Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 17 Jul 1994 to 18 Jul 1994

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 17 Jul 1994 to 18 Jul 1994
From: Typo? What tpyo? 19-Jul-1994 1028 <jong -at- TNPUBS -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 1994 10:40:46 EDT

Kevin ("Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative")
Montgomery <kmontgomery -at- LOGICON -dot- COM> wrote an amusing entry
on his deep-seated distrust of standards for technical writing.
From my perspective as a student of documentation quality,
I take issue with his conclusions. Standards are good!

Quality is consistency, no matter what Oscar Wilde says.
Standards equal consistency. Microsoft Windows didn't take over
the market by providing an inconsistent product from platform to
platform; just the opposite.

There was a time when I was always pushing the envelope and
trying to create new ideas. That's fine; there's an important
place for such activities, and those who pursue them are called
innovators (and usually young 8^). You can't improve without
change. But as I've gone on in the business, I've seen what
happens when innovation is not verified and codified: good ideas
are left behind. As a *successful* innovator, I want to see
my good ideas adopted! There is a quality term for consistent
standards with innovation, and that is continuous improvement.
In the case of documentation quality, unless you have metrics,
you can't tell what's an improvement and what's merely a change,
but with metrics you can point to an innovation and say 'that's
what we all want to do,' and then you can change your standards.

Standards *do* mean there's less to think about. What's so bad
about that? When I'm trying to crank out a document on an
impossibly tight schedule, do I really want to stop and think
about how my company ought to do copyright pages? Should I
rewrite the AFIPS paragraph or reformat the Reader's Comment
Form? Should I try that new print vendor? In fact, is it a good
time to experiment with Microsoft Word style files in the hope of
coming up with the perfect layout? Heck no! In fact, having
departmental standards for document titles, art, formats, and
standard, *legally binding* language save me from useless work
and let me concentrate on what I ought to be doing in the first

Now, a standard that not everyone follows, a standard that's out
of date, a standard that only a ponderous committe can change, is
a bad standard. But standards can, and I think usually are,

-- Steve Jong, Digital Equipment Corporation

Previous by Author: Problems with Canvas?
Next by Author: Printing process for good quality screen shots
Previous by Thread: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 17 Jul 1994 to 18 Jul 1994
Next by Thread: shades of grey

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads