Re: creativity . . . and ethics

Subject: Re: creativity . . . and ethics
From: sanders_j -at- TBOSCH -dot- DNET -dot- GE -dot- COM
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1993 10:44:04 EDT

Hi All,

Steve Hollander:
>In her message on creativity in tech writing, Maria Townsley writes,
>"I have to make the totally unreasonable sound like it is not only reasonable,
>but wonderful." I don't believe this is the job of the tech writer. If (s)he
>can't get a user-fiendly system changed to a user-friendly one, there are, in
>my HO, only two ethical alternatives: (1) document the system matter-of-factly,
>without attempting to make it sound reasonable, much less wonderful; or (2)
>openly mark the unfriendly feature as bizarre/weird/inconvenient/hard-to-

Ah, but you see a product's manual, particularly for software, is a company's
most important marketing tool, because besides a program's interface, the
manual is what the user sees most. The manual also acts as a company's voice
in how the product can be used, what the user needs to know, and all the
ins-and-outs of the routine use of the thing. In Maria Townsley's situation,
the condition is obviously extreme; generally speaking the product shouldn't
be unreasonable (maybe a little kludgy). But her job is still to present the
product in a favorable light. That contradicts our pure role as technical
communicators, but it fits our role as product documentors. This unfortunate
truth is a reality of marketing, and of tight production deadlines. But the
point is that people are trying to sell something, and the manual is just as
much a part of the product as the product itself (it get's fuzzy).

Is this an unwarranted view? I know that as proffessionals, we have to have
standards of conduct, but should these ideals be perhaps re-examined? Should
Madison avenue realities impinge on an otherwise stainless code?

Sure, we'd all like to tell it exactly like it is, or should I say present
our information in the purest possible light, but that would get some of us
quickly reprimanded, if not fired out right.

Now, obviously this doesn't apply to all areas of technical communication.
I'm sure accuracy of information is vital in such things as text books, for
example. No one is selling science (not yet, anyway). But our role as
company communicators means certain restraints on our style and in some cases
perhaps, our adherence to our proffessional code.

Have I missed the boat here? Is lightning going to strike me down?

Let me know.

-John Sanders-

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