Re: Online vs. paper, my take

Subject: Re: Online vs. paper, my take
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 14:06:47 -0700

At 03:33 PM 9/18/96 EST, Tim Altom wrote:
>A recent post canvassing the list for online vs. paper approaches piqued my
>interest. I answered it, saying in effect that as a consulting house,[snip]

>It struck me that our way of working might be different from many internal
>departments'. And it further struck me that internals often jump into the
>process too early, right in the middle of it. Instead of starting with the
>brass' priorities and then designing a medium to suit, they often assume
>priorities and then begin designing. When the brass turns out to have
>entirely different priorities, chaos and recrimination ensue.

>Is this how things run in your department? Can you sit down with top brass
>and hammer out their preferences for style, appearance, and presentation?

I think there's a third possibility, Tim, that you haven't touched on.
Deciding not what's the most expedient way, nor what the "brass"
prefers, but what's best for the unique combination of information and
target audience.

As an "internal", I begin with an analysis of the target audience and
the type of information to be provided (e.g., cookbook instructions to
beginners or complex concepts to experts) and provide a documentation
plan that provides what I believe to be the best way to present the
information. If there are any special considerations, they usually
come from marketing, not from company management. In any case, and
where ever the special considerations come from, I try to accomodate
them -- within the framework of my original criteria (audience + info).

Fortunately, most "brass" sign-off on the doc plan without comment.
When I'm challenged, I'm not afraid to argue my position.

I worked at one company where my doc plans were always challenged.
Seemed like everyone in that company had a better idea on how to
document a product. Whenever I was challenged, I'd provide 25 to 50
pages or so of research material that supported my positions to the
person who objected. The attached note usually said something like,
"Here is my reasoning behind such-and-so. If you finish reviewing
this material and you still object, let me know and we'll meet to
discuss alternatives."

I've never met anyone who actually plowed through the supporting
research and came out the other side with an objection. Actually,
I never met anyone who actually plowed throught the supporting
research. ;-) They usually look at the (somewhat intimidating)
stack of english-nerdy mumbo-jumbo and mumble, "No, that's fine.
Do it your way." (I don't save all those STC journals fer nuthin',
ya know!)

And, BTW Tim, there ain't no such thing as jumping into the process
too early when you're an internal. The danger is not jumping in
early enough.

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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