RE: Advice for a novice, please

Subject: RE: Advice for a novice, please
From: "Metzger, Lucinda" <cmetzger -at- dukane -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 16:27:43 -0500

Willow's original post, greatly snipped for brevity:

A few days ago I found out that the installation instructions for one of our
smaller products was inaccurate....this product doesn't technically belong
to me and the changes to the product were made before I worked here (it's
not a big seller), but whatever, the instructions are wrong, so let's fix

it. I spent the day running after SMEs trying to get information. Everyone
seemed to want to throw up their hands and walk away from the problem, or
even deny there's a problem. One guy even went so far as to tell me ... he
didn't want to take the time...What I ended up gathering were some bare
bones installation instructions...Yesterday, I was informed that the
instructions were still incomplete...In our tech writing department, we are
each responsible for a specific topics and my normal SMEs have never acted
this way.

Hi Willow,

Your enthusiasm and initiative are marvelous, but the SMEs may not have
wanted to spend the time answering your questions precisely because the
product in question is not a big seller.

I don't know what your company is like, but in mine we have hundreds of
products (both hardware and software). A core few are our big sellers, and
the rest range from fairly frequent sellers to those that only sell a few a
year. Many are throwbacks to the 80's that we only maintain as service
replacements.There is no way my Tech Writing group can properly maintain the
documentation for all these products, so we perform what we call "triage
documentation." We concentrate our time and resources on the big sellers,
and get to the other stuff if we have time. Regrettable, but I bet a lot of
the other writers on this list have to do the same thing.

Next time a documentation error like this comes to your attention, I suggest
passing it along to the writer to whom that product "belongs." If it's one
of yours, discuss it with your boss. They will have a better view of the
"big picture" and a better feel for whether or not Tech Writing resources
ought to be devoted to making the correction immediately.

As a side note, if the product belongs to another writer, you are also
better off passing the information to them for three reasons:

1. They probably know the product better than you do, and therefore would be
able to update the document more quickly and efficiently.

2. They need to stay informed of any changes that occur to their assigned
products. That's hard to do if other writers take on their projects.

3. You don't want to step on any toes, especially if you're new. Some
writers will resent feeling like someone is encroaching on their territory.

Hope this gives some perspective,

Cindy Metzger
Dukane Corporation
cmetzger -at- dukane -dot- com

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