RE: Do I have to understand the material?

Subject: RE: Do I have to understand the material?
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2002 10:59:48 -0600

Coming late to this thread ...

IMHO the closest to "getting it" comment was from "Doc" suggesting "keeping
the users in mind."


I'd offer that "understand the material" is a phrase that's just too vague
... what the tech writer should "understand" is what the *user* understands
when he or she uses the product and its manual to perform his or her job.
Said another way, the tech writer ought to know how to *be* a user.

Ok, maybe the tech writer won't be a welder, and another poster indicated
instead "welders are involved in the final review of the manual." Good.
But, that's pretty vague, too. More to the point, if the tech writer is
indeed a good user, he or she is still a sample of one.

The point, then, is manuals should be tested. By users. And, for heaven's
sake, don't think the subject matter expert is a user--he or she knows too
much and isn't objective.

The answer to the question "do I have to understand the material" is another
question: Do I have a meaningful test plan for my manual? Ideally testing
by (some) users occurs prior to final publication. Also falling under the
heading "meaningful" is intelligent selection of the sample of users. And
using valid prototypes or actual final production samples. Etc.

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