RE: Indices and not-indices

Subject: RE: Indices and not-indices
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Kevin Elmore" <kelmore -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2008 08:41:11 -0600

Kevin Elmore wrote:

> To give a little background, I help maintain various help files that
> are about 8 years old. Over the years, things have gotten fairly
> sloppy, especially regarding the index. Our typical MO for creating a
> new help file topic is to add the name of the topic, the Document
> Control Number assigned upon creation of a new document, and possibly
> other keywords that seem ideal (at least according to the
> administrators of the help file, since the SME does not always provide
> adequate keywords).
> So, in short, our index is now just another way to search for text.
> I've brought this up, but there is no way we'll get a professional
> indexer in to create a new index. People are now used to searching
> for numbers and entire titles. Our index is a hybrid of the Table of
> Contents (scrolling through the first letters of a title) and the
> Search function (locating topics through using keywords). All in all,
> it works for our internal users, and that is important enough.

I'm confused. You're creating "keywords" for each new topic (presumably,
the old topics have them, too). Do you mean something different by this
than words that appear as index entries for the topic?

Because you later refer to "the Search function (locating topics through
using keywords)." That's not search as I understand it.

Search finds words that appear in the text of the help topics. An index
is more useful than search because (or if) it contains "keywords" that
_don't_ appear in a topic, but might be used to describe it, refer to
it, etc.

You're creating keywords, and presumably have 8 years of legacy
keywords, so why do you think your index is no better than search? Are
all the keywords / index entries created over the years _only_ words
that appear in the topic text?

If so, how long would it take to make a quick pass through the topics,
brainstorming and adding synonyms, related concepts, etc. An afternoon?
A day? That won't make it a _great_ index, but it will make it a useful
one that at least some readers will be thankful for.

IMHO, YMMV, etc.


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Indices and not-indices: From: Kevin Elmore

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