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 15:27:55 -0500

Jeff Hanvey wrote:
My question is: should documentation be free or made a cost center? How far
would making users pay for documentation go toward making tech writers more
involved in the development process and gaining us the respect of SME's?

Another Response (warning, contains some pontificating):

One approach to the question comes from two ideas that are popular in the
business press, right now.
Idea 1: In most cases, it is impossible to draw a line that separates the
product from information about the product.
Idea 2: In many cases, information about a product can become more valuable
than the original product. (Common example, an airline's reservation system
becoming more valuable than the airline.)

Information exists all along a continuum from the innards of the product
where nobody can see it, to the interface that the product presents to the
user, to the documentation set that accompanies the product and, finally, to
the brain and body of the user.
Deciding where to put information and how much to charge for putting it
there become business decisions. As information (or knowledge) specialists,
technical communicators should be involved all along the continuum (product
to user).

This ideal is not being approached because:
1. Managers don't see information as being inside the product or the user,
just in the docs we produce.
2. Managers (and many Tech Writers) see Technical Writers as specialists in
document production, not experts in information positioning.

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

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