Technology Standards for Members of the MG Taylor Network

September 30, 1996

As the MG Taylor network has grown and changed, enabling technologies have changed as well. All of this growth can pressure individuals in the network to maintain requisite variety. Believe it or not, there was a time in the past when Multimate and Wordstar were the standards for documentation on an IBM PC! When Taylor Associates operated out of Boulder in the early 80’s, the purchase of a board that allowed mixed upper and lower case characters for the Apple II raised quite a stir. In more recent times, the network has experimented with ReadySetGo!, Microsoft Word and now Claris Works.

Several principles guide our use of technology: it must be ubiquitous, seamless, and an enabler of human creativity. Our ideal is that the 'technology solution' or basic set of technological tools that support knowledge work be simple and elegant. Because the world of technology changes rapidly and we want to continue to have a diverse and organic nature to the work there are always trade-offs when choosing software and hardware. If we can have a seamless way of using the technology to facilitate our work and interfacing with our clients that is the ideal. Like most of our work, there is no "right answer". There is simply the current answer, and one of many possible ones.

ClarisWorks was chosen at a time in our development when we needed a versatile, inexpensive and easy to learn package, and it has served us well. To support electronic publishing, we’ve relied on a few copies of the somewhat more expensive Adobe Acrobat. Until the explosion of the Internet, the demand for electronic versions of our work was limited. Now it’s possible to envision a not-so-distant future where paper-based documentations will be the exception and electronic distribution the norm. In the short term we’ll continue to use Acrobat. HTML would be a natural, cross-platform tool to support electronic documentation and distribution were it not for formatting, features and security barriers that are falling rapidly. In the meantime, to serve all of our clients who may require desktop published paper documentations, or screen-based electronic ones, we should standardize on a robust cross-platform set of tools to meet the basic requirements of documentation. The computer world is one of multiple vendors and several platforms. Our solutions need to be cross-platform as well.

Recent Experimentation
Last month we experimented twice using FileMaker Pro as the application for documenting a DesignShop. The results are mixed but we are committed to moving in this direction. On the one hand, the entire documentation is maintained in a searchable, sortable database. Each record is tied to a date/time infolog number that also is tied to time code generated on the video tapes. The new digital video camera should eliminate the need for wall copy and scanning of hypertiles. Retouching skills in Photoshop will replace hand copying of walls (someday).

On the other hand, the new method of documenting requires a different focus. It's now very important to create new records at the instant when a subject changes or a new speaker begins to talk, or a new Hypertile is placed on the wall. There are two or three documentors working simultaneously and they and their computers must by in sync. The cross platform issues have not been addressed, particularly when it comes to images. And so far, the production of the Journal has taken an extended amount of time.

We expect that the challenges will be overcome. There are too many benefits in the infolog approach to documentation to go back to producing the Journal in ClarisWorks or even PageMaker.

ClarisWorks can still be used as a general office productivity package, although its database should not be used when sharing information is a goal, and the spreadsheet is inadequate beyond access to the simplest features. We recommend Microsoft Office as an advanced productivity package. Excel has always been a premier spreadsheet, PowerPoint is a simple and powerful presentation and graphics tool, and Word has features that may be useful for documents that are inappropriate for composition in FileMaker Pro.

Network members should have access to the World Wide Web and an E-mail package. Our preferred browser is Netscape, however it’s prudent to have access to several browsers including Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

The Envelope, Please...
There is a larger universe of optional computer hardware and software that Knowledge Workers use to add value to our work. We recommend these packages, although network members can choose what they like so long as the files can be shared and manipulated across platforms. These include, but are not limited to the following:


Basic Toolset for DesignShops
  • Microsoft Office
  • Claris Works
  • Adobe Photoshop (to manipulate scanned images and produce original art)
Basic Drawing
  • Canvas
  • Adobe Illustrator
Advanced Computer Graphics
  • Macromedia Freehand
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Fractal Design Painter
  • Macromedia Extreme 3D (or Ray Dream Designer)
  • MiniCad (Computer Aided Design)
Advanced Multimedia Production
  • Macromedia Director
  • FileMaker Pro
  • Lotus Notes
  • Microsoft Access
Desktop Publishing
  • PageMaker
Electronic and Web Publishing
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • DreamWeaver, Visual Page

As comprehensivists, the more we know and can do, the more value we can add to our clients. What we know coming into the network and what and how we learn is a matter of design. Sometimes we will learn on our own, sometimes by doing work with a client, other times in a workshop setting, and so on.

It will be fun to be a part of the "just in time" learning and all of the creative ways people come up with to facilitate our 'just in time' shipping.

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© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

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