RE: Using the STOP methodology

Subject: RE: Using the STOP methodology
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <SGallagher -at- akonix -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 14:22:01 -0700

I don't disagree with anything you say, Michael. I agree
that well formed linear documents are largely modular.

However, I do believe that modularization can foster a
certain amount of contrivance that linear documents
excape. In an effort to expand or shrink a topic to
take up just exactly a two-page spread, one is often
tempted, if not forced, into including or excluding some
information. We're not forced into making such decisions
in traditional linear docs. We write what must be written
without thought as to the length of the text.

Online documents, as well, foster a certain amount of
contrivance, but not as much as the modular document
model does. WinHelp format, for example, does not lend
itself to the way in which we transition from one topic
to another in the linear model. There is no need for
transition from one topic to another; rather we are
prohibited from writing those transitions because we
really don't know what transitions will occur. And
though I believe that a format such as WinHelp benefits
from the one-question-one-topic model, the issue of a
specific length that is present in the modular model
doesn't rear its ugly head.

HTML seems to me to be immune from the contrivances that
the modular model and the WinHelp format encourage. We
are free to write about a topic to whatever length the
topic demands, we may transition from one passage to
another within the page, and yet we have the opportunity
to chunk information into discrete topics and to hyperlink
where necessary to provide the reader with multiple paths
through the information. But when I say HTML, I mean the
"traditional" Web page paradigm rather than any of the
more esoteric HTML implementations such as WebHelp or
HTMLHelp. While I'm not really familiar with any of the
HTML help formats, I cannot but believe that they are
subject to the same contrivances that WinHelp fosters.

Perhaps HTML is the medium to which your combination
of linear and modular approaches is well suited.

I wish I still had a copy of that modular doc so you
could compare the two. I'd be interested in the outcome
of that exercise. Unfortunately, it's gone.

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- akonix -dot- com

Michael Hoffman said:
> A discussion on "sequential" versus "modular" would be in
> order here -- is
> it a false dichotomy? Traditional so-called "sequential"
> docs are largely
> modular -- witness the subsection headings and index entries
> to them.
> So-called "modular" documents are largely sequential.
> I advocate a combination of sequential and modular
> approaches...


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