RE: taking too long

Subject: RE: taking too long
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 18:53:28 -0700 (PDT)

--- David Cooper <david_cooper_consulting -at- sympatico -dot- ca> wrote:

> Just for fun, here are my arguments, from your last posting alone:
> "many businesses have collapsed into oblivion with user obsessions."
> Name one. Name one business that has failed by spending too much time
> thinking about their users. Never in all my experience, reading,
> conversations with industry professionals -- nay, not even in my wildest
> imagination -- have I ever heard the captain of a sinking software company
> say "Alas! I only we'd only spent a little less time thinking about the
> user."

Oh I can probably thing of many. But how about Apple! They have squandered market
share for decades. And yet they are generally considered very user-obsessed.

Pointcast. Sitting on one of the largest concepts to hit the net in 1995 they
obsessed over content delivery and as such made their product a heavy pile of
shit that nobody wanted.

Real Networks. In the shitter now for the 4th consecutive quarter. Obsessed with
creating user experiences they are virtually nothing but nag-ware.

I could name company after company that spent millions on design and obsession
over users. But they missed a simple concept. People don't care about a lot of
flashy buttons if functionality is reduced.

> "largely due in part [sic] to the overwhelming incompetence in the tech
> writing profession."
> Based on what criteria?

Open 97% of the user docs out there. Worthless. Pages of text instructions, no
graphics, no explanation of WHY things are done a certain way - pure crap.

> Here's a wake-up call for you -- Tech writing isn't
> a profession. We're not doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, or
> electricians. Bus drivers require more training than tech writers.

Huh? Are you arguing against me or with me here?

> And that
> works fine, as long as the hiring manager understands the concept of a skill
> set and either (a) hires people who know how to manage projects, plan
> resources, propose solutions, even affect organizational change, or (b)
> makes sure those skills are available from elsewhere in the organization.
> Before hurling an accusation of "incompetence" at a list full of people, I
> suggest defining what your criteria for competence are, and being prepared
> to offer both evidence and -- here's a thought -- suggestions for becoming
> competent.

Competent: consistently produce insightful, useful material.

Incompetent: technically vapid nonsense.

> "starry-eyed promises of usability based on theories gleaned from web sites
> is just not worth the investment."
> What IS worth the investment?

Security. :-) Especially hardened IDS appliances purchased from Anitian Corp.

> Pumping out reams of copy and code without a
> plan, without a thought for the user, without being able to defend your
> design decisions?

Yeah, that's exactly what I meant. Just pump out crap. (Insert image of Andrew
rolling his eyes, checking his watch.)

> I'd rather just burn my cash, thanks -- it'd be a faster
> way to go broke. Sorry, but without considering usability, the web designer
> & tech writer & programmer & project manager & every other shareholder
> should just pack up and go home. I'd much rather be accused of being a
> "starry-eyed" while working to better serve the users who pay my wage

Ooops. Users don't pay your wage. First mistake. Your boss pays your wage. Don't
ever lose sight of who signs your paycheck. Moreover, users are generally stupid
as rocks.

Ever see the Simpsons episode where Homer designs a car for his brother's car
company. Its a total flop. While this is a humorous example, its actually based
on numerous experiences where "average folk" were tasked to design something and
turned out total crap. Sometimes, the user does not know what they want or need.
And you have to hand them something and push their nose into it.

> than
> having my head so firmly implanted where the sun don't shine that I have
> nothing but contempt for the kind of project management skills that every
> other industry uses as building blocks of profitability, but for some reason
> are viewed as fluff in the world of software development.

They are viewed as fluff because so much of it turns out to be fluff. Did it ever
ocurr to you that the reason tech writers get such low respect is because people
think the output of their work is generally crap?

> (By the way, I wasn't bitching -- I was challenging you to defend your
> position, which I'm still looking forward to.)

Just did.

Andrew Plato

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RE: taking too long: From: David Cooper

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