Re: Single Source: Yay, Nay, or TBD?

Subject: Re: Single Source: Yay, Nay, or TBD?
From: TechComm Dood <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 09:42:29 -0400

> <<For example, I don't like the idea of converting my hardcopy user
> guide into an identical online version.>>
> That's not SS; it's shovelware.

LOL! Shovelware! I love it! ;-)

> SS is about writing material that
> should be identical (e.g., the description of the contents of a field
> or the meaning of a checkbox) only once, then reusing it everywhere
> where that same information would be appropriate.

Well, no, not exactly. That's a very basic view, but you can indeed
have custom content in each deliverable from the same source. As a
rudimentary example, you can use conditions in FM to treat the same
basic content very differently.

> Unquestionably. Among other things, online help is always contextual
> (the right help appears for each specific context), whereas printed
> matter is noncontextual (i.e., you have to seek out relevant topics
> rather than having them automatically presented to you).

Well, I'd say that's true for context-sensitive help, but not all help
is always contextual.

> Another thing to keep in mind: Both online help and printed docs are
> inherently unsatisfactory because they take the user out of their task
> (getting something accomplished), and replace that with a new task
> (finding information).

I don't agree with that. Even embedded assistance takes the user out
of their task. What takes people out of task mode and into finding
information mode is not necessarily the act of picking up a book or
going to a Help window, but the need for explanation and understanding
in general. Even with embedded assistance, the user needs to break
from task mode to learn and then return to task mode, and there is
good chance that reading embedded assistance will sometimes lead to
further fact finding on part of the user before returning to the task.
Embedded assistance is one less step removed from the task, but it's
still removed.

> There's a growing move towards embedded
> assistance which provides as much help as possible directly within the
> interface so that users leave their actual task as rarely as possible.
> This is difficult to single-source in the traditional sense, because it
> ties more tightly to the interface, but it can still be done with
> thought and care.

[buzzword alert!]

Well, if you use XML, you can indeed single source the information and
use include statements to pull resource strings from the managed
source into the UI on build... an elaborate but possible solution.


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Single Source: Yay, Nay, or TBD?: From: Geoff Hart

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