Re: Doc Design and Convention ( was TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 48, Issue 27)

Subject: Re: Doc Design and Convention ( was TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 48, Issue 27)
From: Robert Lauriston <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 2009 09:48:40 -0800

The useless docs I inherited were the opposite of task-oriented. The
content showed no awareness by the authors that the software would
ever be used for any purpose. These posers would just sit down, walk
through the software, and write up what they saw, starting from the
File menu and working over to the Help menu, with lots of screen
shots. If you were puzzled by something and pressed F1, you'd get a
picture of what you were looking at with a bunch of text telling you
what you could figure out for yourself.

How do you get from there to "the task-oriented mantra has been abused"?

During the dot-com boom, I met English teachers and writers and
editors from lifestyle magazines and mainstream publishing houses who
switched to tech writing because they could make twice as much money.
The problem wasn't that they couldn't write; it was that some of them
lacked the necessary technical background, and didn't pick it up on
the job.

On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 9:32 AM, Chris Despopoulos
<despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
> This is exactly what I'm talking about.  I'm not saying it's the design of the product that's at fault.  I'm saying that the task-oriented mantra has been abused.  I'm not convinced that it's because non-writers have jobs.  Haven't you seen examples of that stuff from people who made it through tech writing courses?  Somehow they were *taught* to do that.
>
> I'm also saying it's a result of old-think in modern times.  There was a time when you had to explain how a mouse works.  This thread started with the question, how much detail to use when describing a click?  So we're still worried about whether people can figure out a statement like, "Click OK"?!?!  Not really, but we're worried that we need to pay homage to that concern in our style guides.  Bah!
>
> If we have to formally work through this type of issue, why not go all the way and formally reevaluate the task-oriented mantra?  Why not look at modern design methodologies and map them to new documentation designs?
>
> (PS -- sorry about screwing up the subject line so often...)
>
> # More to the point, I've thrown out and rewritten from scratch lots of
> # docs that were nothing but a narrative, illustrated walkthrough of the
> # UI. They didn't tell anyone anything beyond what they could see on
> # screen.
> #
> # The problem was with the writers, not the design of the products. That
> # was partly the result of the dot-com boom, when just about anybody who
> # wanted to be a tech writer could find a job, even if they weren't
> # capable of understanding the technology.
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References:
Re: Doc Design and Convention ( was TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 48, Issue 27): From: Chris Despopoulos

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