Indexing online documents

Subject: Indexing online documents
From: "Susan Self @ignite" <susan -at- ALSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 30 May 1996 14:56:53 PDT

Lori Lathrop wrote:

>Susan Self @ignite (susan -at- ALSYS -dot- COM), also says:

Regardless of platform differences, Lori's approach still
doesn't seem to address the problem of leafing through a
large online index in HTML format. Just because you have
an index doesn't mean that anyone wants to take the time
to use it.

>Susan -- Do I sense some hostility toward me? If so, let's discuss whatever
>issues you have privately. I agree with you that leafing through a large
>online index in HTML format does not have much appeal; again, that's an issue
>that I (and other professional indexers) are unlikely to solve for software
>developers. IMHO, many people using online documentation become somehow
>transformed in much the same way as some people are transformed when they
>get behind the wheel of a car; they become more impatient, and they don't
>want anything to get in their way. I can appreciate that, too, and I
>sincerely hope that software developers will provide all of us with
>better "vehicles" some day.

Lori, what you sense is not hostility but impatience and reaction to a
passive attitude. You seem to be saying in your answer here:
"the efficiency and usability of my index is not my problem.
The software developers need to solve that. I just write the index."

>From my point of view, writers and indexers need to be proactive
and investigate the situation and its possible solutions. Software
developers have already provided various search engines and HTML tools
that could work for us, but we need to decide the most effective use
of available tools or commission the tools we need to meet our ideal.
We also need to design our indexes to work with such tools.

I am surprised that more people are not engaged in the discussion of
possible solutions for accessing indexes for large online documentation sets.
I think writers as communicators need to take responsibility for the
final deployment and use of their work in order for the communication
to be complete and useful. The navigation of online documentation makes
the task of the communicator more difficult, but we have to try to make
it as good as possible. I wouldn't like to unleash to others a system
that I wouldn't want to use myself.

Susan Self
susan -at- thomsoft -dot- com

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