RE: Do I have to understand the material?

Subject: RE: Do I have to understand the material?
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 09:15:52 -0700 (PDT)

Comments follow:

Kent wrote:
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.

Don't know if this has been said already, but,
unless you have experience using the product in a "live" environment, and have experience working in that environment, you're not a user, you're still just an employee writing about a product. Sure, you may have the user's perspective in mind. You may even have a really good idea about the users, through contextual inquiry, ethnographic research, site visits, what have you.....but you're just not a user. :-( It's cruel, but true (as we used to say in 5th grade). I find any information gathered from internal "users" suspect, mostly because unless they are using the product in the same environment as the customers, the employees just aren't objective. They'll have access to resources and information that the normal/average user won't. They will have probably had many experiences with the product that the user wouldn't have, or shouldn't have....

Allen wrote:
Amen! Software is QA'd, why not manuals?
The lack of end user input in manual production is the weakest link in tech pubs, but get a manager to understand and provide time for it? Pigs'll fly first.

It's not necessarily management, but upper management...the ones controling the money. They make the decisions, based on their understanding of the ROI involved. If they don't understand that user testing for manuals can have an ROI, then it's our job to demonstrate it. :-) (Not tell, demonstrate. Words are a weak tool in this respect, demonstrations are not.) Educate, negotiate, cajole, you know, get them to see things your way. If they don't, it's their's their decision. We are working for them. While it's our job to help them make a better product, it's also our job to do what they want. They're the client. The client is always right....even when they're wrong. <sigh />

Sean Hower - tech writer

"Whatever you do, do NOT let your editorial decisions be made by the squiggly spell-checking lines in Word!" ~Keith Cronin, Techwr-l irritant ;-)

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