RE: Living documents?

Subject: RE: Living documents?
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "James Jones" <doc-x -at- earthlink -dot- net>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 08:43:15 -0400

Jim Jones said...

> Is 'living' document a regular way of describing them? Anyway, I like
> nomenclature and I'd guess that an immutable document, one that is not
> modified too much over the years, would still be a 'living' document.
> dead
> one I guess would be one that is no longer used for any kind of

When I think of a "living" document, I don't think of a piece of
technical communication, no matter how often it's revised or updated. I
think of something like the U.S. Constitution, and I've always thought
of that as "living" because it is re-interpreted by every generation to
have slightly varying shades of meaning, and as new laws are passed and
challenged and new judicial philosophers are appointed to the Supreme
Court over the years, the scope and the limit of its words "breathe" in
and out.

A technical document, IMO, should never be "living" in that sense. If it
is well-written, it should not be "open to interpretation" by its
audience. If there's ambiguity or obfuscation, that should be edited out
in a revision to provide a clearer and more focused document.

Laws that govern a society need to be "living" and open to
interpretation to prevent a rise of totalitarianism or a descent into
anarchy; instructions for how to disarm an atomic weapon or repair the
engine of a passenger jet need to be absolutely devoid of any ambiguity
or room for interpretation. I don't know if I'd call them "dead," but I
certainly wouldn't classify them as "living" in the same way a body of
law is "living."

That's just my $0.02; as always, YMMV

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