TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Validation From:rjl -at- BOSTECH -dot- COM Date:Thu, 18 Jan 1996 11:23:36 EST
Loryn Jenkins had the following question in response to my original
>How do you ensure that the Validator, who isn't an SME, is able
>to pick up on all the details that an SME should?
>rjl -at- bostech -dot- com wrote:
>> Crazy as it sounds, the ideal Validator is a technical communicator,
>> not an engineer. A tech communicator is able to look at the data with the
>> right amount of distance, is able to view the document in the larger scope
>> of all other documentation, and....well, I'm likely preaching the choir
>> when I address the idea to this group.
Good question. Presumably, the validator will have -some- background with
the subject matter, but it's quite possible (as was the case with me) that
the validator could be a new hire from outside with -no- experience or
The validator will find that the data falls into three basic groups:
1) "I can figure that out." The validator is able to run the procedure, or
compare the data to the specs, and determine if the manual is correct.
2) "I could figure that out if I knew the source data." This is solved with
a couple of quick contacts to the SME or even the writer, simply asking
"Where did you get this information?"
3) "I'm in over my head on this one." That's when the validator sets up
an appointment to sit down with the SME and ask specific questions. The
SME's may be more open to this approach, because instead of being hit with
the typical "Here's 200 pages of manuscript, please review" request, they
are getting "I've narrowed 200 pages of material down to five pages that
I don't understand, I'll need just a few minutes of your time." Engineers
learned that when I stopped by, I was usually in and out of their offices
in less than ten minutes.
Or, another way to look at it is that the validator has at least the same
capacity to understand as the original writer did. As writers, we may not
be "expert" but we -do- have enough smarts that we can decipher the
engineer's work and turn it into documentation.
I've seen one or two messages from folks who have said "We've used a similar
system, and it worked." Has there been anyone out there that has used
this method, only to find it bombed?
rjl -at- bostech -dot- com