Re: Doc properties and variables (was: Using macros to generate customer-specific documents etc.)

Subject: Re: Doc properties and variables (was: Using macros to generate customer-specific documents etc.)
From: Tony Chung <tonyc -at- tonychung -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 2010 09:41:03 -0700

On Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 9:59 AM, Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
>
> Tony, in your reply to Kunzang, you wrote this:
>
> "You can use document properties to create variables. That practice is quickly falling out of
> favour and being replaced by generic writing."
>
> Why did you say the practice is quickly falling out of favor?  If it's because you know
> of a better way, I'd be very interested in hearing more about that different approach.


Hi Keith,

Thanks for asking. I'm probably going to incite a lot of debate about
this, and I'm sure everyone has heard this discussion before, but here
goes: Let's just say that I haven't quite fallen into either camp yet,
though I am leaning more in the direction of generic writing in order
to maximize reuse between documents. At least where Word is concerned.

In modular writing, where content is stored in different topic chunks
for reuse across multiple document sets, we open up the risk that any
topic could essentially be placed in any document, in any form,
anywhere. If we use parameters without providing strict guidelines as
to their usage, we could end up with sentences appearing in documents
that don't make sense. A common issue is when the name of the product
of the current document is stored in a parameter. When that topic is
copied into another document then the product name parameter changes
to that of the current product of that document, which may not be the
intent.

This is what has led to a more generic form of writing, where specific
terms would be used to introduce the product, but generic terms
explain the product's use over a broad range of topics. This method
builds relationships between products on a general level. When a topic
is copied into another document, the relationship between components
remains the same, regardless of the specifics of the product. However,
the problem then becomes that the writing is too generic to be
meaningful.

So where do we draw the line?

I suppose I should say that both parameters and generic writing have
their place, and both methods need to be understood so their strengths
can be applied accordingly. I mentioned before that Word has problems
maintaining variable association, which is why I am leaning toward
generic writing. I suppose an XML based workflow built into a CMS
would be more flexible in setting up automated conditions for using
parameters.

Cheers,

-Tony
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Using macros to generate customer-specific documents from a single-source file in MS-Word: From: Tony Chung
Doc properties and variables (was: Using macros to generate customer-specific documents etc.): From: Keith Hood

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