Information Mapping

Subject: Information Mapping
From: Tom Campbell <tomcampbell -at- EUDORAMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 07:02:33 -0700

In a meeting yesterday a developer mentioned the concept of information mapping. A business analyst in my group perked up and later asked me if I knew anything about it.

I gave her my opinion--that, although I'm no expert on the subect, information mapping seems to be an attempt to package and sell (and trademark) common sense techniques that good communicators have been using for a long time...BUT that the concepts and techniques that are collectively called info. mapping are valuable, because they help organize and convey information efficiently. I told her I definitely try to use these methods whenever I can and gave her some examples.

Let's face it--our audience does not want to read our material. I say this not in a pejorative or cynical way, or as an anguished complaint about how we live in a post-literate era (although, of course, we do).

As I said: Our Audience Does Not Want To Read Our Material. They don't have time for that. They want to extract information, quickly. Often, the audiences for whom I've written don't care if I've written complete sentences--or, sometimes, even if the spelling and grammar are correct--as long as they can extract the information they're after.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not weighing in on the side of those who suggest that tossing basic rules of writing out the window somehow helps achieve more effective technical communication. Miss Johnston's ghost would haunt me and make me recite the Thirty-Nine Common Sentence Errors daily until I recanted.

But Miss Johnston didn't teach me how to analyze the audience, classify information and arrange it into modules, and present information in formats that readers can quickly scan and mine for data.

I'm not plugging Information Mapping (R). I'm just saying that as technical communicators we should consider using the techniques of information mapping [without the initial caps and the (R) and the $1,395 seminar].

Of course, the most widespread use of Information Mapping (R) may be the listing of it on résumés, which, along with listing FrameMaker and RoboHelp, is virtually guaranteed to get you a job interview.

Tom Campbell
tomcampbell -at- EUDORAMAIL -dot- COM
"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."
--Elmore Leonard

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