Re: Famous Technical Writers?

Subject: Re: Famous Technical Writers?
From: "Anthony Markatos" <tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: BHartzer -at- cha-systems -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 12:54:05 PST

Bill Hartzer asks:

Are there any famous technical writers?

Tony Markatos responds:

How about a little broader -- technical communicators. I feel that the greatest technical communicators of all time are Ed Yourdon and Tom DeMarco (of structured systems analysis fame). Some of the principles that they have taught me:

1.) Written text is terrible for documenting procedural information. Diagrammatical techniques are much better (except at the very detailed level).

2.) Ninty-eight percent (98%) of the required work in any technical communications systems project is gaining an understanding of the current essential tasks accomplished and how all of those tasks interrelate.

3.) Ninty-five percent of all end user tasks are non-essential (i.e, they are only accomplished because of technological imperfections, poor systems design, and political considerations). Figuring out the essential 5% is is a 'bear'.

4.) Only by following the flow of data is it possible to gain an understanding of the logic behind a system. (And the key to effective organization of technical communications is having this understanding.)

5.) Another key to effective technical communications is properly "chunking" a system into "right-sized" pieces. A system is properly "chunked" when the interfaces between the pieces are minimalized.

6.) The creation of effective technical communications is a very iterative process. Through multiple iterations, we move from a very flawed intial understanding of the system to a clear and concise understanding. (So much for the "Ya got to get it right the first time" crowd.)

7.) The goal in project management is to move away from deadlines and towards estimates.

8.) Task analysis is best performed in as top down fashion as possible, so that one does not "drown" in an ocean of detail.

Tony Markatos
(tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com)

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