Re: Information Mapping

Subject: Re: Information Mapping
From: Bill Bledsoe <bill -at- ENVISION -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 13:15:49 -0500

Brad, List,

Comments below:

From: Brad Connatser[SMTP:cwrites -at- USIT -dot- NET]
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 1996 7:54 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: Information Mapping


Yes, I agree: That is what chunking means in information mapping. My point
is (if you read my post again): The "seven, plus or minus two pieces (or
units)" cannot be quantified in documents. I'm not near my library right
now, but later I'll post the reference for this magic number seven and
demonstrate how it cannot be applied to information mapping the way it is
being applied now. One thing to think about in the meantime: What
constitutes a "piece of information?" A letter? A word? A phrase? A
clause? A sentence? A paragraph?

The origin of seven plus or minus two is in your freshman psychology class:
It is simply the optimium number of items that short term memory can hold.
It comes from extensive research in the 40's, 50's and 60's, and is
actually one of the reasons phone numbers in the US are 7 digit numbers.
Information Mapping supplies a long list of sources in their
Bibliographies that details

I cannot understand I guess how you can say that "seven plus or minus two
cannot be quantified in documents" when I do it all the time. We group all
tasks in procedures so that they do not exceed 9 steps. If we have a
procedure with more than 9 steps, we feel we have not done our job to break
up the job tasks into manageable groups. We use the 9-step threshold as
our "bell" to signify we need to rexamine what's going on.

To answer your query about what is a piece of information, I don't see it
bound to a word, sentence, a phrase, etc. I see it as more task oriented:
a step, a fact, an idea. These may take more than a word, but certainly no
more than a sentence to express. Part of understanding of how Information
Mapping works learning to break away from the old (oohh I hate this word..)
pardigm of the paragraph, and communicating in groups of relevent
information called blocks. First thing I do now is look for DBC's (Dense
blocks of Crap: our acronym for long paragraphs with intros and
transitions) in documentation. With attention spans on the decline, and
complexity of every day life on the increase, Information Mapping provides
me with a usability edge on every document I produce using it.

To pick on Information Mapping, via criticizing only one of the 7
principles, is really not fair to the methodology, and really pretty
anti-productive. For example, Chunking depends upon Relevance, which
"glues" chunks together into usable, manageable units of information.

Using words like "cannot", and "I'll prove" can get you into an
unproductive flame war a lot fast than "I believe" or "it is my
understanding." I am not interested in a personal war over IMAP, and
neither is the list I'm guessing. Before you get that book off the shelf,
maybe taking a class from the IMAP folks on the method, and then deciding
what works for you is the best way to approach the discussion much further.


Brad Connatser
Concurrent Communications
cwrites -at- usit -dot- net

Bill Bledsoe |
Technical Communicator | "Junk moved on line is still junk. You can
SQA MGR/Process Lead | bet that if they didn't read the printed
Envision Solutions | version, they won't read the online version
bill -at- envision -dot- com | either." Dr. Conrad Gottfredson, online
or | documentation guru-guy
intlidox -at- anet-stl -dot- net |

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