RE: Of myth and reality

Subject: RE: Of myth and reality
From: SteveFJong -at- aol -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 13:06:31 EDT

[Never argue from digest mode!]

Sean, you answer to my granularity question was "as granular as you want it
to be," which is, I think, imprecise; you probably mean "as granular as you
need it to be." I'm sure you know how to get to the phrase level, as do I, at
least in FrameMaker. My concern, based on watching working writers confront
this issue, is that their answer is, "I don't want to be that granular." As
the effort to maintain a single source rises, compliance falls. (I'm not
kidding about the MEGO effect...) Don't make too many assumptions about me--I
was the one pushing for single-sourcing!

As for context, you're on the dock yourself. Multi-source documents solve the
context problem by having, well, multiple sources. Single-source documents
need another solution--writing two different text blocks doesn't count. (If
you can thread together pedagogical material, procedure, and reference
material into a single block, you're a better writer than I am 8^)

As for VAX DOCUMENT, I can assume no credit or blame. I'm not talking about
my personal attempt to single-source; I'm talking about the entire
corporation's multiyear effort to find economies between technical writers
and instructional designers. While the corporate group was using DOCUMENT, we
were off by ourselves, using Interleaf and watching the flames shoot up. (I
think they're still wetting down the ashes 8^( It wasn't the wrong approach,
it was the wrong implementation. For instance, tag definition was restricted
to corporate template designers--you can see how that would put a crimp in
our style. (I'll value your new approaches if you'll value my experience 8^)

I see you quoted a figure of 40% content reuse as the point where
single-sourcing becomes cost-effective. I can live with that, but doesn't it
matter how much content there is in total? Trying to single-source at a small
company with one product would hardly be the Platonic ideal, but the bigger
the library, the more worthwhile sharing or single-sourcing becomes.

It's true I have been referring to a print/WinHelp project. I'd be interested
to read your views on how changing the display engine changes the audience's
information needs...

Assuming you are at peace with granularity and context issues, I can see how
XML (at least--you're not committing to a specific solution) could be made to
work. It would be interesting to see a small sample.

-- Steve

Steven Jong--"Typo? What tpyo?"
mailto:SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- com -dot- nospam
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