Re: Request for change

Subject: Re: Request for change
From: Karen_Mayer -dot- TOUCH_TECHNOLOGY -at- NOTES -dot- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 1996 17:30:49 EST

I think Eric has a very good point. Some of our discussions (and I'll
admit to participating) seem to be a little on the "so what?" end of the
profession. (Then again, I love language so I like to argue the finer
details, but those subjects are probably better suited for a forum on
linguistics rather than technical writing.)

So, first let me thank Eric for reminding me (thanks, Eric!), then I'll
let you all know what dilemma I'm facing and see what you think.

My boss is a former tech writer turned developer turned manager. We're
developing a *new* type of product, one that does not currently exist in
this country (USA), so writing the documentation will be more than just
letting users know the difference between our product and the leading
brand. It's a complex product -- rather like a computer network -- so
there are many pieces that will be operated by different individuals
within the company. Some people will have higher "security clearances"
than others and will be able to perform tasks for which others should not
even receive instructions.

The problem: boss wants us to develop "system" documentation rather than
"user" documentation -- that is, how the system works vs. how to use the
system. I believe he feels it will be easiest to write that kind of
document, and since we have only two writers, that's probably a real
valid concern. I believe, however, that each type of user should receive
instructions relevant to his or her tasks, and no more. I don't think we
should create one user guide for the security system that all users will
have access to (even if they don't have access to the system).

Face it, users typically consult the manual only when they're stumped.
They need to do something and can't figure out how. If we organize the
manual by system functions, I would think that *finding* the information
would be as difficult for the user as figuring it out on his own!

What do you think? If you disagree with me, why? If you agree, can you
suggest how I can convince my boss that the user approach is better?
(This issue does keep me up at night!)



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