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For us, RNs answer specific questions:* WHY should I update (fixes & improvements)?* WHAT WILL HAPPEN if I update?* Is there ANYTHING I NEED TO KNOW before I update (compatibility and known issues)?
* DID YOU FIX my pet issue?
We also have enterprise customers who are prohibited from updating without accompanying RNs, so they sometimes serve a legal-ish purpose.
The field asked us to include the What's New info for the given release family...Â A Mktg-level list of our new features.Â So we include that as well (thank you DITA and conrefs!).Â
As we move to a SaaS model, the RN questions will change.Â In that model users don't have a choice about updating, we do it TO them (erm...Â FOR them).Â So the RNs answer one primary question...Â WHAT just happened?Â In that model, the RNs are the primary place to deliver What's New info, but I suspect online help can also give a What's New history of the product in a top-down list of expandos.Â I suspect we will not include that in the PDF.Â
We do repeat the compatibility info.Â If you think about it, you have no guarantee of any context the user might have when coming to the RNs.Â At any time, THIS release of the RNs could be the first RN that the user has seen.Â So referring to previous ones as a way to avoid boilerplate is not really an option IMO.Â The only case where we make that kind of reference is for a super-mini release...Â say version 123.45.2.Â Then the RNs might be for one specific fix for one specific customer.Â In that case we just list that single fix, and say (effectively), "Please refer to the full 123.45 RNs."