RE: Of myth and reality

Subject: RE: Of myth and reality
From: "Bill Swallow" <wswallow -at- nycap -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 22:46:18 -0400

::: When someone says there's a 90% overlap without specifying
::: units, I grow
::: skeptical. It's easy to take up 100KB with a single screen
::: shot, but 100KB of
::: text is more labor-intensive. Is the 90% overlap one of
::: words, or simply
::: bytes?

Where is bytes coming from? You don't compare bytes when
single-sourcing... It's a content thing. Do you count bytes when
authoring a stand-alone project?

::: My figure of 30% overlap was for a real project, and indeed
::: there aren't any
::: graphics in the Help. Extremely terse, text-only Help seems
::: to be both the
::: prevailing sentiment on TECHWR-L and the current practice
::: in Windows Help.
::: (This difference in presentation is one of the assumptions
::: of the author of
::: the original Intercom article that triggered this
::: discussion.) However,
::: perhaps you misread my example as print/HTML Help, so I'll
::: ignore these points.

To each their own. As soon as you lay down advice as law, you run into
trouble. The problem with your arguments is that you are taking
everything literally, which is the wrong approach, because nothing is
scientifically accurate within the tech writing discipline as a whole.
In your case with graphics, most people beat the "graphics in Help are
bad" because that drum was beaten so loudly in the late 1990's that many
took the advice as law. Once you take advice as law, you fail. As a
technical writer, you need to analyze need and requirement and make
decisions accordingly. This goes for whether or not to include graphics
in Help as well as when it's right to single-source or not. Every case
is unique and should be addressed as such. That is why you're not
getting the answers you're trolling for... There is no one correct

::: Are you saying you do not recognize the similarity between
::: compiling source
::: code and single-sourcing information using XML? (If your
::: "solution" doesn't
::: involve XML, I apologize; you haven't been specific.)

In David's defense, neither have you. There is very little similarity
between compiling source code and single-sourcing. Yes, you have an
"engine" constructing the deliverable, but you don't (I hope) have a
conditional approach to application development. If you do, you must
either pay your QA department too well or must work with a bunch of post
office dropouts. *lol*

::: I agree. Maybe a sample page in MIF would help?

I still don't understand what you're looking for. The MIF will only tell
you the construction of the file. It will not explain how it's used, why
it's used, and for what purpose it's used.

Single-sourcing is only part science. A lot of brain power needs to go
into the workflow in the beginning before anything can be implemented.
That is why there is no Holy Grail, one-size-fits-all single-sourcing
solution... There are way too many factors influencing the design of the
system. What works for one situation won't necessarily work for any
other situation. It's the result of marrying process with creativity...
You can nail it down for your own situation, but the chances of the
solution being 100% portable to another situation are extremely slim.

Information Design & Development Professional
tel/fax: 518.371.1867 wswallow -at- nycap -dot- rr -dot- com
List Owner: HATT, WWP-Users, InFrame
Co-Moderator: SingleSourcing-Mgmt
WebWorks Wizard Editor of InFrame Magazine

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RE: Of myth and reality: From: SteveFJong

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