RE: Of myth and reality

Subject: RE: Of myth and reality
From: "David Knopf" <david -at- knopf -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 14:17:52 -0700


SteveFJong -at- aol -dot- com wrote:

| 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."

But they *will* get that granular. If they need to vary the content at a
fine level of granularity, they will end up doing it one way or another.
The only question is whether it's better/easier/more efficient for them
to do so in a single source or a multi-source environment.


| 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.

Why not? If the content requires it, you'll be writing two different
text blocks in the multi-source environment. Why does it not count if
you do this a single source environment?


| (If you can thread together pedagogical material, procedure,
| and reference material into a single block, you're a better
| writer than I am 8^)

Why would you try to do this? Pedagogical, procedural, and reference
material often go in separate documents, never mind about separate text
blocks. I don't see a connection to single sourcing here.


| 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.

What is the lesson here? By your own description, VAX DOCUMENT was "not
up to the task," and the company overall used the "wrong
implementation." Might the chance of success been higher with the right
implementation using tools that were up to the task?

If your theory is that a poor implementation using inadequate tools is
likely to lead to failure, I agree, but I think that applies equally to
a single source or multi-source project.


| 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.

Yes, it matters how much content there is in total. If you are a lone
writer producing a 40-page document about a piece of game software, I
think you can rule out single sourcing a priori. I also agree that
enterprises producing larger libraries often reap the greatest rewards
from single source workflows.

I don't agree, though, that it's not a good idea for small
companies--depending, perhaps, on how small "small" is. Writers working
on documents of a few hundred pages who need to deliver in multiple
media, for multiple audiences, or for multiple product variants have
certainly benefited from single sourcing.

Regards,

David Knopf / Knopf Online / San Francisco, CA
mailto:david -at- knopf -dot- com / http://www.knopf.com

Consulting & Training on FrameMaker & WebWorks Publisher
Consulting & Training on RoboHelp
WebWorks Publisher Certified
Member, JavaHelp 2.0 Expert Group
Moderator, HATT & wwp-users





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RE: Of myth and reality: From: SteveFJong

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