Re: How is your pubs dept. set up?

Subject: Re: How is your pubs dept. set up?
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 1994 16:05:18 EDT

Kendall writes:
>Which brings me to my is the pubs department set
>up in your company?

The major divisions are by component of the product.

>Do you have separate resources doing the
>on-line help?

No. A writer for a single component would provide the hardcopy, online info,
and online help for that component. In many cases, there is a single
document that is used for all three purposes, with version conditions
inserting and deleting information/formatting as appropriate.

>Do you feel it's possible, or a good idea, for
>writers to write manuals and develop complex hyper help systems
>at the same time?

Yes. The writer must know the component. This knowledge is more important
than writing skills in one medium or the other. If you have more writers
available, break up the component into two logical parts, and give one half
to each writer. Have them work closely together to preserve uniformity of
style and format in all media.

It is a bitter pain to write both hardcopy and online at the same time.
It's a lot of work, even _more_ so when you're maintaining it as a single
document. But the problems you encounter are predictable, and you can learn
strategies that help you solve them. These new skills and strategies
are transferable, and you can use them again on your next project. The
product knowledge is not transferable, and is essentially throw-away.
So it makes sense to gain the transferable skills (writing hardcopy and
hypertext), rather than document more of the product in only one medium,
and thus gain additional non-transferable skills (product knowledge).

My opinions are obviously coloured by my own experience, which has been
with relatively complex products. My opinions are also subject to change
without notice.

Take care,

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's, and I'll probably change
my mind tomorrow anyhow.

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