Re: Welcome to techwr-l

Subject: Re: Welcome to techwr-l
From: "Judith E. Schrier" <PRIMATE -at- BROWNVM -dot- BITNET>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1993 12:58:51 EST

Hello, I edit a quarterly newsletter that goes to about 1000
psychologists, anthropologists, medical researchers, and others
who work with apes and monkeys. Not strictly "technical writer"
but very interested in the issues. I have a strong background
in computers, and send out each issue of my newsletter as
electronic files by means of a listserver, to another 150

> My feeling is that better and more documentation for the systems
> would reduce that load by answering the questions collectively (on
> paper) rather than individually (at the help desk). My boss agrees
> in principle, but principle doesn't get me much support or help.

> Any suggestions? Do any of you have experience with this kind of
> situation? Does anyone have any ideas for increasing productivity
> without sacrificing quality?

> BTW--about 2/3 of our documentation right now is out-dated, unused
> because the old format is extremely user-hostile, and generally
> a waste of time and paper. The revisions and rewrites improve it,
> but they sure take a long time.

Paper documentation is difficult to find, and difficult to use. On-line
help files that are easy to read and, especially, easy to FIND, will
reduce the work load on your consultants. Make sure there are many ways
to access the file. Don't insist that the user know the exact right
name. Make up a dozen or more aliases for each function, trying to
think of what some idiot might call them. If your users are on terminals
or machines that are compatible, you could have an F-key that would
always bring up help files. Go around and put "HELP" labels on that
key in everyone's office.

Judith E. Schrier, Editor Laboratory Primate Newsletter
PRIMATE -at- BROWNVM Box 1853, Psychology Department
PRIMATE -at- BROWNVM -dot- BROWN -dot- EDU Brown University
401-863-2511 Providence, RI 02912

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