Re: Peace, love, and techwriting

Subject: Re: Peace, love, and techwriting
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 10:50:00 +0800

> >I know this is going to sound right out of the '60s, but why can't we just
> >get along?

Like, far out.

Melonie wrote:
> On top of that, it is a tendency ... for engineers
> and programmers to think a tech writer cannot possibly understand what
> the techies are talking about. Yet, they will tell me how I should write.

It's hard, but you can try to teach your engineers what manuals are for.
Ask Joe Engineer who his users are. Do all the users know everything Joe
does? If so, perhaps Joe could write a good manual. (Personally, I doubt
it, but I'd concede the point and move on.) If they don't know everything
Joe knows, they will need to have some questions answered before they can
grasp what they're being told. Your job is to ask those questions on the
users' behalf.

Does Joe know what the users don't know? No? Then he won't know what
questions to anticipate.

If you had the time, you could send Joe's instructions out with a beta
product to a couple of customers, and see how they go. Maybe Joe is right.
Or maybe it will turn out that you chose some particularly dumb users :^)

Most people could write a manual for themselves. Some could write for
another type of person. Tech writers can write for many different people.

> Ergo, the chip on the shoulder. And I want to scream stay off my turf.
> And now add it illustrators, marketers, editors, etc. AAAHHHRRRGGGG!!!
> However, when I do not give in to "MINE, MINE, MINE" I do produce
> much better documentation.

Larry Kunz did a good piece on us frustrated TWs in the April Intercom
(STC mag).
Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Voice: +61 9 328 8288
Functional Software Pty Ltd Fax: +61 9 328 8616

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