Re: huh?

Subject: Re: huh?
From: "Jeff Hanvey" <jewahe -at- lycos -dot- co -dot- uk>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 May 2003 16:15:15 -0400

I'm not sure that this is entirely accurate. Yes, users are gaining more
experience, but documentation will remain important - and continue to be
used, since the most experienced users generally know that this is the
reason documentation exists in the first place. Experience means not only
that a user knows how to use the software, but that s/he knows how (and
whether) to use the documentation. Good documentation gets referred to; bad
documentation gets tossed aside.

It's the worst sort of customer service to throw a product out to a
population and expect them to "ask an experienced user," regardless of how
familiar or intuitive the product is. This has been MS's method for years
(ever seen one of their manuals? Or tried to use Word's Help?), and the
results have been disastrous. Even Adobe has quite caught on to the fact
that their documentation isn't very usuable, and the use of both products

There will always be a need for some kind of guidance; therefore, there will
always be a need for people training to communicate.

Jeff Hanvey
Augusta, GA
jewahe -at- lycos -dot- co -dot- uk

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com>

> There is a persistent belief in the TW community that the average user is
> inexperienced and ignorant of the product they have bought. I suppose this
> is a product of the late lamented tech boom when we were all suddenly
> and using our first word processor, our first spreadsheet, etc. But it is
> not the normal state of things. People mostly buy things of a type they
> familiar with, whose functions and use they know well
> The myth of the ignorant editor and the myth of the ignorant writer are
> derived from the myth of the ignorant user. I'm not convinced it had merit
> even in the days when a high percentage of users were ignorant. But the
> period in which the ignorant user was the norm has certainly passed
> Of course, the myth of the ignorant user is important to the TW community
> and you can expect them to continue to promote it vigorously. That myth
> keeps documentation volumes up, and high documentation volumes keep tech
> writers in jobs. However, myths are myths and they don't survive long in
> commodity markets where cost is king. We can expect documentation volumes
> continue to fall and tech writers to continue to face employment pressure
> Ordinary consumer products don't require high documentation volumes
> users are experienced, and inexperienced users can rely on the help of a
> large population of experienced users to help them. The products of the
> tech age have now become ordinary consumer products sold to knowledgeable
> consumers who don't need extensive docs, or any docs at all. The ignorant
> user is a thing of the past, and the ignorant writer/editor have no more
> excuse for their ignorance
> The commoditization of consumer-oriented high tech means that any future
> growth in tech writer jobs is going to come in more specialized sectors
> where the ignorant writer/editor argument will be a complete non starter


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RE: huh?: From: Mark Baker

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