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 14:47:50 -0400

John Posada wrote:

> Two couples go out to dinner. One couple goes to the local Sizzler and
> the other couple go to the Palm Steakhouse in New York City. At both
> restaurants, they order the top quality steak on the menu.
> At the Sizzler, the waiter is a young lady who does this on summer break
> and this is her second summer waitressing.
> At the Palm (, you waiter has been doing this
> for 30 years and is a real pro...if you've ever been to the Palm in NYC,
> you know the type of waiter.
> Is one couple going to enjoy their experience more than the other? Is
> the difference in enjoyment ONLY due to the quality of the steak?

You seem to be interpreting my use of the word "peripheral" as meaning
unimportant. That's not what I mean at all. Peripheral things are important
and they make a very important contribution to the enjoyment of the central
experience. If the waiter at the Palm is a better waiter it is because he
does his peripheral task better, not because he intrudes and tries to make
himself central to the experience. His peripheral contribution is vital.
Without it, the central experience could not happen. But it is still
peripheral, and a good waiter is good precisely because he knows that his
role is peripheral.

The point is, you can't do your job well if you don't understand what your
job is. If you have a job that is peripheral, then you will only do it well
if you understand that it is peripheral. If you behave as if it was central,
you will screw it up. The peripheral exists to support the central. It is
important because without it the central would collapse. But if it tries to
be central it not only fails in its proper task of supporting the central,
it intrudes unwanted into the place of the central.

Writers and UI designers are vital to the creation of a successful user
experience because the documentation and the UI are necessary to the user
accomplishing that which is central to their experience: the successful
completion of their task. We are in the task support business, after all.
The user's task is central, not the docs and not the UI. Both doc designers
and UI designers seem to have forgotten that, and the claim that these
things are central to the user's experience is perhaps a major contributory
Mark Baker
Analecta Communications
+1 613 614 5881


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RE: waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: John Posada

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