Re: Tooltime (was XML...)

Subject: Re: Tooltime (was XML...)
From: "Simon North" <north -at- synopsys -dot- COM>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 10:48:43 -0800

> We cheer a baseball player, not because of the bat he uses, but how he
> uses that bat.
> We cheer a musician, not because of the guitar he uses, but how he
> uses that guitar.

All true, but we do applaud the virtuoso who can wield the tool with a skill and expertise that
surpasses that of the average.

> Tools don't write documents, people do. No tool in the universe can
> make up for a lack of intellectual ability. That is, if you hand a
> moron a powerful tool, they will just use it to produce garbage
> faster.

Other than the fact that XML is NOT a tool, it is a technology ... and an enabling technology ... I'm
more or less on your side Andrew, with some reservations.

Does knowing PostScript make me a better writer? No, not really. Does knowing XML make me a
better writer? No, not really. However, I'm not just a writer. I'm a technical writer working in an
industrial environment where production and delivery are part of my remit.

One of my roles as technical writer, if not my one role as technical writer, is to provide the user
with the information she wants in the best way I can. This means that when I'm designing the
documentation, I have to consider all the possible ways that the user might benefit from having
access to that information, be it fully integrated into the software, through online help applications,
through electronic documents, or through paper documents. My knowledge of these technologies,
and my awareness of the tools (and their limitations in implementing these technologies) enable
me to make well-informed choices and to implement them.

XML is enabling me to create a far tighter integration between the documentation and the
software; in future it will allow me to make significant contributions to improving the usability of
software by utilising a range of media and methods of presenting user information and, yes, I am
working towards "common source" (not single source).

As with everything, you mileage varies of course ... we like our writers to be at least passingly
familiar with C, C++, possibly Fortran, HDL, VHDL, RTL, Perl, ... and any others are a bonus.

I, too, get irritated by people who place undue emphasis on tool ability. Yes, writing does come
first ... but it isn't the whole picture. By the same token, I get thoroughly cheesed off with so-called
technical writers who couldn't find their way round a circuit diagram without a guide dog and white
stick, and would believe you if you told them that interpreted languages are to compiled languages
as German is to English.

Simon North

And for an honest attribute cry out ...
Pericles IV-iii

I might say 'element,' but the word is over-worn.
Twelfth Night, III-i

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Tooltime (was XML...): From: Andrew Plato

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