Single Sourcing

Subject: Single Sourcing
From: Xiang Li <xli -at- FEDERALAPD -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 11:09:42 -0400

Thank you for the response on the single sourcing topic.

The manual I produced from the online Help is not strictly single sourcing
product. As one of you said single sourcing should like Java one code run
everywhere, single sourcing by meaning is one file many products, save you
a lot of time to maintain two types of file for the same product. However,
this is not the case with the manual I produced. I still have to make
changes to the Help as well as the manual. This is not exactly single
sourcing. The format of the manual that I produce from FrameMaker was quite
a unique, it was designed by the previous tech publication manager who had
no idea how the manaul should look like a little before the project

My new boss had not been in tech communication before she started to manage
our department. Some consultant came in and bragged about the advantages of
single sourcing by using HelpBreeze, my boss believed him and contacted
some of the project out to them. Ironically the end result was a mess, we
could not use it. I suspected that they could not make it so I used
FrameMaker to produce the manual.

For the next release, the company no longer gave the help development job
to the consultant. I started to handle the project alone. This release was
a tough one, I had four sections of help to accomplish within six weeks,
and I had to handle the development, technical review, test, and quality
assurance all by myself. From my observation of the consultants work, I
inferred that generating manual from Help is time consuming. So I decided
to use the existing manual in FrameMaker. I was questioned by a manager of
other department why I still had not used HelpBreeze to generate the
manual, I showed them the manual the consultants produced.

I knew that I have to generated manual from Help, however, I do not like
HelpBreeze, a product which version number has not changed ever since 1996.
I managed to convince my boss to switch back to RoboHelp. For the last
release, I had some time to generate the manual from Help and handle the
problems that may occur. Fixing the problems I ran accros was very
time-consuming, however, the end result is much better than the one
produced from FrameMaker.

I think single sourcing is far from the original purpose, just like
paperless office. In this world, people intend to brag, and there are
people who believe such bragging nonsense.

Back to the manual and Help, I planned the format that could be appropriate
for manual and online document, I made sure they contain the same
information, but different format. For example, I take out some of the
links from the manual, and in the manaul I add intallation information.

Well, talking to my fellow tech writers on this list costs me a bit of
time, but it is quite worth, I hope we will continue to talk about this
issue when we see any changes in single sourcing.

Xiang Li
Technical Writer/Online Help Developer
Federal APD, Inc.

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