Re: Information Mapping

Subject: Re: Information Mapping
From: Laurah Limbrick <0002118962 -at- MCIMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 1996 12:03:00 EST

Hi. I'm a newbie on the list (been lurking for about a month now), and
I wanted to throw in my two cents on the Info Mapping discussion.

About 4 or 5 years ago, my entire department of trainers/training
developers/documentation specialists was subjected to the week-long
version of the IM seminar. (Background: We were the corporate group
dedicated to supporting internal, proprietary mainframe order-entry
systems (and the divisional versions of our group) for a huge
telecommunications company. There were about 50 people in this group,
including the help desk folks. Our end users were customer service
reps, account team installation consultants, etc.)

There were grumbles and complaints from the veterans that it was
unimaginative, very rigid in its content organization, didn't work for
every situation, etc. The main reason we took IM, however, was to
create a documentation standard in the department. Until that point,
if person A created the document, then moved on to something else, and
person B was "tasked" (I've received flamage already for this
corrupted verb form) with updating the document as necessary, it was a
real pain since everyone had their own personal documentation style.
With IM, it did become boring and bland, but it was consistent in two
important areas: organization style and formatting, thus allowing
almost anyone else in the group to go in and make updates, as well as
being transparent to the end-user. Additionally, almost NONE of the
writers and trainers were professional writers and trainers prior to
their involvement with this department; most of us were former end
users for whom this was our first step to being sucked into the scary
world of systems engineering. Occasionally someone would be hired from
outside the company, but not very often.

IM worked well for the type of documentation we were doing, which
involved lots of tables, step-by-step procedures, etc. If your group
does not have the time or expertise to create your own custom doc
standards as far as formatting and org style, it might work well for
you depending on what you're documenting.

I can say, however, that for the work I'm doing now (contracting with
the same company I used to work for) I don't think it's very well
suited. I am responsible for producing system lifecycle (one word or
two?) documentation, from requirements to design to hardware/software
installation procedures, etc. The way the info is organized, with
subsections and so forth, doesn't, IMHO, lend itself well to IM. For
this kind of writing, I find the traditional works pretty
well, but the audience is mainly software developers and engineers.
For an end-user group who just needs to know how to use the software
to do their jobs, IM is preferable.

By the way, back in the Dark Ages (1991-92),we were creating these
docs in WP5.1 for DOS, and IM sold style templates that you could
install under your WP Styles, thus making all the little formatting
tricks much faster and simpler. Yes, you could create your own macros
to do most of it, but we were lazy and uneducated :-).

<2118962 -at- mcimail -dot- com>

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