Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing

Subject: Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing
From: "Mark Baker" <listsub -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2004 12:17:52 -0400


> > The less they have to read, the better. If technical
> > communication becomes central to the user's experience, then something
has
> > gone terribly wrong.
>
> I think you're assuming too narrow a definition of technical
communication,
> even if we limit the discussion to software-related technical
communication.
>
> The fortunate tech writers are increasingly involved in development of the
> UI--at least in terms of command names, object labels, tool tips, and the
> like; sometimes even in workflow design.
> That's very much central to the user experience.

On the contrary, it is important to understand that the UI is peripheral to
the user experience. You don't drive down the highway with your eyes glued
to the instrument panel -- you watch the road. It strikes me that the
tendency to ever more noisy and verbose interfaces may be a reflection of
this misconception. The job of the UI is not to be central to the user's
experience, by to get out of the way of the user's experience as much as it
possibly can.

> You point of view is evident in the statement about getting them "out of
> the book and back to their task," but tech writers do more than just
> producing books.

No, book here just stands in for whatever medium of instruction we are
foisting on the user today. My objection is to all the forms of look-at-me
intrusion into the user's experience by writers and UI designers who think
that the work that they are doing is central to the user's experience. It is
the sort of thinking that leads to Clippy and Microsoft Bob.

I don't know why you think that a technical writer is fortunate to get to do
someone else's job instead of his own. I have never understood the
self-loathing of this profession. But if the intrusion of bored technical
writers into the UI design process leads to more of this sort of thing then
I say, stick to writing books. At least with a book I can put it on a shelf
out of my way.

To writers and UI designers both I say this: You are the waiter, not the din
ner. I want you to be attentive when I need you, and out of sight when I
don't. Central to my experience are my meal and my companion. Your job is to
make sure that I get to enjoy them in peace.
---
Mark Baker
Analecta Communications
www.analecta.com
+1 613 614 5881



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Follow-Ups:

References:
waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: T. Word Smith
Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: Mark Baker
Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: dmbrown

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