Re: Minimalist or low-level?

Subject: Re: Minimalist or low-level?
From: "CB Casper" <knowone -at- surfy -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 05 Mar 2002 22:38:24 +0400


------------- previous messages --------------
> minimalist or low-level. I don't have a true knowledge
> of our target audience, but my co-workers have assumed
> they are skilled users and would be insulted by such
> low-level writing. We all write for the same

1) What objective reason do they have to think this?

2) Has anyone actually ever met an experienced user who was insulted
by documentation? In my experience, it has been the most experienced
users who have asked me to be the most specific.
--------------- response ---------------------

When I was a Mfg Engr/TW, we made a major change in
our manufacturing shop and cross trained people to
work at various related jobs. They had been narrowly
focused on a specific task for decades, and it took
a huge effort to convince the Union to do otherwise.
This was in lieu of hiring and laying off people
as the workload cycled. We built large, expensive,
time consuming products. 6 per year was considered
a high production rate.

People changed jobs as the wave of high priority
work came through the various specialties in the
shop to keep the workforce stable and to keep the
work flowing.

Everyone received training on all jobs, however
experience with a job is different than training.

After working one job for 6 months in one place,
one person needed a lot more information than the
person who worked it continually. When someone
came back to a familiar job, they needed more
than an outline, but less than complete details.

The documentation needed to reflect the variety of
skills and experience of the personnel involved,
and, yes, the experienced operators felt insulted
with very detailed instructions. They knew what
to do, they didn't want to be treated as novices.

I came up with a three tier approach to the docs.

Outline - Just an outline of the steps, with no
details on how to accomplish the steps.
The sequence to perform.

Reminder - An outline with additional information
for someone who has done the job before,
but needs reminders for each step.

Detailed - Enough detail for someone who has been
trained, with little experience, to
complete a task.

I found that everyone fell into one of these categories,
and there were some experienced operators that would
not admit to not remembering some steps, and by
making it all available, they could review the details
without having to be embarrased to ask. I interviewed
a lot of operators to come up with this plan.

We were aiming for an online-only documentation set,
with operator selectable levels of documentation,
and unfortunately (for all of us), the company took a
downturn, and I was layed off before I could fully
implement this approach. Major bummer, it was a great
project.

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