Re: The client sales pitch

Subject: Re: The client sales pitch
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Chris Morton" <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 04 Jan 2017 07:26:33 -0500

I have this mental image of Sisyphus pushing on a string.

My wife has encountered a similar situation in chemical QA when asked to give a result "this afternoon" for a test that has a (chemical reaction) run time of three days. She says it's related to the old wisdom, "You say you want it fast, good, and cheap. Pick one or two. You'll never get all three."

She recommends giving a bullet list of possible outcomes.

Shall we:
- Fix the English-language to be readable by the prospective customer?
- Make the material technically correct?
- Make the text and illustrations match?
- Prepare to work with the translation team?
- Just send the whole thing out pretty much as is?
- Test the "as is" version on prospective customers to see if it has a negative effect?
- Supply no user manual at all, based on the assumption that nobody reads it anyway?
- Create a simple two-page "read this first" that ships instead of the manual?
- (Other possibilities that you can suggest.)

Tell them, "Choose one. Put the rest in priority order."

If queried about why you think the job is impossible, you might break it down into pages-per-day of the full set of desired changes. I'm thinking you might get one page done per day, but perhaps you're really good (we know you are!) and it could be two pages. (We know you're not as good as the one-page-per-15-minutes that you're facing now. And that's not even including making sure it's actually correct.)

On Wed, 04 Jan 2017 06:38:50 -0500, Chris Morton <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:

Hi All,

I have a new client that produces very expensive hardware/software products
in the global medical realm. The company is young and angel-funded.

As if I was coming on full-time, I was interviewed for this position
quasi-extensively, and then had to sign off on its employee handbook. All
this to say that it conveys to me that the company has never worked with
contractors in this capacity before. My handler is an overworked PM who
barely has time to disseminate clear instructions to me.

Here's the assignment: edit an updated 151-pg. user manual by mid-January,
taking into account that the translation house needs unavailable additional
time to translate the work for the EU and Turkey. I'm having to edit using
text callouts in Acrobat Proâan extremely tedious process if you can
imagine (mostly because of the spasmodic behavior of the callouts when one
attempts to finesse them *just so*). I'm halfway done and cannot get the PM
to provide me adequate feedback and now she is on leave until the 11th
attending to a family matter. I do not have permission to reach out to
anyone else.

The problem is that the original manual was likely created by an ESL, so
it's not written in common English as Americans know it. There are no
pronouns used, for example, and almost every sentence is written in passive
tense. "The operator" is repeatedly referred to as such, as if it's an
abstract, impersonal thing; never is "you" placed in an instruction.
Whoever laid out the manual in InDesign doesn't know the first thing about
professional typesetting and layout; it shows. An instruction will appear
on one page, with the accompanying illustration on the next. New sections
don't begin at the top of a new page, but start willy-nilly at any page
location. In short, it's the most unprofessional example of a user manual
I've come across in my entire 25-year career.

I'm looking for some pre-existing verbiage from somewhere that explains why a company's image can be irreparably damaged by publishing and distributing
such junk. For example, imagine buying a McLaren and receiving an owner's
manual written by a grade school kid and published on the same sort of thin
paper as many Bibles are printed on. While you've read and heard (and
watched) all about McLaren's exceptional engineering, the manual causes you to at least raise an eyebrow, if not remark "WTF."

I know that it's not my decision, but I wouldn't begin to approve release
of the company's updated whizbang with the manual being in its present
shape. How can I convince them to take an extra week or so to at least
accept my edits (the INDD reformatting coming at a later date)? BTW, I've
already researched another translation house that has the bandwidth to
crank out my heavily-edited version.

Oh, and this isn't about my billing (yet). It's more about determining what
is acceptable from the perspective of the company's own branding and
outside perception.
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The client sales pitch: From: Chris Morton

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