Re: Information Mapping

Subject: Re: Information Mapping
From: Shelley Strong <sstrong -at- TECHREPS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 15:03:50 -0600

Perhaps I have a bit friendlier view of Info Mapping than others of you who
have responded so far. Maybe you got over-proselytized (Can you say
"marketing push"?) when you took the class. I didn't take the class (ye
gads!); I *borrowed* the notebook from a co-worker and she checked my work
after I made a first attempt at converting already dry and often unclear
government *procedures* to still dry, but much clearer government
*procedures in Info Mapping format.*

I'm not so dense or inexperienced that anyone has or ever will convince me
that Info Mapping (or any other approach) is the ONLY one to apply to ALL
types of technical writing. I'm also just as sure that, in many cases, Info
Mapping is THE BEST format to apply to policies and procedures. Those types
of materials are what IM was designed to improve in the first place.

By applying some or most of the "rules" of Info Mapping, I can begin to make
sense of a hideously muddy procedure and then re-write it into a much
cleaner and clearer form. IM helps me see the distinct pieces of a complex
procedure. It helps point out missing steps, misleading notes, and faulty
instructions. I don't adhere strictly to IM format because I don't know all
there is to know about it. I suspect I would ignore some of the elements if
they didn't fit the purpose and audience of the document.

The principle that "form follows function" applies. It's just a matter of
whether you need to use a hammer or a screw-driver on a procedure or a
project report. ("If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks
like a nail." -- Mark Twain) IM does well in policies and procedures most
of the time. But not always. It depends
. . . on the information being presented and who the info is being presented
to and under what circumstances and on and on.

IM format does take the heart out of more prose-like writing, but it's not
well-adapted for prose. The heart of IM is tables and lists. These are
easier for the eye to scan than the same information in paragraph form.

Use what you need to to get the job done so that the customer is pleased and
can use the end product. That result depends on a lot of factors. Consider
and incorporate into your doc design as many of those factors as you can.

p.s. I DO get very annoyed when anyone tries to convince me that ONE way
(his or her way) is the ONLY way to do things.

An Info Mapping fan when the project fits,

Shelley R. Strong,
STC Kachina Chapter Past President
sstrong -at- techreps -dot- com
Albuquerque, NM, where the humidity is up, my son (age 2) saw his first
"real" rainstorm last night, and we're under flash-flood warnings for the
rest of the day.

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