RE: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?

Subject: RE: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Robert Lauriston'" <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>, "'TECHWR-L Writing'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 19 Jun 2016 16:37:46 -0400

Yes, there are products like this. They are the exception rather than the
rule, but they do exist. And that is probably the definition of the case in
which you don't want your docs on the Web: when your customers have to sign
an NDA to buy your product.

Sharon is correct too, that it depends on the audience and the product. What
I am describing is default user behavior today. Your users may differ from
the default, and that may make a different policy appropriate. But at the
same time, we can't assume that if users are logged into a web product that
they will search its docs first. It is really no different from searching
the online help of a desktop product. It removes the need to log in
separately, but it does not remove the default behavior of Googling for
answers, which people do all the time for product that have their own
built-in help. I've gone into detail on the reason why in the book.

And we have to remember that no matter how many metrics we have on people
who are using our docs, we don't have any on people that are not using them.

But again, to focus merely on where people find their answers it to miss the
much broader point of the significant content marketing and sales support
function that publically available docs can play. Even if you believe you
have a captive audience, that is still no reason to give up the content
marketing advantage of public docs. You would need to have a serious and
significant reason to keep things hidden to offset that benefit. There are
certainly cases where such risks exist, but they are not the norm.

Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
Of Robert Lauriston
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2016 3:59 PM
To: TECHWR-L Writing
Subject: Re: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?

For the last ten years, I've been documenting complex client-server
enterprise applications. The developers and system administrators who use
them know that the only source of information is the docs and support.

If a customer asked for technical information about these products on a
public forum such as StackOverflow, they'd be violating the terms of their
software license. Anyone who knows the answer is also under NDA.

For two of the products I've documented, there is literally not a single
mention on stackexchange.com or stackoverflow.com. The others, there's one
mention each, in replies to people looking for a tool for a specific task.

On Sun, Jun 19, 2016 at 11:41 AM, <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com> wrote:
> ... If you
> don't put the docs on the web, your customers are more likely to go to
> Stack Overflow for answers. Customers don't read the manual. They read
> the page they find when they search. The first place they search is
> Google. If the first page Google turns up is StackOverflow, that is
> the page they will read. That trains them that the place to get
> answers is stack overflow, so that is where they go when they have a
question. ...
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: John G
RE: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: Erika Yanovich
Re: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: John G
RE: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: mbaker
Re: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: Robert Lauriston
RE: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: mbaker
Re: Resistance to allowing anonymous web access to online help?: From: Robert Lauriston

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