RE: Advocating Documentation and Support

Subject: RE: Advocating Documentation and Support
From: Jim Shaeffer <jims -at- spsi -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 12:41:26 -0500

Jeff Hanvey wrote:
Reading the "Talkbacks" has also been enlightening, especially about the way
that programmers and engineers feel about documentation:

*** I have embedded my answers to the questions in the text.

One person, for example, says, "None. Caveat Emptor. If you lack the brains
to figure it out, don't buy it, or hire someone to do it. Geez."

*** Answer: Know the audience.

Another says:
"When you buy a car, does the dealer throw in a week's refresher course on
how to use the car's new features?

*** Answer: No, but the dealer will carefully point out all New Features and
a good salesperson will walk you through any non-standard interfaces. Also,
if it is not a car but a piece of earth moving machinery that nobody has
ever seen before, there'll be training or there'll be no sale.

"When you buy a VCR, does the merchant stop and offer you a free lesson on
how to program it?

*** Answer: Yes, if it involves something significantly different from the
run-of-the-mill VCR. Training often goes with sophisticated stereo or home
theater equipment. Anything new, different and complex usually comes bundled
with training.

"When you buy a house, does the seller or the realtor offer to come fix the
first 3 problems you encounter for free?"

*** Answer: Yes. We had a punch list. A rep of the builder walked with us
through the house and noted the problems we found. The deal for the house
did not officially close until list was taken care of. Also, we carefully
bought a house covered by a HOW (Home Owner's Warranty) for the big stuff.
(Warranty on software? That's a joke.)

Another point that was made is that users seldom read the manual: they will
call to ask even the simplest things.

*** Observation: That's one reason support becomes an extra cost item. If
you pay for every support call, then it is more cost-effective to RTFM.

What does this say about our profession and how can we change this

*** Good Question.

Jim Shaeffer (jims -at- spsi -dot- com)


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