RE: Requesting feedback for a user guide - good or bad idea?

Subject: RE: Requesting feedback for a user guide - good or bad idea?
From: "Robert Plamondon" <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 06:52:15 -0700

There's a sneaky trick you can do along these lines that might pay off

When I was running WEITEK's tech pubs department, I decreed that all draft
and restricted-distribution documents would nonetheless have a Documentation
Request page, with the return-mail indicia on it and everything.

The difference between this Documentation Request Form and the production
one was twofold:

1. It was addressed to me, rather than the person who normally handed such

2. It included some titles for documents that hadn't been written yet.

These cards always had the name of the parent document on them, so tracking
this was no problem.

The goal was to catch people who had gotten their hands on our documents
improperly. One scenario, which I believe is fairly typical for Silicon
Valley, is for someone to score a competitor's confidential data book and
hand it to their engineers for competitive analysis, thoughtfully failing to
mention that they had obtained it using underhanded means. The engineer then
dutifully fills out the response card for more documentation.

Sadly, I didn't catch any spies this way, but the technique is valid.

On a more mundane note, a combined documentation request/feedback page, that
can be folded in half or thirds and mailed without a stamp, does garner a
few sales leads and some corrections. Leave a space for "comments and
suggestions," and some readers will helpfully report errors.

In this electronic age, the same goals can be accomplished with email, and
probably with a greater response rate. I would be tempted to include several
addresses, allowing shy engineers to request documentation or report errors
to a different mailbox from Sales, since many engineers don't like talking
to salesmen. At the same time, sales requests should be vectored straight
to the Sales organization.

(Similarly, any response piece with a box that says "don't call me" is
likely to have a higher response rate from shy engineers. I would also add a
"please call me" box for the ones who are in a hurry, and you instantly
categorize the responders into four categories:

_ _ Neutral
X _ Weak lead
_ X Strong lead
X X Multiple personalities

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon
President, High-Tech Technical Writing
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com
(541) 453-5841
"We're Looking for a Few Good Clients"


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