Information developer?

Subject: Information developer?
From: "Geoff Hart" <Geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 12:39:27 -0400

E. Dunn <<...would have a problem with "information
developer" however. To me, this does not describe what we
are supposed to be doing. We present, organise, and filter
information but we certainly do not create or develop it.>>

There's an important difference between information and data
that gets lost if you look at things this way. Data is the raw
facts, usually provided by developers or other SMEs, and
many times, the data is presented undigested. That leaves
readers the difficult task of analyzing the data and
establishing useful meaning from it; data only becomes
information once it "informs" (provides meaning). Simply
dumping data on the reader, even if the data has been
expressed very grammatically and clearly, can lead to such
sins as "proceduritis"; a typical example of proceduritis might
be presenting a scrupulously accurate and carefully written
procedure to a user who really needs context and explanation,
not just numbered steps. See Douglas Wieringa's thought-
provoking article in the Sept./Oct. 1999 issue of _Intercom_
for a more detailed discussion of this and an excellent
example of how a simple audience analysis revealed that
procedures were not what the audience wanted or needed.

If you look at things simplistically, "technical writers" just
present the facts; as "information developers", our job is to
present only the facts the reader needs, in a format that makes
those facts comprehensible and efficient to use. Changing the
name of our profession does not, by itself, resolve this
problem. But it's my hope that the name change has been
accompanied by a simultaneous change in attitude, both at an
individual level and at an organisational level.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all those sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I
that it is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence." George Miller, "The Magical Number Seven" (1956)

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