Re: Just do it (Long & Occasionally Sarcastic)

Subject: Re: Just do it (Long & Occasionally Sarcastic)
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 10:28:32 -0700 (PDT)

--- Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
Tom Murrell wrote:
> > Just because useful surveys are difficult to do is no reason
> > not to do them.

And Andrew Plato responded:
> I disagree. You get misleading results and eat up a lot of time. That
> time would be better spent learning what users/readers do.

Obviously, we'll never agree here. You seem to assume that a scientific
survey cannot be done (or is not worth the effort). I agree that many
(most?) surveys are not scientific, but I think that it is possible to
get useful, valid feedback even from a survey that is scientifically
flawed. For example, your own position seems to me to be based on your
experiences, which I will concede are valid for you. (They are after
all your experiences.) But that doesn't make your experience more valid
than anyone else's.

I will also concede that often surveys put some sort of bias in and
then claim that there results are not biased, which is patent nonsense.
But just because some people are sloppy, lazy, and biased does not
logically allow us to tar everyone with the same brush, unless of
course we wish to celebrate our own biases as fact while dismissing
everyone else's as nonsense.

Andrew concluded:
> I am not advocating ignoring the users needs. Quite the contrary. I
> am advocating BECOMING a user yourself so you have a personal
> understanding of what the user/reader needs and wants.

On this we can agree. Of course, as others have pointed out, there are
some jobs that a writer is not going to be able to do so as to become
familiar enough, on that basis alone, to write good documentation.
Someone mentioned driving a jet plane as an example, I believe. In such
cases, writers must rely on some other means to achieve the desired end
of complete, correct, and useful documentation.

Still, I want to say very clearly that more technical writers seem to
avoid becoming even minimally familiar with that which they are
documenting. (And that is MY biased experience talking.) To writers I
would also say that just because learning how a database works or how
to write SQL or how to read a programming language are hard to do
doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. It just means you have to do the hard
work, too, if you want your writing to be useful rather than useless.

And, yes Andrew, I have a very healthy self-esteem when it comes to my
writing. Thank you.

Tom Murrell
Senior Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com

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