Re: The Covert Interview

Subject: Re: The Covert Interview
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- STARBASECORP -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 1995 11:26:42 -0800

Tom Williams wrote:

> Most technical writers have found that it can be difficult obtaining
> information from some technical specialists. Occassionaly, however,
> one can get around this by using a "covert" interview.

I often find it useful to just "hang around" on the fringe when
programmers are discussing concepts/problems/techniques. They
rarely even notice that I'm there. By evesdropping on these
conversations I can often gather most (if not all) of the information
I need. If I really need more clarification/information, I can begin
by saying, "The other day in the hall..., so I was wondering if that
included..." Starting my query that way gets them back into
conversational mode and we're off and running.

Of course, there are times when the powers-that-be force programmers
into my office to impart information. When that happens, I try to make
the encounter as painless as possible. There's soft jazz playing on
the stereo, lots of plants and posters for a "homey" feeling, and a
table-top or shelf full of "programmer lures" (tops, ball bearing
puzzles, 3D glasses, etc.) to keep their little hands busy while
they struggle to communicate ;-) Works for me!

Sue Gallagher
Technical Writer
StarBase Corp, Irvine CA
sgallagher -at- starbasecorp -dot- com


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