Re: Structure vs Substance?

Subject: Re: Structure vs Substance?
From: edunn -at- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>, TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 16:54:30 -0400

AP Wrote: "Without content, organization is useless. A building with no
occupants is a waste of space."
I respond: Without organization, content is useless. Without a building no
company exists.
Alternatively: What is the first thing any company needs before it begins
production? A building.

I think what Dan et al are looking for is for the final admission that both
structure and content coexist. Each is as equally useless in the absence of the
Dan, I believe, eloquently brought up the point that this is not an either or
situation as is often (neverendingly) debated on this list.

Why is it that every thread about structure/procedure invariably stirs up a "Get
your head out of your ass and work!" response? Perhaps the techwhirler asking
the question has content coming out of their wazoo and is trying to organize it.
Even more shocking news: In a large department there are people who have no clue
about the product or the documentation software. I know of what I speak. We have
people dedicated to the SGML/XML implementation and people dedicated to an
interactive manual output. Neither have a clue, nor do they care, about the
technical accuracy of the content or the writing. Editors in our department
exist purely for structure and content (language and grammar), technical
accuracy is verified by separate technical editors.

So the "GET TO WORK DAMN IT" responses get up the collective noses of a great
number of the people on this list. While there are those who do get too involved
in an aspect of a project when it is not their concern, to dismiss those whose
legitimate concern and responsibility is for the structure and efficiency of
their department or project is dishonest and unprofessional. Either that or it
reflects a complete lack of knowledge and aptitude in working with large scale,
far reaching, projects or departments.

A single writer obsessed with Frame or Word, or SGML is wasting valuable time at
the expense of the product if they are approaching deadline and what they are
fusing about is not critical. But without a grounding in the required tools and
structure they can not begin. In a larger organization or even a single writer
as a contractor interested in moving upwards, time and resources MUST, and
without exception, be spent investigating and improving process and structure.
This is not and never was an all or nothing debate. But, like it or not (and you
only seem like a modern Luddite arguing otherwise), there is room and need for
the views on both sides of this so called "discussion". Our department, for
example, could never control 15,000 pages of overhaul manuals and 5,000 pages of
IPC and 3,000 pages of inspection procedures without a heavily developed process
and structure.

Even AP with all his put downs and vitriol against process and structure,
whether he agrees or not, has been developing his own processes and structures
his entire professional career. Unfortunately, a couple of whiner and lazy
writer comments and those times he does make sense or have something valuable to
contribute begin to fade in the noise to signal ratio. Even the diplomatic
approach of treating other posters as equally intelligent collegues might gain a
lot of understanding.

If discussion is to be truly enlightening one must try to understand and grasp
at the truths held in opposing view. Except perhaps for a few of the 10
commandments, and even then, there are rarely situations where answers are black
and white. Calling other debaters whiners or complainers, diverting the argument
to areas not intended as a thrust of the argument, or wrapping your argument in
unattackable terms and jargon (particularly since the definition is so vague and
the validity of the term being employed in the discussion so tenuous) speaks
more of the weakness of the argument. Some of what goes on on this list reminds
me of the pathetically intellectually devoid discussions surrounding the
communist/socialist discussions of the sixties. The point of any discussion was
to drown the opponent in meaningless quotes and buzzwords or with unattackable
truisms that would then be stretched to cover the debaters entire position. (any
Quebecers out there watch the show "Virginie"?)

Let's all discuss viewpoints instead of attack them.

Eric Dunn

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