Re: TW and grad school -Reply

Subject: Re: TW and grad school -Reply
From: Michael Lewis <lewism -at- BRANDLE -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 11:24:08 +1100

Linda makes some really good points, but I'm not convinced that format
is the major issue. In terms of what the user wants to do with the
information we are delivering, surely the issues are information
structure and navigation.

I have never accepted the argument that printed text is "linear". The
physical design of books, with judicious use of headings and other
labels in the text, gives the same facilities as hypertext at some cost
of speed and convenience -- and size, if you compare a 30-volume
Encyclopedia Brittanica with a single CD! But users don't like to juggle
thick manuals as they work their way through a series of dialog boxes or
on-screen forms. Hypertext makes it easier to generate (or facilitate)
multiple optional paths through the information, and allows the user to
be unaware of the bits that aren't immediately relevant. Working with a
200-page manual when you want only the information on pages 83, 14, and
167 -- in that order -- you can't help but be aware of the other 197
pages. Whether the information on those three pages is presented in one
format or another is not immaterial, but it comes second to finding the

Linda K. Sherman wrote:

> Somehow I can't help but feel that everybody's missing the real issue
> here, but perhaps I'm misinterpreting what people are trying to say.
> All of your documentation is already "online"--you stored it in your
> computer when you created it. All you have to do is give the end user a
> copy, and voila, the user can read it or print it also, assuming access
> to compatible software. But perhaps I'm taking "online" more literally
> than what people intended.
> The real problem as I see it--and maybe this is what people were trying
> to say--is formatting. The problem is not fundamentally content,
> audience, or anything else. Formatting that looks good in a book is
> rarely best for online viewing, searching, etc.--or vice versa. Since
> the vast majority of word processors, desktop publishing programs, and
> markup languages embed formatting information in the text itself, rather
> than embedding references to the text within the formatting information
> (which would allow you to modify one copy of the text while maintaining
> two different sets of formatting information), this is a problem for
> which I see no short-term resolution.
> L.
> --
> Linda K. Sherman <linsherm -at- concentric -dot- net>
> Welsh-related and other stuff to be found at

Michael Lewis
Brandle Pty Limited, Sydney, Australia
PO Box 1249, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012
Suite 8, The Watertower, 1 Marian St, Redfern 2016
Tel +61-2-9310-2224 ... Fax +61-2-9310-5056

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