Re: QUERY: Documentation standards for the telecommunications industry

Subject: Re: QUERY: Documentation standards for the telecommunications industry
From: Ben Kovitz <apteryx -at- CHISP -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:41:51 -0700

Robin Whitmore wrote:

>I am currently reading JoAnne T. Hacko's Managing Your Documentation
>Projects, and read the following:
>"...the telephony industry uses publications standards to control the style
>and content of publications produced by and for the telephone compianies in
>various countries. Their goal is to establish consistent style and
>organization of informationm for the technical workforce."
>Being a big fan of consistency, and not wishing to rock the boat, I am
>wondering if any of you are familiar with these standards and/or where I may
>find them.

I assume that such standards exist, but I've never seen them. What I
*have* observed first-hand is that no two RBOCs ("baby Bells") use the same

When I've asked old-timers about this, they've told me that this derives
from the very old days when there were zillions of small telcos all over
the country, before they slowly merged into the Bell system. They
independently developed a lot of the basic techniques for laying out
telephone networks that are still in use today, and with that independent
invention came a lot of different words for the same things, something like
regional variations like "pop" and "soda". In some parts of the country,
they say "feeder cable", in others "backbone cable". Sometimes the same
term has different meanings at different companies. Since the break-up,
terminologies seem to have diverged more.

I think this is a good example of how misdirected a lot of thought in the
tech-writing world is. Establish a consistent style and organization of
information across not only companies but countries?? What for? Somehow I
don't expect this to reduce the number of goofs people make when installing
a new phone line. If you want to establish a documentation standard, what
the telco industry could really use is some standardization on terminology.
Alas, as with nearly any attempt to legislate language, it's virtually
impossible. Something called TMN has attempted something like this, but
people often use *its* terminology to mean different things, too.

So instead what would be useful is a "multi-dialect glossary", showing the
equivalences between different regions' terminologies. I haven't heard of
anyone attempting this on a large scale. Has anyone here? I've done it on
a small scale on several projects, tailoring manuals and user interfaces
for different RBOCs. (Yes, I have seen the telecommunications glossaries
that turn a blind eye to the Tower of Babel.)

Ben Kovitz <apteryx -at- chisp -dot- net>
Author, _Practical Software Requirements: A Manual of Content & Style_

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