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Bill Swallow wondered: <<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'll tell you in a couple weeks. The magazine always takes a bit longer to
<<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
I'll be able to comment more intelligently when I see the actual article, so
perhaps you're right that a dud slipped through the quality control. But
it's worth pointing out that _Intercom_ and other STC magazines have a
fairly remarkable degree of editorial independence. If an article appears,
it's because the editor(s) believe that it adds to the debate, even if it's
not the final word. Without having seen the article, I will point out that
much of single-sourcing _is_ a myth: to many people, this term means nothing
more than dumping the printed manual online and adding hyperlinks. I'm sure
you'd agree that this _isn't_ what pros mean when they discuss
single-sourcing, but perhaps that's a myth the author didn't address.
_Intercom_ in particular poses certain editorial challenges because it's not
a peer-reviewed journal, which means the full burden of whether or not to
publish lies on the editor. I've occasionally disagreed with an editorial
decision related to my own contributions (which I must point out reflects my
completely unbiased and immensely superior grasp of a higher objective
reality <gdr>), but on the whole, I've found their editorial judgment sound
where my own contributions are concerned. I also feel that not all articles
published in _Intercom_ are of equal quality or merit, but that's part of
the problem for trying to write for an audience that covers the rankest
amateurs, old pros, and everyone in between. You won't satisfy everyone all
<<The article is full of sweeping generalizations and misinformation.>>
As is much of the debate in favor of single-sourcing <g>--not that this
defends the author, I hasten to add. If the author made only the point that
you can't just dump printed material online and still succeed, then that
alone would justify publishing the article in my opinion.
<<I don't think I am alone in thinking that this article needs to be
addressed very quickly before more misinformation is communicated through
Are you volunteering to write the followup article, then? Advancement of the
state of knowledge in any field is always a process of debate and dialogue,
and as in science, the stronger argument eventually overcomes the weaker.
You've succeeded in single-sourcing, and I've generally been impressed by
your comments on techwr-l. Your approach and proof that the process works is
a story worth telling. Tell it well and your opinions will be the ones that
are remembered, while the other author will become a footnote to history.
You've thrown down the gauntlet; are you willing to take it up too?
--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is
noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience,
which is the bitterest."--Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478
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