atw: Re: Vale technical writing?

  • From: "Anthony Self" <ASelf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2012 23:08:31 +1100

Hi Geoffrey (and austechies)

Wow! From one paragraph you've managed to divine my entire talk and 4,000 word 
essay from a mere one paragraph synopsis!

Just a few clarifications. 

>>(Henry Ford had a monopoly on the market; we don't.) <<

In 1898, Henry Ford's company made one car (called the Quadricycle). He made 
another in 1899, and a third one in 1900. These cars were hand-built. At the 
zenith of Model T production, one car rolled off the assembly line every 60 
seconds. As my talk explains, Henry Ford created a mass market, but he never 
had a monopoly on the market. Before the Model T, Belgium made more cars than 
the United States.

>> If XML publishing and DITA offered more efficient means of documenting AND 
>> offered us readability and usability at least equal with what our current 
>> methods offer us, perhaps we might sit up and listen. But, by Tony's own 
>> admission, they do not.<<

You've put words into my mouth. I made no such admission in the one paragraph 
synopsis. To the contrary, my talk explains how quality improves in the move 
from hand-crafting to assembly line and automation. Maybe it is time to "sit up 
and listen"?

>>is Tony really saying that the very best that XML and DITA will ever be able 
>>to give us is one-colour-fits-all documentation?<<

I realise that this was a rhetorical question, but I'll answer it anyway. No.

If you want to hear what I'm really saying, you can come along to the talk, 
rather than guessing from a one paragraph synopsis and some random 

I don't mention XML publishing, and I think my definition of XML publishing is 
very different to yours, Geoffrey. Microsoft Word uses an XML file format, as 
does Adobe InDesign. These XML-based software tools are used for hand-crafting 
documents. But they are not what I'm talking about when I say that XML is an 
enabling platform for document engineering and automation. Henry Ford found 
machine tools to be the enabling technology for his change in the production 
process. XML is the enabling technology for DITA, but DITA is a methodology 
(process) rather than a technology. Just as Ford's assembly line was a process 
rather than a technology.

Finally, back to your thinking that Ford had a monopoly. The car "marques" that 
were around before the Ford Motor Company had made its first car included 
Akron, American De Dion, Auburn, Baker Electric, Buffalo, Canda, Clark Steam, 
Collins Electric, Hewitt-Lindstrom, Peerless, and Searchmont. Heard of any of 
these? They went broke by ignoring technological change, rejecting the new 
processes of their competitors as inflexible, not bothering about efficiency, 
and offering customers cars in any colour they wanted.



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