RE: know your ... who?

Subject: RE: know your ... who?
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "technical writing plus" <doc-x -at- earthlink -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2008 10:18:25 -0500

> -----Original Message-----
> From: technical writing plus [mailto:doc-x -at- earthlink -dot- net]

> Methink that this mantra means know what your readers are like in the
> sense
> of knowing what the audience is like -- and not that the writer should
> know
> them personally. Altho there is a benefit to the latter. But it can
> ever be arranged, of course.

Well, there are some people (I'm told) who actually DO meet their
users/readers, because their industry or company/product/service are
conducive to that, and they consider that the standard.
A point that I was making was that ALL my "knowledge" of my customers is
third-hand or is (informed, one hopes) speculation... i.e., guesswork.
About all I can say for sure is that the majority have English as a
second (or third) language. The range of experience with our industry is
varied, to say the least, ranging from "none" to "people we learn from".
The same product, and accompanying documentation, might land in the
hands of a guy who spends his days managing crypto applications in a
huge server environment, and who has considerable experience configuring
our competitor's products with his applications before graduating
(ahem!) to ours... and then in the hands of a guy who was standing in
the wrong place at the wrong time when his company needed to appoint a
crypto officer ("a who-what?"), and who is learning to install and
configure a certificate server, while trying to figure where our product

Now _some_ people on the list would be aghast at my knowing so little
about who actually uses the product - where are your studies? where are
your trial results? where are your dozens/hundreds of user interview
records? It's horribly unprofessional to proceed on anything less, and
why hasn't STC revoked your membership, and how can you dare to show
your 'face' on this list...
Others (possibly including one who works with hush-hush government
departments and projects and has only the product manager's word that
there might-or-might-not be actual users, but he can neither confirm nor
deny...) might think I'm doing well to have as much of a picture of my
users as I do (compiled from Sales Engineers, Customer Support, and
others who have actual customer contact).

But I've detected attitude on the list, at times, to the effect that
I/we are unworthy if I/we have not interviewed users and followed them
around as they do their jobs, or else have not actually been those users
ourselves as recently as the week before last. "You can't write for
developers unless you are one." "You can't write for airframe
technicians unless you have personally assembled and flown at least two
Airbus A380s."(I paraphrase slightly.)

Anyway, I asked my original question because somewhere in the vast
middle ground of writerly experience and access to users, people have
tips and tricks and sources that some of us might not have considered,
and I'd seen the mantra one time too many since last week. :-)

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know your ... who?: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
RE: know your ... who?: From: technical writing plus

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