Re: Writing for on-line

Subject: Re: Writing for on-line
From: Mary Nurminen <manurmin -at- TRE -dot- TELE -dot- NOKIA -dot- FI>
Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 15:55:20 +0200

> However, writing differently for the mediums is not the same as writing
> poorly for paper. The very nature of online and print documentation is
> different and must be addressed differently. Because online is frequently
> presented in small bits and in a less structured environment, the
> information must be presented more modularly. Many (if not all) topics must
> be able to stand on their own and have a clear beginning and end point.
> There is usually no sense of flow, if for no other reason than because it
> is (usually) impassible to predict where the reader will be accessing a
> topic from.
> Printed documentation, on the other hand needs to flow.

>To writ print
> documents like online documents would make the reading extremely choppy and
> hard to follow.

Oh? You're inferring that the reader actually sits down and reads it cover to
cover. Which we all know they don't do. They read it, for the most part,
extremely choppily and in small chunks. This, I believe, is the norm, or the
'standard' use, actually, not the other way around. Even in print.

Somewhere in some presentation of the last STC conference, I think it was a guy
from IBM who said that they moved to SGML and modularity and noticed that a
manual may be made up of material by several writers. Of course different
writers will always have slightly different styles, so they wondered if it made
the documents not 'flow' well enough, as you put it.

They finally decided that since virtually no one reads documentation in a
flowing, cover-to-cover manner, that it really didn't matter if the information
was chunked even in a bigger manual.

> This does not mean that people will not (or do not) sometimes use printed
> docs like online docs, as a source of quick, in-out, information. Nor does
> it mean that people do not use online docs to browse and generally read
> about a product. It just means that these are non-standard uses. Thus the
> documents should be written accordingly.
> Best regards,
> Lee Kimmelman
> panda -at- westsound -dot- com

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