Re: documentation going away

Subject: Re: documentation going away
From: John Allred <jack -at- allrednet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2012 08:46:50 -0600

The rationale for shifting support to user communities is obvious, from a cost perspective. But, from a user perspective, I question whether we should acquiesce in this trend to offload responsibility for support. Whether printed, or in a PDF or eBook format, company-written documentation has the benefit of being organized and authentic. Forums are not. Google is not. Searching for help on specific issues can be like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack. I used to have a one-inch-thick Excel manual on my desk that laid it out from A to Z. Besides being organized, it was also thorough. Now, I lose lots of time searching for help on Excel functions.

I think we've lost something extremely valuable.

John

On 1/16/2012 8:16 AM, Phil Snow Leopard wrote:


I think the answers are in your post.

1. Cost.

2. The internet, and more specifically, community forums that provide free technical help and establish a user community around the product. This provides several benefits:
— a free marketing tool that has greater credibility than in-house marketing because enthusiasm comes from customers, not the company
— a huge database of customer information and feedback usefule for
: market analysis
: product development
: customer feedback

To be honest, when you look at the huge pay-offs of internet-based help and the minimal cost, it remains a mystery why so many companies still produce paper documentation. The only rationale I can think of is for products where the user base or the product use is not conveniently related to online activity (like installing a shower, say) and/or the product is complex and safety critical (airplanes spring to mind, though there are of course many other more mundane examples).


Phil

Tech Writer:
http://applehelpwriter.com


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Create and publish documentation through multiple channels with Doc-To-Help.
Choose your authoring formats and get any output you may need. Try
Doc-To-Help, now with MS SharePoint integration, free for 30-days.
http://www.doctohelp.com

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