atw: Re: Is the computer really a paradigm shift?: a lament

<sigh>
Once more unto the breach. Briefly.

Geoffrey, it matters not if it's a new paradigm. 

For me, the major difference between us is one of emphasis. 

You want to assure people they don't +have+ to read up about XML to
be techwriters, and to warn them of the puffery.

I want to encourage them to read up about XML if they are or plan to
be techwriters, and to learn to assess, accept, reject or ignore the
puffery
that goes with the territory. 

In general, I think:

a.) Being a techwriter is about being curious, and continuing to be
curious, even for the best writer of simple English in the world.

b.) Learning about XML has been of use to me.  On the job I'm working
on for you, I think it's been of use for you too, because last week I
saved a bit of time when SMEs were busy, to dig up relevant facts
buried in bits of XML.   In some other jobs, it has saved days and
days of work, not just hours.   

Sure regular expression knowledge helped too, but that's not a
paradigm shift either...    

(In fact, add regexes to the things tech writers don't need
necessarily but can use to save hours of effort.  Maybe Nikki should
have a look there, too, if she hasn't already.)

You might not find many employers who start off thinking these are
requirements, but I've worked for a few now who seem to have been
happy enough to accept the favourable results if and when they
happened to come their way. 

c.) I think the XML things that Hedley outlined in his most recent
post on the topic are of continuing relevance to all of us, even if:
 
+ they currently have greatest effects on large doc systems;
+ they are never quite what they are often hyped up to be; and 
+ their SGML and DocBook predecessors never quite got off the ground.


d.) I particularly think it's important to look at things like
ditamaps and conrefs and similar goodies to AND to contemplate the
changes that some say are needed for simple writing styles in an
extensive content-reuse system.
     
This latter may be the most important thing for some. I still have
doubts about it. But I think the exercise involved in contemplating
the different, "context-free" approach to simple writing is worth a
bit of time and thought. 

And I'm sorry, the old cut-and-paste answer to this really ignores
maintenance problems of significant dimensions. That appoach risks
becoming
cut-and-paste and find-all-instances-and-fix-them and
hope-you-didn't-miss-any.

And were you +serious+ about extensive conditional text use in
FrameMaker? shheeesh ! 

e.) I think it's important to consider what happens when people who
write and read in non-ASCII languages become dominant consumers and
authors of large slabs of text that might once have been written or
read in simple English, and only translated after years of
painstaking work.    And I think XML or one of its children or
successors is likely to be a part of that.

So I'd urge Nikki to follow her curiosity.     Get off to
http://w3.schools.com and whip through the basics.   It never hurts. 
And a
little knowledge is never really nearly as dangerous as simple
ignorance. 

Next the regex ?

--Peter M



>>
>>Nice one Peter. But I do wonder why you added
>>
>>"I know some old writers who wrote between tags What a bunch of old
>>dags, To
>>write between tags"
>>
>>Given the threads that drove this little ditty, I'm sure there are
>some
>>on
>>this list who will read this as intimating, just, that Marnell is an
>>anti-tagging Luddite.
>>
>>Well, surprised you might be to hear that I think tagging content is
>>damn
>>good...for what you can do with it. It's a means-and-ends issue,
>this
>>one.
>>Tagging text (or structured authoring, if you wish) is just a means
>to
>>something else. On it's own it is pretty dull. And it's not new.
>We've
>>been
>>doing it forever (if only mentally until fairly recently, when SGML
>>appeared). Yes, we once used SGML to tag content, but it flopped
>because
>>there were not a lot of interesting things you could do with it.
>>
>>No, my beef is not with tagging. My beef is with all the hype and
>>puffery.
>>I'm sorry folks, but tagging text is not a paradigm shift (even if
>web
>>publishing, for example, is a paradigm shift). We've tagged forever
>(the
>>means); but now, at last, we are doing some fascinating things with
>it
>>(the
>>ends) and we are on the verge of doing some even more fascinating
>things
>>with it.  And I'm happy to say that even through a lot of those
>>spruiking
>>the benefits of, say, DITA forget (or are ignorant of the fact) that
>for
>>long-term FrameMaker users, a lot of the supposedly new stuff on the
>>horizon
>>has been available for donkeys years. We've used it; it's good; but
>it's
>>not
>>earth-shattering, nor will be.
>>
>>Yes, folks, bring on DITA and then bring on its daughters and sons.
>But
>>just
>>temper the hype and the puffery. It's hard enough finding enough
>>technical
>>writers these days; it will only be harder if we scare off would-be
>>writers
>>with such hyperbolic nonsense that they need to know XML to get into
>the
>>market and then have to learn a new paradigm-shifting writing
>>methodology.
>>They don't and they won't. 
>>
>>
>>Geoffrey Marnell
>>Principal Consultant
>>Abelard Consulting Pty Ltd
>>T: (+61 3) 9596 3456
>>F: (+61 3) 9596 3625
>>W: http://www.abelard.com.au
>> 
>>
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>[mailto:austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of
>>peterm_5@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>Sent: Tuesday, 16 September 2008 8:07 AM
>>To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>Subject: atw: Is the computer really a paradigm shift?: a lament 
>>
>>I know some old writers who wrote with a stick I don't why they
>wrote
>>with a
>>stick Perhaps they were sick.
>>
>>I know Babylonians who wrote in the clay And figured and jiggled and
>>squiggled all day.
>>They wrote in the clay without a burnt stick.
>>They must have been thick
>>To abandon the stick
>>Perhaps they were sick.
>>
>>I know some Egyptians who flattened a reed What a way to proceed To
>then
>>write on the reed!
>>
>>They  wrote on the reed to replace the clay...
>>To stop all that jiggling and squiggling all day..
>>They wrote on the clay to replace the stick But I don't know why
>they
>>abandoned the stick Perhaps they were sick....
>>
>>I know some Chinese who wrote onto paper What sort of a vapour Do
>you
>>sniff
>>to invent paper ?
>>
>>They wrote on the paper to replace the reed. They wrote on the the
>reed
>>in
>>place of the clay. To stop all that jiggling and squiggling all day.
>
>>They wrote on the clay to replace the stick. But I don't know why
>they
>>abandoned the stick Perhaps they were sick.
>>
>>I know some old Germans who printed from type What a great hype All
>that
>>moveable type
>>
>>They printed from type to get books with great speed..
>>And used vellum and paper instead of the reed. They wrote on the
>reed to
>>replace the clay. To stop all that jiggling and squiggling all day..
>>They wrote on the clay to replace the stick. But I don't know why
>they
>>abandoned the stick Perhaps they were sick.
>>
>>I know some old clerks who wrote on a card How avant-garde! 
>>To write on a card!
>>
>>They wrote on the card to sort the books..
>>They printed the book to bundle the paper..
>>They wrote on the paper to replace the reed. They wrote on the reed
>to
>>replace the clay. To stop all that jiggling and squiggling all
>day...
>>They wrote on the clay to replace the stick...
>>But I don't know why they abandoned the stick Perhaps they were
>sick.
>>
>>I know some old writers who wrote between tags What a bunch of old
>dags,
>>To
>>write between tags.
>>
>>They wrote inside tags to replace the cards...
>>They wrote in the cards to sort the books. They wrote in the books
>to
>>bundle
>>the paper. They wrote on the paper to replace the reed. They wrote
>on
>>the
>>reed to replace the clay. To stop all that jiggling and squiggling
>all
>>day...
>>They wrote on the clay to replace the stick...
>>But I don't know why they abandoned the stick Perhaps they were
>sick.
>>
>>I know some old writers who read XML source.
>>They are sick, of course.
>>
>>
>>--Peter M in memory of Geoffrey's youthful curiosity.. 
>>
>>
>>
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