Re: Future of Technical Writing

Subject: Re: Future of Technical Writing
From: "Doug, Data Librarian at Ext 4225" <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 09:08:44 -0600


Here's some further thoughts on the "writers vs communicators" discussion.

I really don't want to reopen the "are we going to eliminate printed docs"
thread that was beaten to death on this list not too long ago. Clearly,
there are some things that only print can do, or that print does better
than on-line, and some people just like it better. That's fine.

However, we can't ignore the fact that print is a maxed-out technology. No
innovations in typesetting, layout, design or paper are going to greatly
increase the information-carrying capacity of a page. And the amount of
information necessary to do most jobs is increasing at an expotential rate.
Further, we're driven by the corporate desire to capture and organize
procedures and information that was formerly left up to individual workers
(if it was captured at all), and to make decisions in a more data-driven
and systematic fashion.

These trends imply that more information-rich "software assistants" or
whatever you want to call them, are going to become more and more common.
The current generation of applications isn't going to cut it any more than
paper procedural manuals would. So, we have this "new thing;" a weird
hybrid of on-line document, multimedia presentation, and conventional
application. The need for them is growing rapidly, and communication is an
important part of their mission.

My suggestion is that as technical communicators, we need to stake our
claim in this new technology as it emerges, and cast ourselves as vital
members of the team. If we don't, it will be taken over by the folks who
brought us "Press ENTER to Exit" "Abort, Retry, Ignore" (Later improved to
"Abort, Retry, Fail") and other gems from the human-machine interface.

Doug "Women are designed for long,
ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com miserable lives, whereas men are
designed for short, violent ones."
- Estelle Ramey

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