RE: craft vs. science

Subject: RE: craft vs. science
From: Richard Lippincott <richard -dot- lippincott -at- ae -dot- ge -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 15:59:06 -0400

I think I see what Phil is getting at, and it differs a little bit from what
Sean is saying below. Sean addressed concerns that most all of us deal with
in technical communication, but in his examples Sean seems to be looking
more at the form, not the function. Section numbers, lots of numbered lists,
TOC, IX and porting to RoboHelp are a big part of our job...but nowhere in
that did Sean mention "actually getting the procedure and the data correct."
If I understand Sean's comment correctly, he seems to be focused on
usability, which many of us are.

But I don't think Phil was referring to usability so much as documentation
QA testing, when he mentioned the quality control aspect: a QA review that
comes back and says "It's pretty, but it doesn't work." Phil could well be
thinking of this, because his work has undergone that type of review. I
oughta know, I'm the one that reviewed it. (Fortunately, Phil's stuff always
came out of the reviews very well.)

Usability and QA testing are two sides of the same coin, but QA testing
often is overlooked as the tail of that coin.

--Rick Lippincott
Saugus, MA

P.S. And I'm not saying that about Phil's work just because he's bigger than

> I'd say, there's an art, if not a craft, to the science of technical
> writing. If you disagree, try writing a 600-page software manual, using
> section numbers, lots of numbered lists, TOC, IX, in MS Word, and then
> port it to online help via RoboHelp . . . you'll see that craftiness and
> workarounds and intelligent application of your skills become a
> necessity.

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