Re: Technical Writers vs. Technical Communicators

Subject: Re: Technical Writers vs. Technical Communicators
From: Susan Stewart <susan -at- AVALANCHE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 26 May 1993 14:27:35 -0600

On Wed, 26 May 1993 11:33:04 EDT John Sanders said:

> Recently, in an article about SGML, Elizabeth Gilmore said: "For authors this
> means that we can focus on writing content. We can be writers without having
> to be desktop publishers as well. We can devote ourselves to conveying
> meaningful information..."
> ....deletions...are we back to being writers and not communicators?
> Can we really setup information using these tools without thought to the
> format(s)?? Even with an explicit structure?

...and later Elaine Brennan replied...

> I think you're making a couple of over-large leaps here.
> One of the beauties of using SGML to prepare a structured document is
> that you can then format the output anyway you like -- SGML is *not*
> about formatting. ....deletions........

Elaine makes a good point. It's important to remember that SGML is *not*
an application, desktop publishing tool, or word processing tool. SGML
is a generic markup language intended (among other things) to make
electronic information device- and platform-independent. SGML doesn't
care about presentation or content (it does care about structure).
Rather than limiting your freedom as a communicator, SGML has the
potential to free up your options by letting you associate whatever
kind of processing you want with the tagging.

It's probably a greater challenge for us as communicators to understand
how our information fits together conceptually, without the constraints
of a set method of delivery, than to think about the information in the
context of our own particular publishing system. SGML will let you do
either, the bonus is that if you *want* to use one set of information
in several different ways, you can do it without lots of sweat, pain,
and frustration.

...but getting back to the concrete...

SGML doesn't care about how you want to format or deliver your information,
what you do with the information, once tagged and conforming to the structure
of a docment type definition, or DTD, that you choose or create for yourself,
is your business.

SGML applications (and many of the major publishing platforms have or have
announced plans for tools that read and produce SGML) are just tools
that allow you to use information in SGML format--since SGML by itself
doesn't do anything.

Forgive me for going on about this topic. I use and write about SGML and SGML
applications almost everyday. I'm biased. But I figure that SGML is
making my work life easier and more interesting, so it might appeal to
some of you, also.

Susan Stewart
susan -at- avalanche -dot- com

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