Re: pubs dept., or development of online and print docs

Subject: Re: pubs dept., or development of online and print docs
From: Chuck Martin <techwriter -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 16:01:49 PDT

Congratulations on your growth.

I get the impression from your post that documentation development is
considered separate from product development. For starters, that's
an ominous paradign that could lead to questionable quality.

More directly, I've learned and discovered (thank you William Horton)
that developing print docs firts, then online, is pretty backwards.
Creating your information for online first has a number of advantages:

- Your information is nicely chunked.
- Because a screen has a limited size, and because you don't want
more than a screen of information per topic (you don't want users
to scroll if possible), your information is concise.
- You think more about layout and white space (because online
requires more).

In most cases, a lot of the information you will use is the same, so
you can single-source. Some tools will let you mark text for online
only, text only, and both online and text.

At IBM, using BookMaster, a tagged language, we can assign pieces of
information to different people on a documentation team. With the right
tagging, that information can be collected and organized for both
printed and online books (although OS/2-style Help requires a
somewhat separate process).

The chunking of information leads to the development of information
objects. Eventually, users will be able to select only the information
objects they need and do anything they want with them: print them out,
view them online, etc. Rather than divide up documentation tasks by
print or online, it's probebly better to divide them up by pieces
of information. And, once again, I can't recommend strongly enough
developing online information first, and then using that information
for your printed copy.

Chuck Martin
Information Developer, IBM
techwriter -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
techwriter -at- aol -dot- com
74170,2462 -at- compuserve -dot- com

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