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from Alan J. Porter
"Lettering is a lonely activity. Work can begin with the writer, but to get it from the writer to the end user, it must also go through an editorial ist, proofreader, bookmaker, type-setter, printers, salesman, marketer, distribution, book purchaser and finally a grocer.
It is a style that the book industry invented hundreds of years ago and still works today. While it could be said that the web and print-on-demand are slightly changing the way people deliver, the same fundamental processes still apply. Bookselling is founded on the fact that the artistry, contents and book layout are small parts of the overall production and that the printing supply chain is a thriving only through scalability and repeatability.
But the more I am writing and the more I am in the book trade, the more I am impressed by the difference to what has been my "daily business" for over twenty years: technological publishing. During the years I have been educated and worked as an author, journalist, editors, document designers, coder, formattery experts, contentmanagement specialists and workforms.
I have used a number of softwares that cover all of these fields. Same material, same processes, but you get very different results. Installment of an edit and help designing utility and a provisioning utility on two workstations. Pass it on to two equal skilled tech writers - one good at writing contents and one enthusiastic about type and user interface inks.
Identical tooling, same procedure. One of the problems with the art form, that every tech writer has full control over every single instrument in the manufacturing chain, is that they are not only the best who influence the overall performance of what you do. Running a large store for engineering literature, I was able to randomly open any kind of documents and use the page layouts and languages to determine who was producing the book, even though it met both company and industrial specifications.
The" writer as artist" approach raises education expenses because everyone needs to know about every single instrument used. The operating expenses of these utilities are also high because in a multiauthor environments all changes to stylesheets, stylistic specifications, businessprocesses, new benchmarks, etc. are updated.
This kind of simultaneous manufacturing also makes it hard to gauge progression and qualitiy and tends to concentrate effort and resource on achieving results that are consistently. When we shape the whole and not the results, it can pay off in terms of qualitiy, competence, pace and overall Cost. Through the separation of the individual procedures into individual steps, each of which is carried out by a professional with the appropriate software like in the book trade, we can rationalize and even automatize the field of publication technology.
Indeed, considering what we do as "business" and not just as necessary "overhead" will not only help to improve the way we do things, but will also help to ensure that technical publishes are recognized in the company organization (but this is probably food for a prospective column). Do you have some great contributors who have a true hand in speaking to SMBs and translate geeks into easy-to-understand screens?
Concentrate on developing contents and using your favorite authoring tools. Let WYSIWYG template designers create the workspace. You could be a great information designer, and when you go to a textured enviroment like DITA or DITA, let them create and manage your schemes and specialisations.
Let them create the look and feel of your results. In this way you always build up a "modular" product system. Put them in a specific order for the way you work and you have your own editing line. Yes, it's a good time for everyone to keep track of the whole operation so they can predict the effects of their work, but they no longer need to know everything.
While the best individuals work on central instruments related to their respective roles (see Figure 2), use their abilities and passion and make them available to everyone. It also means that you can implement, test, and fix new tasks in tandem, without affecting them all, before integrating them into the entire lifecycleline.
Specialty areas allow employees to keep working with the familiar utilities, reducing the cost of learning and reducing the cost of providing upgrades and changes. Now, writers can only have the edit power and a revision utility on their desktop using schemes and patterns created by others and saved on the net.
Usually, the results are designed and behaved by a team of easy-to-use users who have stored these terms in a place where they can be retrieved from a central publication appliance. Provisioning can be automized to make better use of IT assets so that publication can take place over night in a hands-off / lights-out enviroment.
Now the entire procedure is quantifiable, scaleable, repeatable and straightforward. For over 20 years he has been working in the field of Coporate Publishing in Great Britain and the USA. His work has included the drafting and approval of various publisher conventions and he has been a frequent contributor to sector conventions. Previously he worked in leading executive roles at various publishers' and service providers, combined with comprehensive consultancy work.
It is a widely read writer with several publications and journal contributions on its name.