RE: Follow-up to question about getting feedback from users

Subject: RE: Follow-up to question about getting feedback from users
From: Robert_Johnson -at- percussion -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 14:19:49 -0400


I respectfully suggest that your concept of online communication is too
narrow. Online communication includes such tools as forums, wikis, and
blogs, as well as those you cite. A forum in particular is an excellent
communication medium, not merely between the company and its customers,
but among the customers themselves. Moreover, the unidirectional approach
to communication that we've been accustomed to for decades (company to
customer) is now multi-directional (company to customer, customer to
company, customer to customer). Companies that don't understand that will
begin to lose customers; Microsoft, among others, seems to get this ( Again, check the sites and
blogs I mentioned in my previous post.

Multi-directional communication is another reason wikis are a great tool
for delivering documentation. Customers can comment directly on the page,
and in some environments, directly edit the page. I'm hard-pressed to see
what Facebook can contribute to documentation (although I'm willing to be
enlightened), but I can see Twitter and blogs being excellent tools that
can help draw users to forums and wikis.

As for writers providing tech support, everyone on the forum is doing that
(and here at least, in addition to tech support, everyone includes people
from QA and development, as well as consultants), to the benefit of the
company, the customer, and the employee. Just think, you have visible
proof of the value you're providing. I started getting active on our
forums almost from the beginning. Initially, I just watched them to see
what feedback I could collect on documentation. As I watched, I found
that I could answer some of the questions. In some cases, the answer was
to point to the documentation, in other cases I can answer directly based
on my experience with the product, or my knowledge of its design,
development, and functionality. I generally check the forums three times
a day, and collectively, rarely spend more than half an hour reading and
responding. In the meantime, I have enhanced my value to the company, and
my visibility and credibility with other organizations within the company.

Take a look at a few open source projects, and you'll see forums, wikis
and blogs in action. More and more software companies are doing the same.
See Adobe, Madcap, and Atlassian for three examples. Anne Gentle's
_Converstaion and Community: The Social Web for Documentation" is also
worth reading on this subject.

Robert Johnson
Principal Writer
Percussion Software
Woburn, MA

Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
09/25/2009 12:45 PM

"Robert_Johnson -at- percussion -dot- com" <Robert_Johnson -at- percussion -dot- com>,
"techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>,
KevinMcLauchlan <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>

RE: Follow-up to question about getting feedback from users

You see, to me, communicating through online means like Facebook and
things like that aren't really communicating directly with the customer.
By that I mean in person. My feelings are that using things like IM and
Twitter and suchlike are no more personal than sending snail mail. More
personal than creating an online help system yes, but still not direct
contact in my book. (Yes, I am *old* - accident of nature.)

Second curmudgeonly thought of the day: what Robert wrote about seems to
me to smack of having a tech writer trying to carry out two functions. It
sounds like expecting him to not only turn out technical documentation,
but also to act as tech support. I've been seeing more job opening
listings like this recently - companies wanting tech writers who will also
confer with users to provide help on using the products. To my mind, that
is not an enhancement of the tech writer's position but rather an attempt
by the company to find ways to cut the personnel roster even further, by
forcing one employee to perform two functions.

> Robert_Johnson -at- percussion -dot- com
> noted:
> [snip]
> >
> > I don't think the issues of business etiquette and the
> art of
> > schmoozing
> > customers are quite as important in an online
> community as
> > they are in the
> > executive suit. The online environment is much
> more
> > free-wheeling.


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RE: Follow-up to question about getting feedback from users: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
RE: Follow-up to question about getting feedback from users: From: Keith Hood

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