Is 3rd party info better?

Subject: Is 3rd party info better?
From: Fred M Jacobson <fred -at- BOOLE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 1994 20:15:10 PST

Karla's friend suggested:
> It's a lot easier to be a little irreverant when your stuff isn't going to be
> reviewed by the people who wrote the software. They tend to take the topic a
> little more seriously.

This reminds me of experiences I have had as a trainer and trainee.
I have trained software users as a contractor for the software
producer and as an independent. When I wasn't working for "the
company," I could always focus on what the students needed to know
and learn to do to succeed. If the product had a weak spot, I
could point it out and discuss the implications in a straightforward
manner. For example, "The system doesn't assure that these things
are consistent, so you must pay attention and make sure they are."

Implicit in pointing out shortcomings, of course, is criticism of
the product. You have to do this _much_more_gingerly_ when you
represent the company. I've also seen this from the other side.
Although I haven't had a lot of company-sponsored training on tech
writing tools, I did have some excellent Interleaf training in
my last job from an independent. As a rule of thumb, I'd say get
independent training whenever possible.

Does this transfer to commercial books about computer products?
I'm not certain. I know that many of these authors have early
access to the products and special access to company personnel.
They couldn't get the books on the new versions out in time if
they didn't. A lot of these books seem to be tutorials or manuals
with sharper audience definition than and (as others have pointed
out) different tone from the "company" books. Do any of you know
of any how-to books that are implicitly or explicitly critical of
their subject system? (It might not be a good policy. Buyers
usually want to be told that they've made the right decision -
"excellent spreadsheet choice, sir!" If you don't know what I'm
talking about, look up "cognitive dissonance.")

INTERNET: fred -at- boole -dot- com PHONE: (408) 526-3292 FAX: (408) 526-3055
USPS: Fred Jacobson / Boole & Babbage / 3131 Zanker Road / San Jose CA 95134

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