Re: desparately seeking java-based help

Subject: Re: desparately seeking java-based help
From: David Blyth <dblyth -at- QUALCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 May 1997 14:39:32 -0700

>David Bliss (joke here -- it's Ruth Glaser not Gordon) wrote:

Whoops! Sorry about that. I apologize.

>Let the flames begin . . . ;-)

Nah. No flames. We're all in the same boat here. I don't
want to burn the sails.

>>"I disagree. We've got two platform independent environments:
>>Java and HTML. That is, any environment which can build a
>>Java program can build an on-line HTML help document - if
>>you're willing to program."

>David, you made my point for me.

Yes and no. Read on.

>I'm not willing to program to that degree. I was lamenting the fact
>that there are no *TOOLS* currently available for technical writers to
>develop online help in a browser independent, java development environment.

I understand and share your concern and think we part ways over another
issue. My contention is that Netscape/Microsoft and so forth have a very
strong business case _never_ to build such tools.

From their viewpoint (not necessarily ours), 'Web Top Publishers' such as
Netscape Gold or FrontPage already make Web pages. Web pages are docs,
applications, and on-line help all rolled up into one.

Why should they build a separate environment?

>I'm all for honing technical skills, including some
>fundamentals of programming and java scripting.
>However, your post suggests that we technical
>communicators need to become programmers.

Almost. I'm not saying that we need to become programmers
so much as saying that:

o The position of 'Technical Writer' needs to be redefined,
whether or not this involves 'programming'.

o Web documentation has already and will continue to cause a
drastic shift in how 'Technical Communication' is defined.

>I, personally, am not willing to go there. My value is in
>knowledge transfer, not in building tools and programming.
>It's simply not efficient for me to do that.

Bingo! This is nicely stated, and I think you've put your finger
on a fundamental difference between us. I do not see 'knowledge
transfer' and 'tool building' as separated. IMHO, Technical
Communication occurs because someone - usually a TW - built the
tools necessary to knowledge transfer.

o My value as a hard copy writer lies in knowing when and how to
build the objects (tables, graphs, and so on) which allow knowledge
transfer to occur.

o My value as a Web writer is no different. I know when and how
to build the objects (hyperlinks, Javascripts, Netscape plug-ins,
and so on) which allow knowledge transfer to occur.

Tool building is tool building. Technical writing is all about
adaptation anyway, and I'm willing and able to adapt to any tool set.

>As the line between writing and programming further
>blurs, I agree that technical communicators are
>challenged to redefine our niche. That niche should
>not be "programmer wannabees."

I agree - but there are plenty of multimedia experts and engineers
who are already building technically-oriented Web pages.

At a guess, unless we _do_ reinvent ourselves, someone else will
cheerfully do it for us. I prefer the former option.

David ('Just call me Cassandra') Blyth
Sr. Technical Writer

Standard Disclaimers apply

Blodo Poa Maximus

David (The Man) Blyth
Sr. Technical Writer
QUALCOMM - Standard disclaimers apply. They don't represent me, I don't
represent them.

Blodo Poa Maximus

PS. Only the "Maximus" is Latin

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