RE: Knowing what offends the audience (was Geoff Lane's "arrogant PCbunch"

Subject: RE: Knowing what offends the audience (was Geoff Lane's "arrogant PCbunch"
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: 'Dan Goldstein' <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 11:58:21 -0400

Dan Goldstein replied to me, asking:

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Kevin McLauchlan

> > My audience is engineers and technicians and developers
> > around the world, at least half of whom have English as
> > their second or third language. I've met a small handful who
> > have visited us, over the years. For the other 99.9%, I'll
> > never meet them or correspond with them.
> >
> > I'm not sure quite how I'd go about determining that some of
> > them are offended by white space and numbered lists (both of
> > which I shamelessly use in my docs).

> Ha-ha. But seriously, don't you *ever* try to find out what works and
> what doesn't in your documentation?
> It's not easy to get useful feedback. But at least once,
> someone should
> look at the cost of getting it, as opposed to the cost of
> *not* getting it.

Once my documents get past QA, I get my feedback from:

a) Sales Engineers

b) Customer Support

Actually, I probably get more absolute "feedback from the
Customer Support crew, but it comes in as Documentation "issues"
in our trouble-ticket system. It's usually about something
broken. Brusque, dry stuff.

But the current crop of Sales Eng, especially a couple who
were with my branch of the company when we were a standalone
company, are really good about articulating what they would
like to see added or changed... occasionally, removed.
That's because they are right there, on the spot, as new
customers and potential new customers try to use our products
for their purposes. Nothing like a pre-sales or immediate
post-sales situation to highlight stuff we've never thought
about, or stuff that we do describe/discuss/instruct, but now
must learn to do in the language of a new market segment.
Or I get to write supplemental concept/exposition stuff with
an emphasis that's wildly different than what was originally
envisaged when the product was developed. Cool.

But, as for renewing my passport, going out in the wild,
tracking the wiley customer engineers to their lairs,
pinning them to an examination table, and subjecting them
to scrutiny and questionning... nah. Ain't gonna happen.
No budget, and it wouldn't produce anything except annoyed
customers. Might also get me killed or incarcerated. Most
of our customers have very high-security environments to
protect very sensitive data and transactions.


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