How the Humanist Nerd Approaches Software Tools

The Humanist Nerd explains how he approaches posts about software for technical communication, especially when he has a relationship with the company that publishes it.

In the last while, I have occasionally written something that resembles a review of technical communication editing tools. As we enter a new string of product releases, I’d like to take a moment to explain where I’m coming from, and why I do these the way I do.

No Longer Writing

In recent years, I’ve almost completely stopped developing technical content. I do architecture and design, training, consulting – but I rarely actually open an editor and write anything that looks like a technical communication product anymore.

I only feel comfortable evaluating the general trend of evolution in products that I have actually used in daily production, and that is why I have covered only two companies’ products:

  • Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite
  • SyncRO Soft’s oXygen XML suite

Aside from word processors and early versions of Interleaf (which still exists, under the name Quicksilver), these are the only editors that I have used personally to develop technical content.

In the past, I have indicated that both of these companies provide me with free access to their software – not for review purposes, but for other projects.

It’s important to make it clear, that when you have a close relationship with a company, you’re not going to write a negative review of their product. On the other hand, I doubt I’d want to go on working with a company whose product I did not appreciate.

So, you can be sure that if I review a product, it’s because I have an overall positive view of it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t review it. Period.

Absence is Not Disapproval

So, does the absence of other product reviews here mean I don’t like them? Absolutely not. There are lots of other products out there that seem interesting to me, even really fascinating, and I maintain equally friendly relationships with many of their publishers.

I haven’t reviewed these other products simply because I’ve never had enough opportunity to use them in a production situation, and I don’t think it is fair to judge a product that I only know from demonstrations.

Non Reviews

In the end, I don’t think what I write about these products are really reviews, and I don’t think they should be – both because I am not totally disconnected from the publishers, and because I’m pretty sure that I can contribute better to an understanding of the appropriate use for these products by commenting on their direction, trend, and philosophy, rather than their features.

I always disclose my connections, and I always reserve the right to an independent opinion. That’s how I think I can best serve both you, the readers of this blog, and the companies who seem to value my ideas.

I hope you all agree, and derive benefit from my attempt to walk this path.

Author: Ray

Ray Gallon is president and co-founder of The Transformation Society (, a research, training and consulting company focusing on building learning organisations that can manage complexity and the digital transformation. He has over 40 years as a communicator, first as an award-winning radio producer and journalist, then in the technical content industries. His management experience includes a stint as program manager of WNYC-FM, New York City’s public radio station. Ray is a self-described "humanist nerd," and has always been interested in the meeting point between technology and culture, and has used his broad experience to advantage with companies such as IBM, General Electric Health Care, Alcatel, 3M, and the OECD, as well as in smaller companies and startup enterprises. Ray recently helped co-found the Information 4.0 Consortium ( and serves as its current president. Ray is a university lecturer and a keynote speaker at events throughout the world. He has contributed articles and chapters to many books and periodicals and is the editor of the recently published “Language of Technical Communication” (XML Press).

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