Re: Proprietary standards (was Single Sourcing HTML Files)

Subject: Re: Proprietary standards (was Single Sourcing HTML Files)
From: eilrh -at- EXCHANGE -dot- WCC -dot- LUCENT -dot- COM
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 18:37:00 -0400

At 11:56 AM 8/19/96 -0400, a very mean man wrote:

>>I would also argue that using a public standard is almost always
>>preferable to using a proprietary format. Not only do the proprietary
>>formats bind you to the software manufacturer that owns them, but
>>whatever conversion tool you decide to use is probably going to end up
>>making a lot of decisions for you.

>Valid commentary, and to some extent I agree with you. But I think you'd
>find that such a reluctance to use proprietary formats is dependent on many
>factors, among which are the stability of the format, the ease with which
>you can find manipulators in that format, and the cost of both potential for
>mistake and the time lost training new people if you can't find anyone
>already trained.

Point taken. For some reason, I've worked at a lot of companies where
Tex or TROFF had been recently replaced with Frame or somesuch, so I
guess I've been assuming that there are a lot more people familiar with
these standards than maybe there are. And one of the commoner reactions
I've seen is a lot of frustration over the same things that frustrate
me--namely, the inability to dink with the code by hand. Wow. Maybe this
is a generation gap thing. You krazy young "hepcats" with your
newfangled cipherin' boxes! You wouldn't know an honest day's work if it
bit you on the leg!!!

>In other words, Tex, TROFF or SGML are wonderful if you, the organization,
>your bosses, and the local techie gods are all willing to put up with the
>"bus factor," which is "What happens to our documentation if you get hit by
>a bus?" (Also known as the "beer truck factor," the "Mack truck factor," the
>"TWA factor," and so on.)

<...snipped out parts I didn't understand and arguments I couldn't

>Again, that sort of thing is a techno-solution, rather than a
>human-relations one. Such fixes need updating and shepherding, because
>there's never enough time to smooth them out entirely. That puts the entire
>project at the mercy of the techno-writer and, by extension, at the mercy of
>recruiters. You can find a FrameMaker drone anywhere, and you can generally
>find a good Frame person if you look for a bit. But try finding someone who
>knows Tex and can write conversion macros.

True. I think that right there you've got an excellent argument for
hiring good people and treating them well, as opposed to farming work
out to contractors.

There still are companies out there that hire people for the long term
and don't mind doing the training and the front work. If the company
you're working for doesn't mind planning for the long term, the
investment in time and training can save some heartache and misery in
the future.

Of course, your point is absolutely valid for companies that have a high
turnover or just don't have the volume of work to justify a full-time

>>And if you disagree with me, you're just a stupid little Word Weenie,
>>and you're also puerile and stupid and also you probably smell gross.
>Well, you're ugly, you type like a girl and your Mama dresses you funny.

If you continue your unprovoked ad hominem attacks, I will be forced not
only to associate you with brutal and oppressive dictatorships, but to
have you permanently banned from the internet as well. See how you like
THAT, Mr. Monkeyboy.

Lisa Higgins.
eilrh -at- ei -dot- lucent -dot- com

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