Re: TECHWR-L: XML as Help Format

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L: XML as Help Format
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 14:17:41 -0700 (PDT)

"Chris Knight" wrote...

> Or perhaps the delay stems from marketing problems for the toolmakers.
> are genuine concerns here: millions of Word users expect all information
> document needs to be edited, displayed, and printed to be in one file.
> Microsoft marketing will be objecting that dependencies on external
> (DTDs, stylesheets) are too complex for users, and prone to problems
> one component or another gets deleted or scrambled. So they will have to
> care of these users and their more casual approach to documents.

Which is ultimately the problem with many of these advanced tools. They
require a learning curve and dependencies that are just too much for some
people to care about. Having everything in one file and using one
interface has its advantages.

> A more cynical view would be that using proprietary file formats allows
> vendors to shield their brilliant implementations (and their mistakes).
> But eventually, much of tech comms will be using XML.
> Count on it.

No, I wouldn't count on it. I would count on a lot of organizations
sticking with existing technologies like Word and Frame because they are
reliable, well-know, and inexpensive (in comparison to adopting new
stuff). You can't swing a bad style guide without hitting a tech writer
that knows these tools.

You must remember that the rest of the world does not care one tiny iota
about the formats used to produce documentation. They just want the
information to be correct. Thus, there isn't much financial incentive to
adopt new technologies for a service that can be completed with capability
using existing technologies.

Now, that is not to say there isn't room for improvement, and yes some
places will find value in adopting these new tools and methods. But
universal statements like - everybody will use XML - have no basis in the
realities of the marketplace.

Once upon a time people said everybody will be using Java - it didn't
happen. Doesn't mean Java isn't a good technology. Its just didn't fair
well in the market. Blame who you want for this. The fact is, it did not
take over programming as we know it.

The best technologies are not always the most popular or most widely
accepted. Buying into a technology that is not the most widely used has
inherent drawbacks. Unless your organization is willing to accept and deal
with those drawbacks - at all levels - then you should reconsider your

Yes, it is unfair, unjust, and emotionally wrenching when your beloved
tool or technology does not fair well in the marketplace. But, that's
life. The best do not always succeed. I don't like it any more than you,
but its the way it is.

You cannot analyze at the capabilities of a technology in a vacuum. You
have to be willing to analyze and accept the less tangible and less
marketing oriented issues like: Does this technology have a future? Is it
just the latest buzz? Is anybody big and important with a lot of money
using it? Does it extend well? Does it scale well? Can we ever find
another person to learn this? Is it expensive? What are the real costs?
Is it just stupid? Are we being swayed by zealots? Can we do our jobs the
"old way" correctly or are we just using this new technology to cover up
our fundamental incompetencies? And so forth.

Andrew Plato

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