Re: Re[2]: on custom-built docs & feature databases...

Subject: Re: Re[2]: on custom-built docs & feature databases...
From: Peter Gold <pgold -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 31 Mar 1996 18:23:17 -0800

On Thu, 28 Mar 1996, Charles Cantrell wrote:

> In your discussion on the listserv, the following snip was posted:

> > dare I mention that taking the tool expertise and page
> > design function away from the tech writers is another
> > objective.

> I have seen this same idea in an ad for a Chicago firm looking for a technical
> writer expressed as (very freely quoted):

> > looking for a technical writer who can write.
> > No desktop publishing, just real technical writing.


> But, as a technical writer who believes that the most important part of the job
> is "information transfer" or "development of instructional content", I am not
> very convinced that writing words without an awareness of the context in which
> the user will see them [the illustrations, their juxtaposition to other concepts
> and topics, their place within the overall scheme of the documentation set]
> allows me to ensure that the information transfer occurs. And, if that transfer
> does not occur, then any apparent productivity increase is spurious.
> JoAnn Hackos presents an illustration in one of her classes about a two page
> (front and back) quick reference card that took about 300 hours to design,
> develop and write in order to present the information in the best possible way
> for the end user. Without a writer who is deeply involved in user testing, design
> and presentational development, this kind of project cannot be successful. [The
> card reduced front-line installation service calls by a very high percentage.]

Yesss!!! Statistics and ratios and fiats and game plans alone won't do
the writing, education, knowledge transferring, etc.

An IBM-er authored "The Mythical Man-Month" in the '60s or thereabouts
which made the point about software engineering that although it's not a
human process, like human gestation, throwing nine times the resources at
a project won't complete it in one-ninth the time any more than nine
women can create a baby in one month.

For documentation to be useful, think of it as more than a
parts-and-features list, and give it the time and effort it needs.

Peter Gold

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