The Other 99 Percent

Subject: The Other 99 Percent
From: MSTSACX -at- GSUVM1 -dot- BITNET
Date: Sat, 19 Mar 1994 08:32:35 EST

Andreas asked what the other 99 percent are reading, if only 1 percent
are reading DOS for Dummies.

Assuming that the world of computer users has hundreds of niches, no
single book is going to serve all of their needs. 1 percent might actually
be a large niche.

I recently heard a sales pitch by the largest third-party publisher: the
company owns several publishing houses, each with a different name and
serving a different audience. Some of these publishing houses publish
several series of books, each aimed at a different audience.

The sales pitch was aimed at a large corporate customer. The salesman
suggested that the customer order a site license for the software without
the documentation--because documentation for this product was about $100 per
license. The third party publisher could sell the customer the most
necessary manuals for about $40-$50 per license. The large corporate
would just purchase the manufacturer's documentation for its technical
staff, not the end users.

In addition to the economics of the situation, the sales person pointed
out that his company could provide each of the customer's end users with
just the document they need. Power users get a reference-style of a document.
Novices get a tutorial-style document. People who want training get a
training course and handout.

Granted, this was a salesperson talking, but pointing out that his
library better met the needs of users and at a significantly less cost,
I had to wonder whether manufacturers should be providing most of their
documentation free with the product or whether users might be better served
by our producing separately purchased documents that compete with third-
party manuals?

BEFORE YOU WRITE THIS IDEA OFF AS CRAZY--think about it for a moment.
Technical types don't take the documentation seriously--it's just
something that has to be done. Users don't read our documents because
they're overwhelmed by them. Often, we feel forced to write documents
in a way that we don't like in response to politics and pressure from
other departments.

If customers had to separately purchase our documents--what might happen?
Because sales are dependent on accuracy, technies might take their
reviewing responsibilities more seriously. Because sales are dependent
on information meeting users' needs, the opinions and needs of those of us who
are trained to develop information might weigh more heavily in corporate

I've seen this approach taken with customer training and the results were
impressive. After a year of everyone saying, "this will never work," not
only did it work, but the ultimate results were creative training ideas,
happy customers, and upper management support. All in all, not a bad deal.

Saul Carliner Ph.D. Student
Instructional Technology Geo. State Univ.
Note new userid----> mstsacx -at- gsuvm1 -dot- gsu -dot- edu 404/892-3945

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