Re: Information Mapping (Long)

Subject: Re: Information Mapping (Long)
From: Bill Bledsoe <bill -at- ENVISION -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 16:03:22 -0500

Tim, List,

Tim said:
This is something that's bugged me about Info Mapping for years. The actual
research into 7 plus or minus 2 is in memory, and short-term memory at
Little research has been done in stepwise instructions, which are
performed then promptly forgotten. I suspect that Horn has seized this
principle, which sounds so dreadfully scientific, and extrapolated it into
an inapplicable area. This returns us to the subject of what our documents
are used for, training or reference. In a reference work the 5-to-9

Bill Says:
Tim, with all due respect, we've found it very useful in reference work.
We prepare full OO Analysis and Design documents with IMAP-based templates.
And guess what? We break up our Maps into groups of 7=or-2 blocks, combine
7=or-2 Maps to a section, all the way up and down the hierarchy. We have
tested them versus 1.1 Mil 498 DIDs, and guess what? People find the
information they're looking for quicker, and have a better understanding of
our very complex software (we're not talking about screen-scraping VB apps
here!). Bottom line, it Does work for reference in our experience, and
rather well.

Tim Said:

My experience with Info Mapping suggests to me that it serves two purposes:
First, it makes passable writers out of dreadful ones, and second, it
provides a comforting sheen of uniformity and methodology to what many
companies think of as fuzzy-headed artistry.

Bill Says:
As a classically trained writer (degree in Journalism from M.U. School of
Journalism) I too made the same mistake you have Tim in your statements
here. And, I still see areas where Info Mapping might not work. However, it
is a strong tool overall. Yes, it can improve writing quality for passable
writers, is that a bad thing? Also, it does implement a "process" to
writing, that requires a lot more discpline than what the average
expository-trained writer will like. For this I draw a parallel with
Software Development.

Programmer's generally view their craft as a one of artistry. Management
typically views software development like a manufacturing task, because
manufacturing is repeatable, measurable, and more quality driven. In the
middle, is a process that incorporates both. That's why you see more and
more software development organizations begining software process
improvement groups to develop repeatable quality via more organized, and
less artisan-based development practices. Do software develpers like it?
Generally... no. It takes the responsibilty for saving the day away from
the individual, and places it on the process, lowering risk, but also
lowering individual participation levels. But, the result is better
quality software, on-time and within budget.

I see the same need and resistance to process-based information development
in the documentation world. It seems that whenever IMAP comes up on the
list, 15 people chime in saying "it isn't worth the paper they print the
manuals on," "its too expensive," "I've been using tables for years," or
that it is too stringent a process, etc. But you know what, it works
really well once you're trained. And process-based documentation
consulting is an absolute gold mine in software/high tech shops that are
either achieving ISO or SEI CMM status. That's why you have people like
JoAnn Hackos publishing Publication Organization Maturity Models, that
layout full-blown, repeatable processes to follow.

I admire your list contributions greatly Tim. I've heard nothing but good
thing Here however, we disagree. Info Mapping has a lot to offer an
organization. Go to a seminar, and see what you think. Reading the book
doesn't give you the working time to really understand what it's all about.

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

Bill Bledsoe
Technical Communicator
Envision Solutions
SQA MGR/Process Lead
bill -at- envision -dot- com
intlidox -at- anet-stl -dot- com

"I'm out on a limb where the fun begins"
Adrian Belew/The Bears

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