online, paper, and users

Subject: online, paper, and users
From: Mike Beyries <beyries -at- CSISDN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 1994 08:05:49 PDT

I enjoyed Rick Lippincott's anecdote about the aircraft mechanic and
the wing-well, and was reminded by his remarks

If even -we- the people who -write- on-line help are voicing problems ...
. . . a little too much on theory and not enough on a user needs analysis

I couldn't agree more. While we technical communicators must consider our
users (audience) and put ourselves in their place to determine what they
need to know, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we are _not_ they.

And in discussions among writers on this list and elsewhere, let's try
to remember that the majority of our readers probably don't care much
about precise language (in the abstract), tight sentences, grammar, and
clear prose. Effective communication is our goal, and we are not the
best judges of our success.

Whether online or hardcopy or audio or video or multi-media or osmosis
"works" is best determined experimentally, on the target audience or a
selected subset. _My_ target audiences now are not real keen on reading
(at all) and have some fascination for their computer, so I wouldn't
want to deny them their online documentation. I use graphics and tabular
presentations/displays to present information in the manuals, which must
be necessary because the accountants at the customer site check the
delivered goods against the packing list :-) .

Mike Beyries (beyries -at- csisdn -dot- com) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Documentation, SQA, Development Support | If I loosen my bridle on the |
Located at Connective Strategies, Inc. | press, I shall not stay in |
Mountain View, California, U.S.A. | power for three months. |
Phone 415-903-8382 (ISDN) or -2589 | -- Napoleon Bonaparte |
Probably *not* CSI's corporate opinion ! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P.S. it's early on the west coast now, so I'll adjourn for coffee ...

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