Re: Of myth and reality

Subject: Re: Of myth and reality
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 21:07:54 -0700

Bill Swallow wrote:

[cross-posted to several other mailing lists]

Am I alone here, or was anyone else really taken aback by the
July/August 2002 Intercom article "Differentiating Online Help from
Printed Documentation"?

I *KNOW* single-sourcing isn't a myth, as I've done it and know many
others who do it with great success. I guess I'm just amazed that such
misinformation would get past the editors of the magazine and become
published word, especially given the STC now has a brand new
single-sourcing SIG.

The article is full of sweeping generalizations and misinformation. It
mentions "myths", yet counters them with very weak evidence and,
ironically, more information stemming from age-old misinformation.

To go into detail in this e-mail would result in a passage longer than
the original article. If you get Intercom and have read the article,
please feel free to comment. I don't think I am alone in thinking that
this article needs to be addressed very quickly before more
misinformation is communicated through the industry.

I haven't read the article, since I'm not an STC member. However, from your description, the article sounds as though it simply restates the old orthodoxy that writing for print and writing for on-line are different. No surprise, really, that this adage is still being bandied about. More than one tech-writing program is structured around it, and there must be hundreds - if not thousands - who still hold to it.

When I first heard the idea six years ago, I looked at it as a challenge. You may have heard that Isaac Asimov, told that a science fiction mystery was impossible, because the writer could always invent a gadget to solve the mystery, set out to disprove the contention? I felt the same about this claim, and (like Bill) have more or less solved it to my satisfaction.As a result, I really can't work up too much concern when I hear that the old idea hasn't died yet.

Admittedly, the idea represents outmoded thinking. Still, why worry about it? It's only one opinion.

Nor do I think it does any lasting harm.The pressures of deadlines means that working writers will abandon it when necessary.And if they don't, then that means more work for those who will.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"They had taught me about power and the abuse of power. Evil would always come to me disguised in systems and dignified by law."
-Pat Conroy, "The Lords of Discipline"

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