RE: Question from a re-virginized newbie

Subject: RE: Question from a re-virginized newbie
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>, "W. Michael Webster" <getmike72 -at- me -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:28:22 -0500

Well, there's DITA, now (not a tool, but it's encouraging a set of tools), and remember when SGML was the solution to all our prayers?

In other words, to my mind there was never an "old tool paradigm" that was universally adopted. It's a moving target, and more than one of those.

Companies, industries, writers all adopt what they think might do the job for them.
Some think in terms of the next few months.
Some think in terms of years.
But my observation (not supported by rigorous studies, so don't ask) is that each prevents the other from achieving industry-wide status.
The companies that address the people who think in terms of the next product release they need to document (of two or three this year), tend to be nimble(-ish) innovators, but they can be all over the map, following each other's trends. They combine leap-frogging and playing catch-up.
The companies that address the people who think in terms of years or decades(?) tend to be slower-moving and have much longer cycles that can get overtaken by de facto "standards" that spring up among the faster-turnover crowd. They are still reacting to the inertia of slow-moving behemoth customers (like government...) that miss/ignore a whole raft of Mayfly innovations, and that demand slow, uncontroversial, incremental changes in their tools and associated methodologies. Or that glacial trend persists until there's a shakeup or some iron-fisted department head dies or retires, and suddenly there's a push to shake off the rust and adopt "modern" methods and tools. The orderly, sedimentary growth of the big tools and standards gets jolted. But even then, they attempt to adopt whatever was hot when the new boss came to power two or three years ago - a lifetime in the Mayfly world of the short-term thinkers and their cohort of providers.

The faster-turnover crowd flit all over the place, liking all sorts of shiny things, but every few years, something arises (or they/we all just turn in the same direction by near-random Brownian accident) and some tool or underlying method becomes the standard-of-the-moment, long enough that the long-term crowd feels the pull and a need to adapt what they've been slowly developing to address something that didn't even exist when their latest cycle started.

Moreover, all the developers/providers are at different stages in their own cycles, and therefore more-or-less able to jump on any given bandwagon, so there are always a handful of competing strategies and tools and standards, in various stages of adoption or abandonment. Everybody deals with different inertia, for different reasons, depending on their size, their market, their progress in their current adoption/innovation cycle. Two similar vendors addressing the same market might very well have different responses just because their management prefers a longer or a shorter cycle, or sees a different path out of their particular limiting niche.

People who like the newest tools or versions tend to gather in discussion venues friendly to that approach.
People who like newer-but-stable, proven tools tend to gather in discussion venues friendly to that approach.
People who [are required to] like the old, long-established, slow-to-change tools tend to gather in discussion venues friendly to that approach.

In a mixed bag like Techwr-l, you can decide which crowd tends to be more vocal, and which folk tend to just lurk and observe without saying much.

I would not hold my breath waiting for an overarching standard paradigm in my [remaining] lifetime. If anything, fragmentation seems more the norm. (Again, no studies, just a couple of decades of observation.)

-----Original Message-----
From: Gene Kim-Eng
Sent: February-25-14 2:11 PM
To: W. Michael Webster
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Question from a re-virginized newbie

The general principles of obtaining and delivering content have not changed significantly. As far as "where the industry is headed," that really depends on what industry you were documenting products or services in. I'm not seeing any specific "new tool paradigm" that has been universally adopted across the full range of settings in which tech writers might work.

Gene Kim-Eng

On Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM, W. Michael Webster <getmike72 -at- me -dot- com>wrote:

> Hello all! I was a tech writer for 8 years before becoming a stay home
> dad for the last 5. I am venturing back into the field, rust in tow.
> My question is as follows: I have a limited amount of $ to spend on
> training, so given where the industry is headed, what utilit(ies)
> training should I pursue?

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Question from a re-virginized newbie: From: W. Michael Webster
Re: Question from a re-virginized newbie: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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