Smart answers and useful answers

Subject: Smart answers and useful answers
From: "Dan Goldstein" <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 17:13:40 -0500

Had a little experience the other day -- could have been a trigger
sketch for a presentation about tech-writing.

I went to a Major Electronics Retailer and asked a salesperson for a
switch that lets you attach a TV to both a VCR and a DVD player,
selecting either one at a time.

The salesperson turned to a second salesperson and said, "Hey, do we
have a composite cable that lets you switch between video input

The second salesperson said, "There's no such thing."

I said, "You're kidding. There's no device that lets you switch between
video input devices?"

The second salesperson said, "There's no such thing as a composite cable
that lets you switch between video input devices."

I said (not serious), "Gee, what an obvious device. I can't believe it
doesn't exist. I'm gonna go patent one right now."

The first salesperson, confused, repeated his exact, original question.
The second salesperson repeated his answer with exaggerated enunciation.

I had caught on by now and was ready to go to another Major Electronics
Retailer. As I turned, the second salesperson delivered what he must
have thought was the punchline.

"You're not looking for a 'composite cable.' You're looking for a

He then showed me what I wanted. Of course, by then I wasn't going to
buy anything from them.

Neither your user nor your SME wants you to show off how smart you are
-- especially at their expense. They want you to show how *useful* you
can be.

-- Dan Goldstein

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