Re: Online vs. print: two types of content

Subject: Re: Online vs. print: two types of content
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 12:40:47 -0400


I think you've hit a pretty good description of what I believe to be the case as

If the two different types of content are facts and structure, to successfully
single source the facts must be first identified and separated from all notion
of structure. Then, the structure needs to be identified for each desired

Perhaps the biggest failings of the simple-solution single-source is the
adoption of the simple structure (print) as the starting point. Perhaps if the
on-line structure was considered first, the printed documentation could easily
and successfully be single-sourced. Perhaps it's the difference between looking
at the on-line as a subset of the printed docs instead of looking at the printed
docs as a superset of the on-line docs.

But thinking about structure raises another question: Is structure one of the
'creative' tasks that has to be performed by a techwriter? Personally, I would
believe that in a well designed system the structure is a framework created by
the process and not created ad hoc by the writers. My approach to reuse has been
to identify the different structures before commencing. If creating 3 outputs, I
create a fourth structure that accommodates the three outputs in one. Then the
creation of the different outputs is a simple extraction of the correct parts.
Much as stated: <<you must understand right from the moment you begin building
the information that this structural information is necessary.>>

<<if the content is relatively easy to single-source, there are things that must
be part of the design process that go beyond simply the content.>>

And I think that you have hit on the reason so many are against single-sourcing
and why many projects fail. The failed projects only considered the content
angle and did not deeply analyse the required structures. I think the opponents
often find it difficult to recognize the structure as something that can be
segregated, analysed, and controlled apart from the content.

Eric L. Dunn

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