Re: non-tech techwr better for end users (was "same boat")

Subject: Re: non-tech techwr better for end users (was "same boat")
From: "Tracy Boyington" <tracy_boyington -at- okcareertech -dot- org>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 03 Jan 2001 09:17:55 -0600

That's an interesting hypothesis, and one that certainly fits your situation. But it won't work for everyone. For example, my users are nursing students. Unlike your developer/users, they are not going out and developing something they couldn't find elsewhere. There is an existing body of knowledge and they need to learn it. In this case, there is a true expert/novice relationship, and there certainly needs to be a distinction between those who already have the knowledge and those who need it.

And as for "coddling" the users by hiding the complexity... I'm sorry, I don't understand that at all. Leaving out the complexity *that the users don't need* is not "coddling" them, it's meeting their needs. After all, I'm not writing to show off how much I know, I'm writing to produce a product that meets the needs of my customers.

Going back to the example of the idiot light, do I really want to know *how* it works? Do I care where the sensor is, what sequence of events sets it off, and how to change the light bulb? Not only do I NOT care about any of that, but I will be irritated as hell if you make me wade through all that useless information in the Owner's Manual when I'm trying to find what I *really* want. I want to know why it comes on and what I'm supposed to do about it (and I read the manual when it came on, so I knew it was because the bozos at the Honda dealership didn't reset it when they changed the oil). Sure, some people want/need that info, and there are appropriate places for it. But a good tech writer writes for the audience and gives the audience what they need where they expect to find it. And yes, that involves audience analysis and, God forbid, *planning* instead of simply spewing forth everything you know. :-)

Tracy Boyington tracy_boyington -at- okcareertech -dot- org
Oklahoma Department of Career & Technology Education
Stillwater, OK

>>> Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com> 01/02/01 03:23PM >>>
I realize that many of my comments over the last week are informed
by this attitude. But, more importantly, I also wonder whether
adopting this view wouldn't radically change many people's views on
this subject. If the end-user is no longer distinct from the
developer, no longer someone to appease or champion, or to coddle by
carefully hiding the complexity away, what sort of manuals would we

I can help thinking that the answer is: better ones.

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