DFDs & assumptions (was End of Tech Writing)

Subject: DFDs & assumptions (was End of Tech Writing)
From: mearro -at- msn -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004 16:00:36 -0600

A while back, I took some systems analysis classes. It's been about 8-9
years but I can clearly recall working with data flow diagrams - I thought
they were so cool. I remember burbling on & on about it to a friend as I
diagrammed a common task. I also remember the glazed look in her eyes when
I finally stopped for a breath.

This whole conversation about task analysis, DFDs & the end of technical
writing has reminded me of that moment. Perhaps the only difference is
that I was showing something of no interest to my audience rather than
assuming that what worked for me would work for everyone.

In the same way that it's ridiculous for any of us to say Tool X is the
best choice for every job, it's equally unrealistic to say that every tech
writer should be using DFDs in their work. Or that someone is remiss in
not spending significant time in task analysis. First off, not all
technical writers are even writing about tasks. Technical writing
encompasses many different types of writing - proposals, specs, RFP
responses, presentations, requirements, reference materials, etc.
Secondly, many of us simply do not have the time to create a DFD or to do
extensive task analysis. Tony Markos mentions spending 6 days on a DFD -
that's closer to the amount of time that I can spend on one project or in
creating a Help system. A DFD (although a useful tool) does me no good if
I miss the deadline.

There are a lot of thoughtful & informative messages on this board. The
messages that I find most helpful are those that either provide a solution
to a problem or where someone recommends something (tool, methodology,
technology, etc.), provides a brief definition, describes how it could be
used, and provides references for further information.


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