Re: Job Posting...

Subject: Re: Job Posting...
From: Charles Cantrell <chc -at- ONTARIO -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 08:47:55 -0500

Tim Altom wrote:

>I'd like especially to hear from colleagues who actually feel that
>experience on a help tool is necessary to do the job.

Tim, I agree with your implication that a good technical communicator can
produce a good document, regardless of the tool that must be used to
produce it. However, I also believe that, other things being equal, a
technical communicator who has already worked with the tool will be more
efficient than one who must spend time mastering the tool in addition to
mastering the topic.

However, I think there is an issue here that is more important than the
question of with which particular tool the documentation is to be produced.
This is an understanding of how the difference between information delivery
with on-line mechanisms and print documentation changes the absorption of
the information content. We must understand how to achieve "information
transfer" in each of the various formats, based on the audience needs.

I have recently seen an article that criticizes much of the on-line help
material currently being produced because it lacks the contextual
information a user needs to orient themselves within the topic. Of course,
a good deal of criticism has also been written about print documentation
because it often leaves out the procedural material.

Before any document should be produced, the needs and objectives of the
document users must be identified and analysed to determine the proper
structure, informational content, and delivery format. Only then should the
determination be made about the document structure and whether the document
should be on-line, print, or some combination of both.

Given this, then, the question of mastery of any particular tool is moot.

Charles Cantrell
chc -at- ontario -dot- com

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