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DOC Tables of Contents: 838485868889909192939495969798990001020304

ACM Twelfth International Conference on Systems Documentation

Fullname:Twelfth International Conference on Systems Documentation
Note:Technical Communications at the Great Divide: From Computing to Information Technology
Location:Banff, Canada
Dates:1994-Oct-02 to 1994-Oct-05
Publisher:ACM
Standard No:ISBN 0-89791-681-6; ACM Order Number 613940; ACM DL: Table of Contents hcibib: DOC94
Papers:35
Pages:250
An Introduction to Mosaic and the World Wide Web for Technical Communicators BIBAPDF 1
  Kevin M. Cunningham
What is the World Wide Web, and what do we as technical writers/trainers need to know about it? This presentation surveys the World Wide Web from various perspectives, focusing particularly on topics of interest to technical communicators, including:
  • a comprehensive overview of what the Web is -- and why it's interesting
  • a summary of key Web concepts and jargon
  • a description of the client-server model used by the Web
  • an introduction to the popular Web-browsing tools (Mosaic, lynx, etc.)
  • a glimpse at the kinds of information you can find on the Web
  • a brief tutorial on how to prepare documents for the Web, including how to
       use the HTML language, how to add links and graphics, and how to organize
       and deliver documents
  • a survey of accessory tools for Web-spinners (editors, server tools, etc.)
  • a discussion of the many issues that writers face in working in the Web,
       including issues facing any developer of on-line information (and how these
       issues get played out in the Web), as well as issues particular to the Web
  • We Will Write No Online Before Its Time: Timing the Development of a Quality Online Help System to Minimize Panic and Save Costs BIBAPDF 2-5
      Bruce W. Knorr; Ann Zabriskie Norton
    Introduction After Help developers have identified how to produce a context-sensitive hypertext Help system, the next remaining -- and critical -- question is when to do it. Timing an online Help project is actually a collection of smaller timing questions, such as when is the right time to build the text structure? When should one begin tracking topics? What can one do to facilitate an early interface and terminology freeze? When should context-sensitive IDs be integrated? Will there be time to prototype, story-board and usability test? How much documentation is expected during beta testing cycles?
       These were the types of questions we had as we began work on an improved online Help system at WordPerfect, Applications Division of Novell, Inc. This paper illustrates how we successfully answered these questions and effectively timed the production of an online Help system in a cost-efficient manner. Learning from our mistakes, we found that proper timing of events and processes is essential to maximize cost efficiency and minimize panic. Dividing the project into three major phases, as follows, helped us to establish major milestones:
  • Phase I: Establish
  • Phase II: Build
  • Phase III Refine We broke these phases into smaller building blocks or "chunks" such as:
  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Topic Design and Structure
  • Usability and Research
  • Tool development
  • Hypertext linking
  • Editing and Testing Some of these smaller building block activities can begin and end within the same phase, or begin in one phase and end in a later phase. This approach let us keep track of major accomplishments (monitor the big picture), while simultaneously coordinate and schedule smaller, yet important, procedures.
  • Reassessing the Documentation Paradigm: Writing for Print and Online BIBAPDF 6-9
      Karl L. Smart; Matthew E. Whiting
    Software documentation must continually adapt to a burgeoning computer industry. Consequently, documentation has evolved from comprehensive, feature-laden references to concise, focused user guides. With the documentation evolution, new ways in delivering documentation have emerged -- primarily online.
       Changes in documentation types and documentation delivery systems require change in documentation creation. In this paper, we explore the traditional print-based documentation paradigm and how the advent of online has affected that paradigm. We propose that design strategy must account for both print and online documentation as part of a documentation set.
    A Combined Project Planning Model for Documentation/Training at BNR BIBAPDF 10-16
      Glenn C. Russell
    Bell-Northern Research (BNR) is a global leader in the design and development of advanced telecommunications systems and products. Documentation and training groups at BNR have historically been autonomous; that is until last year. Both organizations have now integrated under one management team. With this association was the understanding that the new organization would encounter a number of problems; for example, differences concerning culture, processes, and functions.
       The basic premise of the new organization was to provide a more comprehensive service for our internal -- BNR -- customer base. To do this effectively, we needed an appropriate strategy to eliminate duplication of effort and reduce development interval time, and an organizational structure to accommodate our customers' requirements.
       To provide a more comprehensive and coordinated service to our customers, required a formalized and planning mechanism. We developed an Information Development Plan (IDP) as a method to capture the combined project plans for documentation and training. At this point the IDP has been used for about one year and will develop or evolve into a more integrated plan for our customer base.
    Untangling the World-Wide Web BIBAPDF 17-24
      Liam Relihan; Tony Cahill; Michael G. Hinchey
    While, for years, the Internet has been used to make information resources available, until relatively recently its users have been forced to interact with it through a set of difficult-to-use protocols such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol) [PR85]. Furthermore, extensive knowledge of obscure command-line interfaces, addressing schemes and file types was often required. However, recent years have seen an increase in sophisticated and user-friendly Internet information systems. These include the WAIS (Wide Area Information Service) document server protocol, the menu-based Gopher protocol and the hypertext-based World-Wide Web [Ber92].
       It was the intention of the designers of the World-Wide Web (or WWW or W3) to provide access to the information resources of the Internet through easy-to-use software which operated in a consistent manner [BlEtAl92]. As the basis for information retrieval, the designers settled on the hypertext paradigm -- a paradigm which supported the use of simple "point-and-click" interfaces.
       W3 began as a set of simple protocols and formats. As time passed, W3 began to be used as a testbed for various sophisticated hypermedia and information retrieval concepts. Unfortunately many of these proofs of concept were quickly adopted by the general Web community. This means that experimental extensions of dubious use are now established parts of the Web. To make matters worse, many of those extensions are inadequately documented if at all.
       The Internet is a collection of small interconnected networks whose operation is considerably aided by the adherence of its users to an informal social code. However, in years to come, Internet services will be provided to an ever-increasing number of people. Unlike in the past these new users will not have time to adapt and learn the social and other mores of the "net". Therefore, mechanisms that provide information will need to be become more robust.
       In this paper we shall examine some of the problems facing the World-Wide Web and approaches that may be useful in solving them. In particular, we shall examine problems that relate to the distribution of the Web's information resources. Finally, we shall provide a short evaluation of the Web from the point of view of information providers.
    Implementing an Interface to Networked Services BIBAPDF 25-33
      Abdul Hanan Abdullah; Brian Gay
    This paper highlights the general problems and difficulties in using networked services. A prototype has been developed to help user interact with networked services. General design principles which arise in implementing a prototype user interface to networked services are discussed. The construction of the prototype is based on an object-oriented approach. The way it communicates with networked services and a help facility are also described.
    Object Help for GUIs BIBAPDF 34-38
      David Freeman
    In the common graphical user interface (GUI) environments -- Macintosh, PC Windows, and UNIX's XWindows and OpenWindows -- online help has generally taken two approaches: 1) help systems, separate from the GUI applications, in which users search for information, and 2) balloon help, a Macintosh approach that provides spot triggering of help based on cursor position. Other types of online help for GUIs, such as context-sensitive help, have been developer but they haven't been commonly used. William Horton, in his Designing and Writing Online Documentation, doesn't mention any other types of help facilities for GUIs.
    Joining the GUI Design Team: A Case Study BIBAPDF 39-43
      Leslie A. Johnson
    This paper discusses the experiences of the writing department at a small (85 person or so) high technology company when that department was enlisted to coordinate and design user interfaces for the company's software products. In particular, it takes an in depth look at one particular project.
       We found that many of the skills necessary for success as technical writers in the computer software industry are also important when designing user interfaces, and that the "self instruction" skills writers acquire can be applied to gaining other, more specialized user interface (UI) design skills. The resulting transfer and augmentation of skills enhances our value as technical communicators.
    Interoperability: Rethinking the Documentation Paradigm BIBAPDF 44-48
      Robbi Bean Killpack; Jaelynn Williams
    The existing model of independent software applications and computers is shifting to a model of shared computer data and resources.
       Today's users are knowledgeable about their software applications and their computer hardware. In general, users are no longer intimidated by technology, instead, they want to use software that is intuitive and automates the tasks they need to accomplish. Users want to be able to share information among their documents and with co-workers, who may or may not have the same hardware and software configuration. As a result, there is a growing demand for customizable software to meet the specialized needs of today's users.
       In the computer industry, there is a growing trend toward meeting these user needs by providing interoperable component software that will allow users to integrate multiple applications and a variety of media from different software vendors. This fundamental change in the nature of software applications requires technical communicators to change the way they create and conceptualize documentation.
    Benefits of Implementing On-Line Methods and Procedures BIBAPDF 49-55
      Kenneth R. Ohnemus; Diana F. Mallin
    The application supported by the methods and procedures (M&P) is a telephone central office inventory system which assists users in maintaining an accurate inventory of telephone equipment and connectivity, and facilitates asset management by central office personnel. As the cost of maintaining and distributing the M&Ps was a major issue, on-line M&Ps that provided a look and feel consistent with the application were developed. Users also needed to access both the application and M&Ps simultaneously, therefore, hypertext was necessary to help manage the complexity of the M&Ps. This paper discusses the costs and benefits surrounding the design, development and implementation of on-line M&Ps in a distributed client-server environment.
    Leading the Design Team -- The Evolution of the Technical Writer from a Support Role to a Design Role BIBAPDF 56-60
      Daniel K. Cunningham; Steven J. Reilly
    In the Information Technologies group at Intelligent Controls, Inc., we have found that the changing technical communication industry offers technical communicators new and exciting challenges for those who can adapt to the changing medium (paper to online). Therefore, we have created a division that not only caters to customers' changing needs, but that also provides our technical communicators with clear and desirable career paths in which they can use their traditional technical communication skills, augmented with online and user-centered design principles and philosophies, to meet the needs of the growing and changing market while moving away from support roles to become leaders of design teams.
    Multimedia: Towards an Electronic Performance Support System BIBAPDF 61-65
      Ann Rockley
    Traditionally technical documentation served as reference and user information while training was provided in the classroom or through computer-based training that was accessible separately. Standard online documentation allows us to provide static information. Multimedia allows us to add narration, motion (animation or video) and interaction (computer-based training). Users no longer need to make a choice about what type of information they require and when. The integration of training and documentation makes the choice seamless for the user.
       Today's employees need information and training on demand. It is no longer possible to send people to courses for training due to excessive costs. The long-term benefit of this type of training is reduced because only a portion of the materials are remembered immediately afterwards and even less if a period of time elapses between the training and the actual application of the skill. Online documentation provides a good reference source for information and it may provide some instructional material as well, however it does not provide information in the best form for long-term learning. A different solution is required to meet the needs of today's employees.
    Telecommunicators and Telecommuters: Making Multiple-Site Documentation Projects Work BIBAPDF 66-75
      Katherine E. Drew
    This paper discusses some of the issues, obstacles, and solutions that Legent Corporation has encountered in developing documentation across locations, in enabling people to telecommute, and in managing information developers (our term for technical communicators) remotely. It reflects the experiences of three information development teams whose members span five locations -- Pittsburgh, PA., Westboro, MA., Herndon, VA., Woodland Hills, CA. and Copenhagen, Denmark -- and who collaborate with technical people working remotely from Copenhagen and all comers of the U.S. Topics in this paper include
  • Setting up and supporting telecommuters
  • Developing skills and techniques that help cross-location documentation
       projects succeed
  • Keeping communication clear among people who are geographically scattered
  • Directing documentation projects and developers from afar
  • Setting up and supporting telecommuters.
  • A Future for Professional Communicators in Software Engineering BIBAPDF 76-87
      John K. Horberg
    This paper's goal is not to convince the software community that communicators should be involved in the software engineering process -- this seems to be well accepted already. Recent survey research indicates that the software "industry would gladly add trained technical communicators with computer science backgrounds to their software development teams [but] for the technical writing professional to help solve the software problems plaguing the industry, the professional must first have a demonstrable understanding of the theory and process that drive software development" [Bresko, 1991]. In part, then, this paper is a call for technical communicators to learn more about software engineering: a challenge to place themselves accurately within the framework of software environments. Communicators need to be able to show exactly where they fit into software engineering -- how they can improve software products and software development processes. That is, they need to be able to make specific proposals and detailed plans selling software engineering on their ability to help the field progress. The purpose of this paper is to specify areas in which technical communicators should become more competent and in which software engineering managers should consider involving communicators.
    Creating a CD-ROM from Scratch: A Case Study BIBAPDF 88-95
      Brian J. Thomas
    Technology has moved us to the point where creating a CD-ROM as a alternative to paper volumes is not only cost effective, but also provides an opportunity to add significant value to the information presented, both in terms of quantity and usefulness. The past year has been a pivotal one in terms of access to simple and cost-effective tools and technologies that push "personal publishing" of CD-ROMs closer to reality for a whole range of publishers and information providers. This paper will review the development cycle of SPIE's first CD-ROM product the Electronic Imaging '93 Proceedings on CD-ROM, a hybrid Windows/Macintosh disc that was created without the use of any of the proprietary (and often expensive) software royalty-based contracts that have been the established turn-key solution until now. The intent of this paper is to provide a first-hand look at the developmental, technical, and financial issues involved in creating a CD-ROM publication.
    Learners as Authors: Helping ESL Employees in a Canadian Bank Prepare Customer Relations and Documentation Material BIBAPDF 96-104
      Paul Beam; Diane Burke
    Our paper raises several issues in the development of online documentation and its use by some three hundred employees in the eleven processing centres of a large Canadian bank. We will outline the technology we have used in the process but our emphasis is on learning, information exchange and user empowerment across a number of linguistic groups, several career fields and several thousand miles of a large, thriving business. We are implementing a user-based documentation process in which employees themselves augment and modify the online database of procedures by which they learn and carry out their work. We want users to write procedures and documentation which conform to the terminology and understanding of their workplace routines and practices. Further, we expect them to adapt these to conditions of their various locations and to develop 'best practices' manuals which describe details and options specific to individual sites.
    Hands Drawing Each Other: CAL Help Tools as the Base for CAL Instruction BIBAPDF 105-114
      Paul Beam
    This paper describes a software program called HyperView, an authoring system which involves users in the creation process directly by providing coaching tools from within the Help facility to support their development of interactive learning modules for business and educational instruction. We argue that the Help system we have developed permits users to understand system options and to see the instructive possibilities of computer-aided learning (CAL) applied to the subject matter itself. Users of CAL materials become authors and participate in the development of the modules from which they are learning. We have developed a series of help options which provide information, examples, instructions, tutorials and, finally, coaching to permit users, from novices to experts, to design and modify materials which can then become parts of the next user's learning experience. In this sense, the courseware and authoring system are quite different from conventional 'kiosk' models, instructional sets or testing courseware. HyperView permits authors to develop materials under all three of these structures, but it is a more comprehensive, user-centered system, adaptable to the various learning strategies of its operators.
    Integrating Online Help, Documentation, and Training BIBAPDF 115-118
      R. Stanley Dicks
    Developers of integrated online software products have typically taken one of two approaches to developing and presenting their information to end users. In one approach, they develop help, documentation, and training separately and then provide a front-end access system that makes the three discrete units appear to be integrated. In the second approach, they develop one large set of information and then provide entries to it with a front end that allows access to appropriate pieces of information though tables of contents, key word lists, indexes, and hyperlinks.
       Both of these approaches involve sacrifices. In the former case, the development costs are high, as the same information must be developed three times in three different formats, often by three separate people (who all too often do not communicate effectively enough to ensure consistency across their pieces). In the second case, the development costs may be lower, but the end user has to work harder to find needed information, as the system does not present just the right information at just the right time.
       At Bellcore, we have increasingly faced a customer base that demands delivery of training, documentation, and online help with our software products. Our customers want minimal or no classroom training to be required, want minimal documentation, and want as much of the information online as possible. To deliver products in this way, we had to restructure our organization and redefine our rhetorical approach to delivering software training, documentation, and online help, or, as we refer to it learning support.
    Zen and the Art of Learning Support: Combining Documentation, Training, and Online Help Functions for a Unique Organizational Approach to Information Development BIBAPDF 119-125
      Karen E. Goeller
    In this paper, I'll give an overview of the process Bellcore's team of re-inventors took to create a unique organizational structure encompassing "traditional" documentation and training, online help and support-system development and the development of new information delivery mechanisms. I'll take you step-by-step through both the triumphs and the pitfalls, so that your company can learn from our experience. And, I'll tell you a little about where we're heading down the road of information design.
       This paper does not paint a blue-sky theoretical view of an ideal universe. It talks about real problems faced by real people, and the sometimes-thorny cultural and political issues you'll encounter in implementing this type of change in your organization. This is not a blueprint for you to follow, since every organization's experience will be different, but hopefully it will give you some good ideas, good advice, and a little idea of what to expect as you begin your work toward an integrated information design organization.
    A Development Process for Large Multimedia Titles BIBAPDF 126-138
      Mark Ryan; Rich Helms
    Within IBM there are many groups that have made small-scale multimedia titles. Large titles, however, are not so common. This paper describes the process that we followed to create a large title, Experience C++. It begins with a description of why we decided to create a multimedia title about C++. It then describes the process that we followed to make the title. Finally, it describes the lessons that we learned and our plans for the future.
    Multi-Level Documentation of Organizational Architectures and Processes BIBAKPDF 139-144
      Rudolf K. Keller; Anurag Garg; Amin Noaman; Tao Tao
    The modelling and analysis of organizational architectures and processes should be complemented with adequate documentation such as forms, database information, pieces of software, and anecdotal experience. The resulting models are not only more expressive and useful, but may also serve as on-line training vehicles and means for communication in a multi-person environment. They can be seen as multi-level documentation of the underlying architectures and processes, comprising both formal and informal elements, and allowing for the execution of their formal parts.
       These concepts are being validated in Macrotec, an environment for organizational modelling and analysis, which is complemented with Hypertec, a hypertext-based component supporting authoring, display and navigation of the documentation that cannot be captured in the formal part of our models. In this paper, we shall discuss Macrotec and Hypertec, illustrate our approach with an example and report on our experience at applying it.
    Keywords: Information system documentation, Hypertext organizational modelling, Business process reengineering, Action workflow, Computer-supported cooperative work, Petri net
    A Theory of Organization BIBAPDF 145-155
      Joseph I. B. Gonzales
    The organization hypothesis states that when the structure of information in the user interface is related to the user's task, the user interface should correspond to the user's understanding. This hypothesis creates a coherent framework for interpreting diverse findings in user interface design, lays a theoretical foundation for research on user interface organization, and suggests guidelines to the designer of the user interface.
    Groupware Concept Mapping Techniques BIBAPDFHTML 156-165
      Rob Kremer; Brian R. Gaines
    Concept maps have been used in education, policy studies and the philosophy of science to provide a visual representation of knowledge structures and argument forms. They provide a complementary alternative to natural language as a means of communicating knowledge. In many disciplines various forms of concept map are already used as formal knowledge representation systems, for example: semantic networks in artificial intelligence, bond graphs in mechanical and electrical engineering, Petri nets in communications, and category graphs in mathematics. This paper describes the design and application of a groupware concept mapping tool designed to support the knowledge processes of geographically dispersed communities.
    Active Documents Combining Multimedia and Expert Systems BIBAPDF 166-175
      Mildred L. G. Shaw; Brian R. Gaines
    An active multimedia document publication system is described which integrates a number of different representation technologies to provide a medium offering a wide spectrum of usage, including new forms of scholarly communication. The capabilities range from emulation of current paper publication, through electronic document delivery on the Internet or CD-ROM, multimedia inclusion of video and sound, hypermedia linkage, to formal knowledge representation for simulation and inference. Aspects of the implementation are described, and examples are given of applications, including one in which an active document forms the knowledge base of an expert system.
    A Unified Approach to Indexing and Retrieval of Information BIBAPDF 176-181
      Kevin Cox
    This paper takes another look at information retrieval. It starts from the purposes of retrieval, looks at what people would like from a retrieval system, builds a conceptual-model for how a retrieval system could work and from that determines what and how to do appropriate indexing to fit the model. The approach leads to the idea of the duality of indexing and retrieval. The ideas are illustrated by giving the design of a text based system and of a system to store pictures of faces. It is shown that the underlying mechanisms are the same for both systems and it suggests that other retrieval systems using this approach will have similar structures. Other implications of the approach are that retrieval and indexing can be monitored by the machine and the systems can learn to better respond to human needs. Ongoing research in this area is outlined.
    The Fate of Indexes in an Online World BIBAPDF 182-189
      Mary Jane Northrop
    Technical documentation is increasingly delivered online. Whether an online help system integrated with the product or separate documentation delivered and updated regularly on CD-ROM, this trend will likely continue. Economics alone dictate that product developers decrease the amount of paper used to support rapidly changing technologies. Also, as users increasingly access technologies remotely, the likelihood that they will have access to paper-based documentation decreases.
       As a result, it is important to examine what readers gain and lose in the transition to online delivery. As the primary access mechanism in most technical documentation, the index is an interesting place to focus that examination. Indexing is often the most maligned, least appreciated document production task. Yet poor indexes are a frequent user complaint and a frequent, if unexpected, finding in many documentation usability tests [6,8,10]. For these users, the index is most often the primary access tool.
    Building an Internet Resource for a Specialized Online Community BIBAPDF 190-197
      Rich Donnelly; Rick Hermann
    SPIE is a nonprofit organization with 11,000 members worldwide. The society's constituency comprises optical and optoelectronic scientists and engineers in communications, biomedical, manufacturing, aerospace, and other applications. The perceived need to link our technical community electronically is both a response to a future scenario of pervasive interconnectivity among the scientific community and a need to address the issues raised by a changing paradigm for technical publishing, wherein the rise of electronic communication may obviate the need for the traditional publisher (and its capital investment). Through a growing but still modest effort over the last two years, SPIE has created an array of online services that are essentially paving the way for our organization's future offerings in the electronic publishing world. Many of our experiences and observations may apply to any group involved in setting up such a resource, and we hope this case study will provide some assistance to others embarking on that process.
    Issues and Guidelines for Authoring a WWW Project: The SAS Experience BIBAPDF 198-199
      Lauren A. Bednarcyk; Curtis A. Yeo
    Many corporations have begun to take advantage of the Internet to communicate with and provide service to their clients and potential clients. Undoubtedly, the primary impetus for this explosion of electronic exchange of information is the World Wide Web (WWW). On the web, organizations can provide graphics, text, sound, and video to the Internet community in an easy-to-use format that is removed from the rigors of Internet navigation. SAS Institute Inc., like many other companies connected to the Internet, recognizes the vast potential in the WWW, and we welcome the opportunity to establish our own unique Internet address.
    Technical Communicators and System Developers Collaborating in Usability-Oriented Systems Development: A Case Study BIBAPDF 200-207
      Par Carlshamre
    This paper describes the development and evaluation of the Delta method extension. Because of the author's background in systems development and limited experience in the field of technical communication, the paper is written from an SD perspective. Considering that most of what is published about TCs joining the design teams in systems development seems to be written by technical communication representatives, this may not be a disadvantage.
    Bridging the Communication Gap in the Workplace with Usability Engineering BIBAPDF 208-212
      Desiree Sy
    How can we make products, including documentation, more usable? The first and most difficult step in the process is to make a commitment to improve the usability of the product through the whole development cycle; usability is not a surface quality, but a holistic one, and must be considered at all stages of development. The major barrier to implementing usability is the chasm that exists between designers and the users for whom they design. Usability engineering methodologies are tools that can bridge the communication gap between designers and users, and also improve communication among all members of the development team.
    Multi-User Domains and Virtual Campuses: Implications for Computer-Mediated Collaboration and Technical Communication BIBAKPDF 213-219
      Brad Mehlenbacher; Beth Hardin; Chris Barrett; Jim Clagett
    Despite being the focus of 170 articles in the Fall of 1993, few researchers have documented how the Internet, an environment that attracts over 6000 new users per month, will affect the technical communication profession [18]. In particular, researchers have devoted little attention to the rapid emergence of an Internet tool that has the potential to increase collaboration among professional technical communicators. This paper represents one such attempt and describes an electronic tool we are building at NCSU called the TechComm-VC (Virtual Campus), a Multi-User Domain, or MUD.
    Keywords: Computer-mediated collaboration, E-mail, Internet, Multi-user domains (MUDS), Productivity, Virtual communities
    Information Ecologies and System Design: A Developmental Perspective on Mass Multimedia Networks BIBAPDF 220-226
      Menahem Blondheim
    The following is an attempt to sketch, in broad strokes, the ecology of a set of silicon and human organisms that inhabit the shared environment of a particular multimedia computer network that was developed, and is currently operating in an experimental stage, in Israel. This will be done on two levels -- the micro level will describe the innerspace of the network and the first order links of its components. The second, the macro level, will consider the network as a whole in the broader context of the Israeli information environment and the local system of social arrangements, economic conditions, and cultural biases.
    The Changing Roles of Educators: Using E-Mail, CD-ROM, and Online Documentation in the Technical Writing Classroom BIBAPDF 227-233
      Lynnette R. Porter
    The profession of technical communication is changing rapidly, and as technical "writers" truly become "information designers," skills with computer-based technologies become an ever more important part of technical communication courses. For teachers, the possibilities of innovatively using technology seem endless, but the reality of learning to use new and constantly changing technologies and then making them available to students is daunting at best. Teaching classes in a computer lab and introducing students to as much new technology as possible are necessities, but what really happens when teachers and students have access to e-mail, CD-ROM, and other computer-based information?
       Perhaps an equally important question should be asked about the demands being placed on teachers. Is a teacher's job simply to train students to use the technology? Or is a teacher's job to educate students, to teach them how to solve problems and gather information from a variety of sources, especially technological resources? The debate between proponents of processor product, teaching or training, and theory or application is old, especially in technical communication. Teachers need to decide where they stand in this debate and how they and their students will work with "technology" in and outside the classroom.
       In this article I focus on three pedagogical issues facing educators at the Great Divide: What should be taught in technical writing/communication courses? What are the roles of the teacher? What are the roles of the student? Finally, I'll share some of my experiences to illustrate approaches to teaching students in this challenging time for technical communicators.
    Developing a Hypertext Help System: A Cooperative Effort Between a Software Developer and a Technical Writer BIBAPDF 234-245
      Phil Herold; Carla Merrill
    We developed Helplus, a hypertext help application that runs under the X Window System on Hewlett Packard, Sun, and IBM RISC System/6000 workstations. Helplus is modelled after Microsoft Windows help. Helplus is unusual for a help system because it is a server program that manages multiple help files concurrently, each in its own X window. These help files can be attached to applications and, therefore, invoked through the applications. However, they can also be invoked as stand-alone programs through Helplus. This means, in effect, that one instance of Helplus can run multiple help files for applications, with or without the applications themselves running. Helplus can also be used to create and run a help file (or a hypertext file for some other purpose) as an independent application. For example, with only one instance of Helplus running, a user can have concurrent access to Helplus windows containing tutorials, orientation information, and other online information that may not be associated with a particular application.
    Traversing the Divide: Documentation Challenges of the 90s BIBAPDF 246-250
      Karl Smart; Matt Whiting; Freda Husic; Lisa Moore; Peter Orbeton
    In the last five years, we have seen a major shift in the documentation accompanying computer software. As technology has developed, the ability of offering more information online has increased. This, along with increasing costs associated with producing printed documentation and the decreasing retail price of a software package, has resulted in a general industry move toward offering a larger percentage (if not all) of a product's documentation online.