Interviewing SMEs

Subject: Interviewing SMEs
From: "Alex Silbajoris" <alsilba -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 13:08:53

I agree with those who say keep it short and concise; try to take the smallest chunk of SME time you can. In some places I'd never get a half-hour meeting time slot, but I could snag fifteen minutes much more easily.

Another thing I would mention is the way you can sometimes make good guesses as to what's next in the process or whatever you're documenting, and present the guess in the form of a draft that can be corrected over coffee in the break room. Instead of starting with "Now, tell me about..." and a blank sheet, you start with "Is this right?" and the SME can go through it easily and make changes or suggest additions. It seemed to me that the busiest ones appreciate the TW's ability to anticipate what's next, even if not fully correct, instead of waiting like a wagon to be pushed.

Heh, I've had to resort to the ambush and hunt techniques, too. Darn, some of those guys are slippery!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair -
But it's useless to investigate - Macavity's not there!

- Alex

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