Re: Web pages and the power struggles

Subject: Re: Web pages and the power struggles
From: Sarah Lee Bihlmayer <sarahlee -at- CONTENTMANAGE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 1997 10:01:33 -0800

Mike Uhl writes:

>How many of you out there who create, maintain, or
>otherwise work with Web pages have experienced the
>intense turf battles over who controls the pages?
>Managers, who haven't the faintest idea how pages
>are created or the work involved in maintaing them
>fight over *controlling* them. The fights are ugly and
>technical communicators are often caught in the
>middle. My attitude has evolved to "Leave me out
>of the fight. Call me when you've made a decision
>on who wants what." Of course, they *don't* leave me
>out of it. I'm a human ping pong ball. Does this
>sound familiar?

This is a *major* professional issue for me. I've been specializing in
Website content creation/design/implementation for several years now, and
I've seen this happen over and over again. Because I'm usually brought in at
the outset of a client's intranet implementation process to both
write/publish the docs and to help establish tools/methodology/content
standards, I've found it nearly impossible to stay out of the turf wars.
I've grown sooo weary of writing spates of carefully worded value-neutral
memos explaining why a site should retain its current ownership and design
when managers try to take control of the site and of my skills and resources
to boot. I find the resultant stress rather horrific.

I've formulated some theories as to why this happens. In corporate life,
there seems to be an unspoken fear of downsizing. It seems like many
managers try to avoid landing "on the beach" during such times by filling
their track record with "successes"--i.e., high-visibility projects for
which they can take credit. Because Web technology is the current new hot
fad in techpubs, websites naturally are high-visibility and therefore seem
to be perceived as a good fulcrum for earning the kudos required to stay on
board and also to move up the corporate ladder. I think this may motivate
that strong desire to "own" a site which triggers turf battles.

However, as Mike describes, there's little recognition of the time, effort,
cost, and resources involved...essentially, management seems to expect the
site/content creator(s) to pull a rabbit out of a hat. There appears to be a
strong preconception among managers that all that's required is to convert
paper docs as-is, with little understanding of how differently users
interact with and utilize online media. This seems to create an expectation
that Web publishing should be quick, cheap, and easy--and that there should
be no need to tweak HTML or restructure documents before they appear online.

I've also observed little recognition of the difference between the
commercial/public Web and intranet websites. I try to apply the techniques
of audience analysis/targeting, good document/information design, and
usability as much as my mind, these principles should drive
site- and interface-design decisions. However, time and again I'm asked to
please include dinosaurs wearing sunglasses and skateboarding suits doing
the macarena at the top and bottom of each page...

It's gotten to the point where I'm looking at getting out of this area of
techpubs entirely and specializing in something lower-visibility, like
technical indexing. *Sigh.*

Just my .02.


|Sarah Lee Bihlmayer * Intranet Documentation Specialist |
|Site Development * Content Creation * Content Management|
| Technical Writing * Developmental Editing * Indexing |
| 415-207-4046 * sarahlee -at- contentmanage -dot- com |

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