RE: Alerting users to news items

Subject: RE: Alerting users to news items
From: julie -dot- harrison -at- holset -dot- com
To: Joe Malin <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 07:45:49 +0000

Thank Joe,

You've given me a lot to think about, I like the idea of thinking 'upside
I'm going to give it a real go, yesterday I was at the 'why do I bother'
stage, but today I feel ready to take them all on :-)

Thanks again,

Joe Malin
<jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com To: julie -dot- harrison -at- holset -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> cc:
Subject: RE: Alerting users to news items
30/03/2006 20:37

Dear Julie,

I don't think you can find a foolproof way to make people read
something. I observe that most people go right past important
information, regardless of what it is.

Thinking about it, I decided that in the same circumstances, I'd do
* DON'T give up on e-mails. If your users are complaining about e-mails,
get the *rest* of the organization to cut down
on e-mails that don't provide any value.
* DON'T make reading the news an additional pain. You'll only get
resentment and workarounds.
* Make the news useful to *everyone*, or don't post it.
* Have your organization think of ways to eliminate the need for news.
* Finally, figure out ways to demonstrate the value of news to your

I say the last point because I *do* read e-mails, release notes,
README.txt, documentation, warnings, and so forth. I even send in
registration cards. I don't do these things because I'm "supposed to",
but because I've been on both sides of all of them, and learned that
* some e-mails have useful information. It's not fair to yell
about a system outage when you refuse to read the
e-mails about it.
* release notes often tell you exactly what you need to know
about system requirements. Why get halfway into an
installation before you realize you need a special driver.
of the time, the release notes will tell you
in advance, cuz the material comes from QA who *tested*
* README.txt is the el cheapo manual of choice for
shareware/freeware providers
* Documentation is (wow!) useful. You only have to be a tech
writer a little while to realize that writers *are
trying to help you*. You owe it to them, in a karmic sense,
at least *open* the manual of any HW or SW you
* I was also once a product manager. Registration cards help
product managers learn about their customers. You
want companies to know what their users want? Send in the
card. You can always make up an address. I put
my free Yahoo! e-mail as my e-mail address, unless I really
want to stay in touch. Sometimes I do; Dremel puts
out a great e-mail about using Dremel tools.

In short, think upside down. Don't assume you're doing it wrong, just
because somebody is complaining. Maybe you're doing it exactly *right*,
but other people screwing up are making you look bad.


Joe Malin
Technical Writer
jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com
The views expressed in this document are those of the sender, and do not
necessarily reflect those of TuVox, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
Of julie -dot- harrison -at- holset -dot- com
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2006 1:38 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Alerting users to news items

Hi everyone,

We have a web application used internally, and we created a news area to
inform users of changes to the system, scheduled downtime, new features,
improved help, etc.
Previously we emailed everyone, but received complaints such as "I get
loads of email everyday, how am I expected to read it all", and as we
are a large organisation maintaining the list was a nightmare too.

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