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> "Observe their usage of the documentation?" Oh, just what I want. A
> writer hanging around my office while I am trying to work. <shiver>
> Ahhh, surveys. Another tool of the work-shirking tech writer.
> I hate to say this gang, but it is inhumanly impossible to get a clue of
> users want with a survey. 999 out of 1000 surveys are a waste of time and
> provide only a minute amount of insight.
> First, surveys are rarely if ever scientific. The only people who answer
> surveys are the bored or opinionated. These are not the best people to
> what goes into a document.
> Second, no survey can possible address all the nuances of doing a job.
> are countless little issues and gotchas that never get into a survey or
> And most importantly, surveys just defer the inevitable. At some point you
> to learn about the topic and what users do. If you're really serious about
> "getting into your customer/user's head" then do their job for a while.
I wrote a simple survey (if you can even call it that) for the field test of
the manual I just completed. My position was that I would be lucky to get
any feedback at all, so I wanted to keep it as short and succinct as
possible. I distilled it down to 3 questions, saying basically;
1. Is it clear?
2. Did you find anything that's inaccurate?
3. Is anything important missing?
Then I added a space for any additional comments. Feedback is the one thing
that writers have to remind us that own personal view of the universe is not
the same as everyone else's. Feedback from editors, etc., is good, but
feedback from end-users is often the most useful.