Re: FrameMaker Required (Was: Re: Interleaf and Sun work stations)

Subject: Re: FrameMaker Required (Was: Re: Interleaf and Sun work stations)
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 1996 16:55:00 EST

At 09:24 AM 3/13/96 EST, you wrote:
>Robert Plamondon <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com> laments poor hiring criteria:
>>The thing that brought Bad Tech Pubs Departments(TM) to mind (and
>>caused me to digress from my central digression) was an experience a
>>friend of mine had -- she is a highly talented writer, with tons of valuable
>>experience. Few potential employers seemed aware of this. Instead, the
>>central question seemed to be, "Do you have experience with FrameMaker?"
>>There were clearly two pieces of simultaneous brain-failure going
>>on in these people's minds:
>>1. The most important skill a technical writer has is desktop
>> publishing. Experience in technical writing is more or less
>> irrelevant.
>>2. Some fundamental barrier exists that makes it impractical to
>> train experienced technical writers in the DTP package du jour.

<Stuff snipped>

>We can keep reminding our managers at hiring time that the tools aren't hard
>to learn, and that skills learned in one DTP package can usually be
>transferred to another. This won't solve the problem, but may make it less

True enough, if you're postulating that somebody will just come in and sit
down to an already-created template and just has to point-and-shoot. But
FrameMaker essentially isn't DTP, it's a tool with a paradigm for doing long
docs. Using it as an upstairs version of PageMaker strips it of most of its
innate capabilities. A solo writer/layout artist who can't design templates
in FrameMaker is running a 777 without knowing what those funny little
lights mean that keep coming on and going off. The key to FrameMaker's
immense power is in its templates, which most people don't bother to learn
because they see the package as the "DTP software du jour." We do a lot of
FrameMaker work. It ain't DTP anything. I know people who use it like that
and grouse that it's complicated. True enough. But most high-level
professional stuff IS complicated. FrameMaker can automate reams of
functions and make work at least fifty percent more efficient, and to a
savvy manager that capability could be extremely valuable. It's perhaps not
that the manager devalues writing skills, but recognizes that to be a pilot
in the big bird, rather than just a kibitzing passenger, you have to have
flown the big bird.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)

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