Real value (was implementing single-source)

Subject: Real value (was implementing single-source)
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 09:51:50 -0800 (PST)

"Dan Emory" <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com> wrote

> This combination of features is unique to XML, which is why its
> worldwide adoption is inevitable.

Dissention will not be tolerated.

Everytime I hear somebody tell me how something is "industry standard" or "a
universal requirement" my first reaction is to laugh. As if any one technology
or solution ever could (or should) get so much power. Its absurd. Worldwide
adoption of XML is not inevitable.

People, be realistic. Your company (organization, team, mob, whatever) must be
successful at what it does. We all know, that profit is the result of revenue
minus expense. Duh. If a company is not profitable it deserves to (eventually)
go out of business. Hence Pets.com.

Infrastructure is an expense for companies. The cubicle you sit in, the
computer you use, the free pop you drink, the on-site day care where your
little monster spends his day - all overhead. The more overhead, the more it
cuts into profits. To be profitable companies must increase revenue and control
expense.

Infrastructure is important. But it must be realistic. At my firm, we spend a
lot of our infrastructure budget on networking and computer technologies.
These are items that will allow us to grow quickly and be nimble. We do not
waste money on lavish desks, absurd procedures, and unnecessary technologies.
For example, we do not own a copy of Oracle. Great database server - but we
don't need it. SQL Server works just fine and is cheaper. Why spend $19,000 on
something that is, granted a better technology, but unnecessary . Windows 2000
Server is arguably better than WinNT 4.0. But our NT servers are working just
fine for the time. No need to blow $12,000 on 2000 server.

Technical writers are hired to write documents. You're not hired to
reconfigure networks or program software. You're sole purpose in the firm is to
produce documentation (in some form) in a manner that supports profitability
(or success).

How can you do this, if 98% of your time is lost to developing, building, and
supporting some complex, intricate, database to manage information?
Furthermore, once this is built, if all you're doing is plugging text into
holes, how can you call yourself a writer? I didn't become a writer so I could
plug pre-chewed text into little holes that some other guy mandated me to use.

Infrastructure must have a tangible and very real value to a firm. If
implementation of some process will not yield discernable and real value - it
should not be implemented.

So before everybody falls in love with XML and obsesses over using it - do a
cost benefit analysis. Determine the REAL value you will get from this system.
If there is REAL value then do it. If you cannot discern real value, then
you're wasting the company's money and time. You're better off to just WRITE
and do your job.

And when I say REAL value I mean time and money. A good system must create true
efficiency and save time and money over other procedures. To me, this is hard
to prove. I can ram out 200+ page docs in weeks just writing them in Word or
Frame. The huge doc systems I've used almost ALWAYS bungled up my ability to
control the flow of information. Worse yet - I had to learn some esoteric UNIX
style command system. Which is great - but I'm a writer not a UNIX system
administrator.

When I write docs, I want control over the information. I have no problem
conforming to a style or layout - as long as it gives me some breathing room to
express ideas, concepts, and designs with at least SOME creativity. I'm sorry
but big, structured systems are not condusive to "breathing room". And most of
the time, there is some tyrannical dolt in charge of these systems who has no
tolerance for alternate visions.

I am not convinced that XML based systems are really the right direction for
most companies. I think the technology needs more maturation and needs to be
implemented in a manner that is more specific for documentation. I also think
existing technologies (Word, Frame etc.) work very well and provide writers an
ample set of tools to manage large documents.

Andrew Plato

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