RE: Numbering Steps for Multiple Paths

Subject: RE: Numbering Steps for Multiple Paths
From: David Cramer <dacramer -at- videon -dot- wave -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999 08:36:38 -0500

>I'm with you. We never use "1" for a single step. A "1" always implies a
>"2". Nobody starts counting with "one" and stays there. "One" is intuitively
>obvious. If nothing else, using some other mechanism for a single step cues
>the reader that this is a special, one-step case. I'd even be in favor of a
>heading "This process has only one step." Readers can't have too many cues.

Since I don't seem to be getting through on this, it's probably my last
attempt, but this type of response is driving me nuts! I keep reading a
theoretical basis for something that seems to me to be pretty much
perceptual. My perceptions don't fit the theory. Nobody has actually given
me perceptual experience. All of these responses in favor of eliminating
"1" for single steps refer to how they "would" feel.

I don't know how this happens. If you folks have actually had the
experience of seeing a book with single steps numbered "1" and were
honestly thrown off by it, I would be more impressed by the argument. But I
_have_ seen two different books without numbered single steps and been
pretty thoroughly thrown, you know, to the extent of having to stop and
hunt for other step-type lists, study them to be sure they were supposed to
be the same even though one was numbered and one wasn't, etc.

That's not trivial irritation for me, incidentally. If I have to stop,
hunt, and analyze a document component before I can even continue to use
the document, I consider it a serious flaw, possibly close to boneheaded.

So now what do I do with my own experience, perception, and judgement?

My usual solution to resolving a lot of design impasses is to ensure I have
considered a worst case scenario. In this situation, I suppose I would
first imagine a document filled with a lot of little procedures, one-step
and two-step in equal proportions.

OK, I have just made two sample documents in FrameMaker demonstrating this.
One has numbered single steps, the other un-numbered single steps. I look
at them, and I can't help thinking it looks to me like the author intended
the un-numbered single steps to be some other kind of component, like
notes, or comments, or something else that can't come in multiples. I guess
that's one of the things I find so puzzling about Tim Altom's response
quoted above. The other side of the coin to what Tim has said is that if
seeing a "1" to him implies a "2", to me seeing a "1" implies that it's the
kind of thing that _could_ and frequently _does_ have a "2", "3" or more.
If I don't see a "1", I assume it's one of those singleton things that will
not be appearing in multiples.

And on top of that, It's just confusing to me to look at two instances of a
component that are presented differently, but are supposed to be identical.

All this talk about having a "1" implies a "2" sound to me about as
sensible as Aristotle deducing biology from theories of numbers. We're
approaching the millenniium, for gosh sakes. Loosen up those "1"s!!!

Signing off.

(I used to think I was number "1" but if I'm by myself I'm nothing??!!) David

David Cramer, Process Innovation Evangelist 87-1313 Border Street
PBSC Computer Training Centres (an IBM company) Winnipeg MB R3H 0X4
Corporate Office Research & Development Canada

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