Re: IMAP defense...(long)

Subject: Re: IMAP defense...(long)
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 14:51:00 EST

Okay, here's my response:

At 02:04 PM 6/27/96 -0500, you wrote:

>What sets IMAP apart is the process you use to come up with your more
>effective document. The
>analysis process they use to break down information into usable elements is
>what's important. You could
>learn all of this on your own, and some of you may have to some degree, but
>don't knock it until you
>try it. I have tried it. It has helped me communicate more clearly in all
>forms of communication: reference, directed, etc. I think most who bother
>to take a class from them will find the same results.

True. And I believe I was fair enough to Info Mapping originally to say
this. If I didn't make clear my agreement with the analytical methods, then
let me state here that I like the way Info Mapping teaches the writer to
analyze and break down information. But it's not the only way to break it
down, and many other methodologies offer substantial usability benefits.
Check out the recent Journal article on concept mapping for an example.

>Now, I'd mentioned earlier the word "artisan" when I described non-info
>mapped communications. When I say artisan,
>I mean; "Believing that communication is an art form, thereby what we
>create are works of art." This is same
>discussion going on in software development shops all around the world,
>where the programmer feels like an artist.
>Then, when someone comes in to establish a process for repeatable quality
>results, they balk saying you're
>restricting creativity. Here's the news: IMAP is like SEI CMM based
>English. It is a proven way to produce quality
>results via a process.

Also true. But nothing in life is actually either artistic or rational.
Every human function is both, though sometimes veering more toward one pole
or the other.

>I believe there definitely exists a proper place for the writing style and
>methods we learned in school and from reading books (the "artisan style").
> Unfortunately, that place is not technical reference documents. These are
>references people, not text books.

Sometimes. That's the rub. Some technical documents are textbooks, or should
be (or, rather, should go textbooks one better). And some are both. Info
Mapping isn't the answer to both, although they pretend that they are. Info
Mapping Inc. is like the proverbial man with a hammer: every problem looks
like a nail.

>The documents I see almost always provide too much background, losing the
>main points in the middle somewhere.

True again. Too many documents interleave both conceptual and reference
material, so that neither one is particularly useful. But they can be
profitably separated.

>The analysis method that IMAP gives you helps weed out what is "window
>dressing" and what you need to get your
>message across. Simple enough.

Simple enough, but not comprehensive enough. While it may offer a good
analytical method for excising "window dressing" (which may not really be
superfluous, merely explanatory), Info Mapping is far from being the ideal
and final word on exposition, as it's billed by Info Mapping, Inc. That's
what bunches my briefs, the implication that Info Mapping Inc. leaves with
its customers that they've just been given the end result of centuries of
groping in the semantic Outer Dark, the be-all, end-all method of human
written communication, the great discovery that will put all rhetoricians
out of work. I've sometimes flustered True Believers by asking innocently
how many popular books have been written in that style. I'd think that if it
was God's gift to the writer, it would be eagerly adopted throughout the
publishing industry, sweeping aside all of the "artisan" books, manuals, and
articles and assuming its proper place as the New World Order of Publishing.
Of course, it hasn't, and it won't. When it comes time to learn things, as
opposed to merely looking up bits and pieces, Info Mapping is univerally
rejected by people who earn their livings by producing materials that people
will buy. It's only those of us who have a captive audience in our users who
can get away with Info Mapping. I use the precepts of mapping all the time.
It's valuable. But my adherence to the Info Mapping rule stops there.

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