Re: ISO/IEC 18019 User Documentation Standard - Call for reviewers

Subject: Re: ISO/IEC 18019 User Documentation Standard - Call for reviewers
From: SusanH -at- cardsetc -dot- com -dot- au
To: Daniel Dresner <daniel -dot- dresner -at- ncc -dot- co -dot- uk>
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 13:06:14 +1100

Hello Daniel,
Thank you for your posting to the techwriters list. I was very interested
in following up your mail on a proposed user documentation standard so
* downloaded the pdf
* printed the TOC and scrutinised it carefully
* read selected sections online (from all chapters)
* read continuous chapters: Chapter 4, 5

I read the title of the standard: Guidelines for the design and preparation
of software user documentation. It was not until I started to study the TOC
that I checked the title again... "guidelines".

Whilst I can see the amount of effort that your committee has expended to
deliver such an extensive document, I am astounded at what you have
included in the "standard". The guidelines and even the process content
cover so many areas that
1. Do not have universally adopted approaches
2. Are very much relative to current approaches to and insights about user
3. Are inappropriate for non-European cultures... for example the
guidelines on Grammar ask "Are tenses used correctly?" and "Are
instructions in the imperative?", neither or which are appropriate for
anyone developing Japanese user documentation.

Why would a standards organisation seek to codify processes or guidelines
that are presented much more efficiently in the documentation development
literature? And don't say that no one reads the literature because if that
is a problem), the same people who do not read the literature WILL NOT READ

I intended to approach the reading of the standard from the point of view
of specific analysis with specific feedback but I just feel the scope of
the standard makes my review tasks irrelevant. If the whole standard/a
section/appendix is designated as guidelines, its very position within an
international standard implies some greater authority.

Let me say that, today, I would probably disagree with very few of the
suggested practices but that is not the point. If I said our documentation
conformed to the ISO/IEC 18019 standard, what would that mean? How is a
customer to decide which parts of the standard should be required
conformance and which are recommended conformance? If the standard is so
completely a set of guidelines, why would one ever speak of conforming to
the standard. If conformance is never a question for the documentation
developer, why is there a standard?

Susan Harkus

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