RE: Do you give permission to use your materials?

Subject: RE: Do you give permission to use your materials?
From: "Megan Golding" <megan -dot- golding -at- dvtsensors -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 16:33:49 -0500

Thanks so much to everyone who responded to my questions about giving away
documents I've written.

I have been amused by some of the responses: "Contact your legal department"
(I'm looking around....hmmm, I haven't seen a legal department here...maybe
I missed that in the 2000 sq. ft. of office space we have here!). When I
said small company, think this: there is no legal department, there is no
documentation department (I'm the lone writer, and writing occupies only 1/3
of my time), and we have less than 30 employees. The issue isn't really a
"can I give away the documents?" -- from a legal perspective. I have control
over the documents and the blessing of my department head to do as I choose
in this matter. My questions were more regarding the business practice of
giving away materials you've written for others to use.

I think also, that some of you come from a different viewpoint about your
documents (perhaps deservedly, maybe not). I write the user manuals for a
combination software/hardware package. My manuals are the only books out
there on our product. The information in my manuals is specific to our
equipment and cannot be applied to competing products. Without my manuals,
the equipment can be difficult to use.

We don't view documentation as a revenue center (why charge your customers
to learn how to use your product?). I guess we don't have a big enough
segment of the market yet, but I only see charging for manuals and training
as crippling to sales. An educated user base is going to buy more (if the
product is good).

Some folks suggested that because my company paid for me to write the
manuals (in addition to the other costs associated with my employment) that
the customer should pay for that information. Again, my view is different:
the cost of writing manuals is effectively included in the cost of every
system we sell. That has already been taken care of.

Darren Barefoot's comments were similar to my situation: a lack of in-house
resources to customize documents. If I start customizing documents for
users, I'll spend all my time writing...and not working on the other 2/3 of
my job. We are too busy around here (aren't we all?) for me to start working
for a small segment of our customer base.

I did have a few aspects pointed out (thanks to Brent Jones, Marilynne
Smith, and others) I hadn't thought of:
1) How will the customized document keep up with changes in the software?
(We have a major release every 9 months or so.) Good question. I think I'm
going to let the customer decide how to keep up with my changes.
2) Make it clear to the customer that by editing the content of my manuals,
we are no longer responsible for the information.

I'm curious about those who view documentation as a profit center...maybe
our product is fundamentally different than yours, but doesn't charging for
the "this is how my widget works" manuals hurt overall sales?

Thanks to everyone who responded -- I appreciate your thoughts and words of
encouragement (and discouragement!!).

Megan Golding, Applications Engineer
DVT Corporation, mailto:megan -dot- golding -at- dvtsensors -dot- com

RE: Do you give permission to use your materials?: From: Harry Bacheler

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