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The closest thing we can manage is to have a few of our customers in-house
during our alpha and beta classes. (We primarily create printed training
manuals.) But what your suggesting is something we should already be doing
:-} I will forward your suggestion to our Content Lead.
BTW, I did check with Information Week, eWeek, Certification Magazine,
Training Magazine, and Online Learning. eWeek sponsors an Excellence Awards
However, the other publications don't do documentation reviews. But thank
you all for the suggestion. I'm glad I pursued it.
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From: John Posada [mailto:JPosada -at- book -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 3:33 PM
To: 'Anna Langley'; TECHWR-L
Subject: RE: INDUSTRY COMPETITIONS
>Thanks so much to everyone who responded. I will
>pursue trade-publication review of our training
This is not to be confused with customer surveys...they usually don't work.
However, at a gig a few years ago, we had a specific subset of customers
that tier3-level customer engineers were able to organized into focus
groups. These were usually the same ones who were beta version users of the
software. Since this software was millions-of-dollars type of software
(think along the lines of workforce management of a multinational telecom
company, or 800-service software for a phone company), these customers saw
it to their benefit that the documentation was top caliber..also keep in
mind that the company I worked for was CMM5.
Anyway...we had a doc set (about 2500 pages over 25 books) that we thought
maybe needed to be reengineered, so I was assigned to work with a pair of
customers to create an alternate version of the doc set. This involved a
trip a month to their location in Dallas, I was in NJ. During the month, we
would work via email to reorganize/rewrite/add/omit/change the document, and
on the monthly visit, I got to tag along with the actual user in the field
for a day to see how the changes were accepted...sometimes well, sometimes
we scrapped the month's work.
So...I don't know whether you have any customers who are willing to devote
time/effort/cost to work with you to evaluate the documentation, but you
cannot get any better than actual users who have something at stake in your
docs who know that they are being taken seriously.
Senior Technical Writer
jposada -at- book -dot- com
Although she lives with seven other men, she's not easy.
------ Magic Mirror
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