Philosophy: the Aim of Technical Comms?

Subject: Philosophy: the Aim of Technical Comms?
From: "Larry Kunz ((919) 254-6395)" <ldkunz -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 1996 13:20:38 EDT

Stuart Burnfield wonders if "the greatest good of the greatest
number" is the best approach to technical communication. "How
else," he asks, "do you decide what to put in and what to leave out?"

Well, as Dave Barry would say, "The Rule Utilitarians" would be a
half-decent name for a rock band. But for defining a basic approach
to technical communication, I'm not so sure.

Stuart, I believe your equation leaves out a key factor: The use of
design to customize the interface. By using coaches and wizards,
for example, you can put in detailed, step-by-step information
without slowing down experienced users. By providing multilevel
help, you give the experienced user a quick reference ("Oh yeah --
it's colon-slash-slash") while the novice can drill down to a
more detailed level.

In both examples it's the *user*, not the writer, who decides what's
put in and what's left out.

I'm not sure you can boil all of technical communication down to one
line. But if you must, try this:

"Give them what they need, when they need it."

Larry Kunz
STC Assistant to the President for Professional Development
ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com

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