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