Funny little story about a bullet in the last post. I worked for a company a while back that was a spin-off of a spin-off, where some tech pubs department members migrated from the mother ship to a seedling, then to another seedling when the options dried up at the first. Being loathe to throw anything out or to re-invent the wheel, these intrepid explorers loaded the first company's Framemaker files onto the covered wagon and brought them to the first spin-off, making enough cosmetic changes so it didn't look like a rip-off, but preserving the basic structure of the book. When some of the pilgrims moved on to the next colony, they loaded up the new files, brought them to the new promised land, and jimmied them up a little to look different. In both cases, this consisted mostly of changing the font and colors of the headings and table/figure captions, using a different look on the cover page, and substituting new graphics for the company imprints.
Well, by the time I got to the third company, as a wage slave rather than a stakeholder, they had published a release or two of most books. It was a hectic environment, and on one document, they had a publishing mistake - a book went out with what looked like some extraneous pages in a couple of places, almost like the old days when you picked up a job at a printer and found someone else's email interleaved with your manual's chapters. People thought it was a fluke because the Frame source looked just fine. Then it happened again, fortunately on a review draft.
Everyone was mystified. So they asked me to look at the document. Honestly I am less of a Frame guru than I should be, but I am a decent detective. It turns out there was conditional text buried in the document, not from the current company, but from both previous companies! One chunk was a fairly extensive two page blurb about the original company, including graphics and logos and all sorts of incriminating stuff. But mixed throughout was sniglets of stuff just waiting to be accidentally exposed.
Essentially, the writers who spread this disease had taken a book from the first company, used it as the basis of multiple books for the second company, and then taken one of those books to the third company to use as a basis for other books. So what we really had was a book masquerading as a set of templates, where only the text had been cleaned out, but the reference pages, master pages, and wells of conditional content still remained, at least in part, from two prior companies, each of whom, by the by, were competitors of the current place.
The current writer had tried to conditionalize some text for our current company, and in doing so had called back from the nether regions a bunch of this stuff from beyond the grave. It was like the tech pubs version of a zombie movie.
If I remember correctly, much of the conditional text from company 1 was all blue, and that from company 2 was all red, so that when you exposed both, there were globs of color clumped into various places in a given chapter. And because text copying and movement had inadvertently carried conditional stuff along with it, there were multiple instances in some cases.
So the department manager sent me on a stealthy search and destroy mission to find and terminate any instances of undead conditional text in the templates and in the books created from them. I was Van Helsing for a week (yes, I know, he hunted vampires, not zombies; perfect analogies are just so prissy; I prefer a touch of dissonance, some grating and grinding). When I finished, needless to say this was not a widely discussed success story.
I am sure the passage of years has inflated and distorted some aspects of this, but it kind of sums up my feelings about conditional text. I will end with another tortured analogy, quoting one of my favorite movie lines, to sum up my past feelings about conditional text. In Snatch, when cousin Avi (Dennis Farina) returns from England, US Customs asks him "Do you have anything to declare?" He replies "Yeah. Don't go to England."
6 days ago