Re: Why we'll never be paperless

Subject: Re: Why we'll never be paperless
From: "Doug, Data Librarian at Ext 4225" <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 1995 10:05:26 -0600


Like many others, I've been following this thread with considerable
interest, but I think we're missing what should be the main points. I
think all but the most vigorous advocates of the on-line world would
concede that there are some jobs that will almost always be done by paper,
and all but the most die-hard paper advocates will concede that on-line
systems do some things better than paper. Absolute, universal dominance
by one medium or the other is a straw-man issue.

I submit that these are the real questions:

1) In which medium will most user guides, procedures and reference
materials (the core products of most technical writing shops) be presented
in 5-15 years?

2) In which direction should we, as technical communicators, push for our
own long-term benefit?

I think the answer to the first question is "online" for vendors of
software and complex hardware (tanks, corporate computer systems, etc.);
for consumer hardware like lawn mowers, I'm not so sure. I suspect it will
depend on the acceptence, display quality and standardization of pocket

In any case, for I think on-line documents will dominate in software and
complex hardware systems because of cost pressure, and because print is a
maxed-out technology. No innovations in typesetting, papermaking, page
design or layout will allow you to cram substantially more information into
a given area of paper. As the systems we document grow more and more
complex, the need to include more information grows, and the doc set
becomes larger, more expensive, and more unwieldly with each release.
This can't, and won't, go on very long.

Storage for on-line systems, on the other hand, grows smaller, lighter and
cheaper with each passing day. As knowledge of computer tools becomes
more common, social resistance declines, and the "user preference"
argument for paper becomes less persuasive for the main documents.
Especially when the main documents fill one full wall of your office.

As for which direction we should push, in our own professional
self-interest, I think on-line is clearly the direction to go. The reason?
Paper manual writers are writers, and subject to all the lack of respect we
complain about on this list. On-line information writers are developers.
Which means, at most companies, that the pay is higher, membership in the
development team is easier to justify, and the path to management's heart
is more smoothly paved. (This insight is not original with me; I first saw
it in one of William Horton's books. My experience so far confirms his
observation.) So, is it easier to change management's perception of what
we do, or is it easier to change what we do to match management's
perception? You make the call.


Doug "Did you really think that you could
ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com conjure up the Devil, and then expect
him to behave?"
--Fox Mulder

The preceding opinions and positions are mine alone, and are only
coincidentally related to those of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.

Previous by Author: Re: Help for help screens
Next by Author: Need input on speaker costs
Previous by Thread: Re[2]: Why we'll never be paperless
Next by Thread: What's Best MS Project Book?

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

Sponsored Ads

Sponsored Ads