RE: Making them read the documentation

Subject: RE: Making them read the documentation
From: Janet Valade <janetv -at- systech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 11:22:11 -0700

Sometimes the reason a person doesn't read documentation is in the person,
not in the documentation. Some people don't want to, don't like to.

Remember, most of us are readers. Most writers are readers. Personally, I
have been reading anything readable for as long as I can remember, including
the entire back of the cereal box as a child eating breakfast. Reading is
the primary way I gather information, my preferred mode. It is also my major
entertainment. I suspect my lifetime average is a book per day. However,
reading is not the center of everyone's life. People differ.

When I was a student, I worked in the University computer lab, assiting
users. Users vary a lot. One particular user comes to mind. She did a lot of
computer work using SPSS. Everytime she needed to know how to do something,
she would ask and I would get the manual and show her the appropriate part,
explaining it as I did. One day, as I started to the manual rack in response
to a question of hers, she said, "And DON'T tell me to look it up in the
manual. I don't was to read a book. I want to talk to a person." She altered
my world view forever. It had never occurred to me that someone would
actually prefer to ask questions, rather than read.

This was a very smart lady, who could read perfectly well. She was a PH.D.
student in Education. She simply preferred interacting with people over
reading in a book. Perhaps a question of learning styles. Or a question of
personality. Whatever the reason, she preferred to learn from a person.
Because I respected her and liked her, I accepted this lesson. Some people
do not read mauals because they do not want to. It doesn't make them bad
people. Plenty of other people do read the instructions; you just don't hear
from them as often.

Customer support is very enlightening. For one project, I wrote the
documentation, provided phone support, delivered classroom training, and
even made "house" calls to professors who simply couldn't make it work. An
incredible learning experience.


Janet Valade
Technical Writer
Systech Corporation, San Diego, CA
mailto:janetv -at- systech -dot- com


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