RE: Who cares about ethics?

Subject: RE: Who cares about ethics?
From: David Handy <david -dot- handy -at- automsoft -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003 10:38:41 +0100

Keri Morgret wrote:

"I'm rewriting a manual that includes a lot of screenshots... When
I try to put the screenshot in my documentation, even cropped as closely to
the edges as I can, I need to shrink it to fit it to the page - and the text
is sometimes unreadable. I've taken to putting my screenshot into MS Paint,
selecting one pane, and "scooting" it over closer to the other pane... I
personally feel this is ethical - I'm not hiding any content, and I'm making
the documentation more usable to the end reader."

Keri, I agree. I do the same thing, regularly, for the same reasons. (Except
I use Photoshop.) Of the scores of screenshots in the manuals I take care
of, I'd say 15% have been cropped in some way so that the image is legible
on the printed page. (I insert images at 96 dpi, anything smaller is usually
pointless IMO.) As you say, I wouldn't hide any screenshot "content." 99% of
the time it's simply reducing gray space between groups of generously-spaced
input fields. There are judgment calls of course. I wouldn't change the
shape of a dialog box such that the user wouldn't recognize it. I haven't
yet had to omit content, but if I ever did, I'd add a prominent note that
the screenshot had been clipped.

Dawn Whitlock and Andrew Plato also wrote (I'm reading from the April 10
digest) about ethics in general... I don't read Intercomm but I agree with
Andrew's implication that one's ethical behavior shouldn't depend on how
many magazine articles one reads. Granted, Dawn seems to be pointing out
that this topic is hardly off the radar for tech writers. Surely the main
element of professional ethics for tech writers is - simple as it may sound
- to get the content right? Sometimes that's harder than it seems; sometimes
we're given impossible deadlines and/or not enough information; sometimes
the job mushrooms out of our control. But getting the content right has to
be Job #1.


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