Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?

Subject: Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?
From: Laura Praderio Lynn <lpraderio -at- alpineclimbs -dot- com>
To: Pro TechWriter <pro -dot- techwriter -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 10:44:14 -0600


i think the question and the replies are very good. a framework (intro,
copyright and trademarks topic, how to use this help system, topic list,
steps, refs, gloss, index) for an online help system is the best and
least i think we as writers can offer for beta documentation.

that said, when i run into a problem with programmers/engineers who
don't want "procedures" then i just change the way i communicate in the
conversation to something like...okay, how about i put in task-based
functionality in a framework skeleton? i end up writing the same stuff.

words trigger different responses and maybe the person hates procedures
but can handle someone documenting task-based functionality. who knows.
i just try different ways to communicate that don't trigger that one
stubborn person. (and yes, i know that for each and everyone of us
documenting procedures may mean something different from documenting
task-based functionality.)

what illustrated this to me was one day we were skiing with a friend, we
skied all day, and were hungry. we said we were starving and wanted to
get something to eat when done. it seemed innocuous enough. he then
argued to beat the band that we weren't starving but that we were hungry
as we physiologically weren't starving. he was so vehement about the
wording that it surprised us. if you can step back from the frothing at
the mouth, it is interesting to watch what triggers people. since then,
whenever i get that vehement response, i just try different ways to
express where i think we need to go and then see what happens.


Pro TechWriter wrote:
> Good stuff, Mike. Thanks. See my responses below:
> On Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 4:43 AM, Mike Starr <
> mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com> wrote:
>> IMNSHO, good (and *complete*) software documentation requires (in the
>> following order):
>> * Introduction that includes some of both *isn't the product wonderful*
>> text and *basic concepts* text as well as a *brief overview* of the user
>> interface. The *isn't the product wonderful* text and *basic concepts* text
>> can help sell the product to folks who are evaluating it (you do want your
>> company to be able to actually *sell* this product, don't you?).
> Oh, absolutely. There is some of this now, I just wanted to make sure
> procedures for actually using the software are there too.
>> * Common procedures section that provides step-by-step descriptions of how
>> the user accomplishes the most common tasks.
> Yes, this is there.
>> * Reference section that describes each available menu item, toolbar,
>> dialog box, etc. With the miracle of *single sourcing*, the reference
>> section can be the foundation of the help file that provides
>> context-sensitive help for all of these things.
> Included also, and isn't single sourcing wonderful?
>> In addition, system requirements and installation instructions are a
>> necessity as well but possibly not in documentation that's only available
>> after the product has been installed.
> Included.
>> System requirements definitely belong in the marketing literature and on
>> the company website but I have also included them in the Introduction
>> section of user manuals as well with the assumption that the user manual may
>> be used as part of the marketing material (via the website or through sales
>> folk).
> This is great advice, and you are the second person who has suggested it, so
> it's going in there.
>> Installation instructions should be available on the company website and as
>> printed material if the product is physically shipped; I sometimes include
>> them as an appendix in the user manual.
> It's not shipped, but is hosted. Not sure about printed vs. online--we may
> have both.
>> The documentation may also require a glossary, especially if you use terms
>> and/or acronyms that new users may not be familiar with. I have at times
>> included a glossary as part of the introduction section and at other times
>> as an appendix.
> Our stuff comes with a glossary, so that is included too.
>> Best regards,
>> Mike
>> --
>> Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
>> Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Technical Illustrator
>> Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
>> (262) 694-1028 - mike -at- writestarr -dot- com -
>> Pro TechWriter wrote:
>>> Hey Whirlers:
>>> I have a very short time frame to produce some documentation for some beta
>>> software.
>>> My thoughts that the users will need instructions to use the software,
>>> with
>>> some basic concepts related to the tasks thrown in. 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."
>>> Weigh in, please. I am interesting in hearing some *technical writer's*
>>> experience and opinions on this one.
>>> PT


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Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?: From: Pro TechWriter
Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?: From: Mike Starr
Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?: From: Pro TechWriter

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