Damage control

Subject: Damage control
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 12:26:55 -0500

Tina Nevin asked for help in rescuing a floundering
project. Tina, even if you're leaving the company
permanently, there's no reason why you can't continue to
work on the project freelance via e-mail. Remind your boss
that all deadlines other than medical ones are flexible,
and unless they want to ship the document without help,
they'll probably have to extend this deadline.

We need more details too about the actual problem. You said
originally that the contractor writes very well, but for
the current project, his help structure and formatting are
poor. If I connect the dots, this tells me that the
hypertext and layout are the problems, not the writing
itself. True? If so, then you're not in as much trouble as
you thought. The most important part of any help project,
bar none, is the clarity and intelligence of the writing.
Formatting is something you can mostly worry about once the
text is complete, and it's often more efficient and
consistent to take a final pass through the completed text
to apply the formatting. (I'm assuming that you mean
trivial stuff like boldface, quotation marks, and page
breaks; if the guy has used random paragraph styles, you've
got more of a problem on your hands.)

Disorganized hyperlinks fall somewhere in between in terms
of importance: you can use good text with poor links, but
good links are useless if the text is gibberish. When I
write, I usually plan the main hyperlinks in advance, build
them into the document structure as I go, then fill in the
gaps and verify the structure while I do my final editing
and proofreading. That approach should probably work for
you too. If the current links are unsalvageable, delete
them all and start from scratch. That will be an awful lot
faster than trying to fix what you've already got.

From what you've said and left unsaid, it sounds like the
contractor took on too much work at once... he's trying to
simultaneously juggle the three tasks of text,
graphics/format, and hyperlinking all at once, and ends up
by dropping all three balls. Personally, I find it easiest
to treat these as separate tasks, handled at different
times, since each one uses a different mode of thinking. My
suggestion: put him to work on one thing at a time and
***make sure he completes that task before moving on to the
next***. I'd recommend getting the text in shape first,
then rebuilding the hyperlinks, and concluding (if time
permits) with the formatting.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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