The enormous improvements in quality and productivity that have occurred in industry over the last several decades can, in large part, be attributed to a focus on improving first-run quality. In traditional production line environments, the golden rule was never to stop the production line. Any faults that might occur or be noticed while the product was on the production line were to be allowed to pass on, to be found and fixed in post production testing. Come hell or high water, though, the line must never stop.
Sometimes microblogging questions require macroblogging answers. Here’s the conversation:
@arh: Did @hixie really call XML a “disaster”? Is #techcomm aware of this? http://html5doctor.com/interview-with-ian-hickson-html-editor/
@mbakeranalecta: @arh XML is a disaster. Bad implementation of an essential concept. So is QWERTY. So it goes.
@arh: @mbakeranalecta Generally agreed. What concerns me are the #techcomm folks who think XHTML is “the future”.
@mbakeranalecta: @arh If people don’t see the value in making content mutable and addressable, then presentation formats are all they care about.
Tom Johnson’s correspondent, Sam from Canada, asks if tool vendors are not more to blame for the slow pace of change in tech comm than tech writers themselves:
I’ve been enjoying your posts along with Mark Baker’s. You both have good points about technical writing trends. I could be totally wrong, but maybe it’s not the tech writers that are resisting change. Maybe it’s the companies making the tools/money that are resisting change.
I don’t think the problem is so much that the tool vendors are resisting change. Tool vendors need a certain amount of change in order to create a reason for people to buy upgrades. But vendors also need, and therefore support, changes that provide a viable economic model for creating and selling software. They won’t support a change if there is not a viable way for them to make money by supporting it.
Links are expensive. That’s a problem, because the web is, and always has been, a hypertext medium, a medium of links. Links, as I have argued previously, are the last mile of findability. Links are how readers move around in your content. More importantly, links are what keep readers in your content, rather than Googling off to who knows where. SEO is how you get eyes on your content; links are how you keep them there.
What if you could create more links in less time? You can. I call it soft linking.
Every time I talk with someone about metadata, I have the feeling we are talking past each other, at least a little. We are both using the same word, “metadata”, but it often seems like we mean different thing by it. So, what does “metadata” mean?
Metadata is simply data about data, or, to put it another way, data that describes other data. Metadata is ubiquitous. Indeed most data is useless without metadata to tell us what it means. And because metadata is also data, we need metadata to tell us what the metadata means.
I was reflecting today on whether companies are making the best strategic use of their documentation departments. Of course, we doc folk believe that no self respecting corporation should ever let any product go out the door without full, brilliant, richly illustrated documentation — preferable printed on acid free archival quality paper and bound in rich leather embossed with gold lettering. In fact, of course, that virtually never happens, and yet our companies still manage to eek out a return for their shareholders.
Were I asked to characterize the human condition in a sentence, I might choose this: to be human is to make decisions with too little information. All our decisions, great and small, are taken without adequate information: getting married, buying real estate, having children (this especially), saving for retirement, choosing the best route for a journey, taking a job, or hiring an employee. We don’t know nearly as much as we would like to in making any of these decisions.