DTP, and pre-prodiction work. As long as companies continue
to require these things, tech writers will need to know them. That doesn't
make it the right way to run a department.

> perhaps the whole issue of
> graphics, page design, and page layout is relatively unimportant to
> you. If this is your world, I understand why you might think that
> these skills are not important technical writing skills.

I said, in the very message to which you responded:

> To those who seemed to think that I was dismissing the importance of
> and layout, nothing could be further from the truth.

I'll say it again. Graphic design and layout are very important. They are
also very difficult to do well. They are too important and too difficult to
be left to a Jack of all trades. They are important enough to be left to

But let me say more on just how important I think they are. We now deliver
to several different media. Each media has it characteristic strengths and
weaknesses. Most of the tools designed to deliver documents to multiple
media only allow you to take a document designed for paper and output that
paper-oriented design to other media. What we really need is to design for
each media independently, basing our designs on the merits of the individual

In order to do this we have to separate content from synthesis and
presentation. We have to let professionals in each media design information
products for those media using the media-neutral content we provide them.

Separating content from synthesis and presentation is not a denial of the
importance of presentation. It is an affirmation of it. It we are to deliver
media appropriate design to multiple media (or multiple audiences) we have
to separate content from synthesis and presentation, and separate the task
of content creation from the tasks of synthesis and presentation.

I'm saying, fundamentally, that the single-craftsman, cottage industry model
of document production is inefficient, outdated, and produces inferior
quality. Debating what skill you need or do not need to work within the
cottage industry model is beside the point. It is the model itself that I am
calling into question.

We need a new model. New skills and new tools will be demanded to meet the
requirements of the new model.

Re: apologia pro vita sua (was Re: The Old Argument: FrameMa: From: Harry Hager

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