Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?

Subject: Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 22:02:59 -0700

Pro TechWriter wrote:
> Hey Whirlers:
> I have a very short time frame to produce some documentation for some beta
> software.

I'm not getting any sense of what sort of software, what platform, etc.
I can imagine a LOT of variations on what's needed depending on the
complexity of the software, and how testers will install and configure
it, to name a few concerns that come immediately yo hand.

> My thoughts that the users will need instructions to use the software, with
> some basic concepts related to the tasks thrown in.

Betas often give testers some sort of privileged online access to FAQs
and tech support. Try to find out who will be providing beta support and
discuss with them what sort of information they need you to write up for
distribution to the test community. Some topics might be reserved for
one-on-one assistance, so that confidential detailed two-way information
flow can develop between tester and support.

> Some folks (um,
> "programmers") disagree with that approach. They want high-level conceptual
> information instead and some "isn't the product wonderful" text. They
> basically said "we don't need no stinkin' steps."

Be careful what you step in! Better yet, take off your shoes and leave
them outside while you /c/a/r/e/f/u/l/l/y/ pick your way through the
'minefield' of beta documentation requirements and requirees.

> Weigh in, please. I am interesting in hearing some *technical writer's*
> experience and opinions on this one.

I'll make this easy on myself by assuming that the product is only being
distributed to testers who have been evaluated for suitability as beta
testers--they're very familiar with the most current general release,
they're active in an online list or somewhere that the software is
discussed in some depth. and generally will be able to use the beta
package and identify problems without much puzzling. Fair?

Given such a well-planned beta, my documentation plan would be to step
into my office hushpuppies and make the rounds, talking to the people
who can tell me what I need to know to firm up my understanding of the
product, the testers, and the support plan for the beta. If doing so
didn't provide me with a vantage point where the solution to this
dilemma is in plain view, then I think I'd escalate my issues to my
manager. That's what they're paying me (and her) the big bucks to deal with.

Good luck,

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com


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Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?: From: Pro TechWriter

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