Re: We All Get Third Party Books

Subject: Re: We All Get Third Party Books
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 1996 10:14:00 EST

At 08:57 AM 11/6/96 -0500, you wrote:
>Regarding third party documentation, Eric Haddock said, "I know I'd feel
>all down in the dumps if someone put one out to counter one of my manuals."

>This is not intended as a put-down to Eric, but most of us are kidding
>ourselves if we think that our users aren't "publishing" their own "books"
>for the products we document.

I've resigned myself to living in two worlds: that of corporate
documentation practices, and that of third-party publishing. In corporate
publishing, documentation is a camel, which as well know by now is a horse
designed by a committee. In that world everybody gets a shot at the doc:
marketing, public relations, management, SMEs, and self-appointed Fowlers.
The result is often everybody's idea of a good time. That's how it is and I
work within its constraints when I'm taking money from a client. It's no
reflection on me, my company, my staff or our work. I'm providing what the
client wants, even if it's not really what the client needs. Here at Simply
Written we talk about "needs" and "markets" and they're by no means the same
thing. We give the client our professional opinion, but it's up to the
client whether or not it's heeded. After that we produce, we don't argue.
(We do, however, constantly suggest.)

The universe of Sams, Wiley, New Riders, et al, though, isn't governed so
much by politics as by numbers and profit. Here the test is whether or not
people shell out money for your work. It's a relatively fast way to try out
your populist style. You can't get much closer to readers than here, and the
feedback is very, very fast. If tech doc departments had to become profit
centers in their own rights, we might see much happier users, because tech
doc managers could make simpler and more businesslike cases for themselves
and their plans. Businesspeople understand sales figures. They have no clue
about usability and such arguments leave them cold.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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