RE: Advocating Documentation and Support

Subject: RE: Advocating Documentation and Support
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 13:10:58 -0500


Thanks for pointing us to an interesting article and series of responses.

Engineers and Programmers who answer thusly do so because they think product
design centers on the designer not the end user.
As a result they would never last in consumer product design.

What this whole series says to me is that two things need to happen:

1) Engineers need to face the music--they are no more the right hand of God
than that doctor who treats you like an idiot (you don't have an MD so you
can't possibly know what's wrong with you). The goal is NOT bug-free code
and the engineer's ego IS products that people can use,
will use, and will be satisfied with.

2) Tech writers need to learn that manuals, on-line help and fancy
FrameMaker templates with humongous single-source capabilities are not the
goal... easy-to-use, practical and long-lasting products are.

Our role is not just to produce a manual or a help file. It should be to
figure out how the product should be designed to support its users.
Including, in the case of software, electronic performance support,
intuitive navigation, logical naming conventions and task-based design.
Along with how much and what kind of printed or print-ready documentation is
required to support the user.

The "just a writer" types out there can continue to think it's not their job
or their area of expertise, but every time the cogs become more important
than the wheel, you'll get a flat tire.

Our profession, as well as that of engineers and programmers, needs to
recognize that our tactics are not our end-product. They are a means to an
end...satisfied customers.

OK, I'm stepping down from the soapbox now. You can return to your
regularly scheduled duties.

Connie Giordano
Senior Technical Writer
Advisor Technology Services
e-mail: Connie -dot- Giordano -at- fmr -dot- com

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me,
and I'll understand." - Native American Proverb

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Hanvey [mailto:techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net]
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001 12:26 PM
Subject: Re: Advocating Documentation and Support

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

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."

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?

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

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

Another point that was made is that users seldom read the manual: they will
call to ask even the simplest things. What does this say about our
profession and how can we change this perception?


Develop HTML-Based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 ($100 STC Discount)
**New Dates!!** San Francisco (Apr 16-17), San Jose (Mar 29-30) or 800-646-9989.

IPCC 01, the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference,
October 24-27, 2001 at historic La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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