Re: Online vs. Paper

Subject: Re: Online vs. Paper
From: Lisa Higgins <lisa -at- DRDDO1 -dot- EI -dot- LUCENT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 09:39:50 +0000

> If we have to drag Joe Six-Pack kicking and screaming
> into the Electronic Age, then so be it.

I've done this. As a result of an increasingly tight development
schedule, I had to drag many hundreds of fairly computer-naive
users (I wouldn't call them "Joe Six-Pack," necessarily) to all
online documentation. Because I simply did not have a two-week
turnaround time on much of my documentation, I couldn't build in the
two weeks required for printing and distribution.

So, for me, the argument for/against online documentation was
academic. We had no real choice.

Interestingly, I think the transition went fairly smoothly.
Fortunately, the users are all internal, so I was able to make myself
available to help set them up and get them used to the web. I made my
management aware that I was going to have to do a lot of tech support
for this project so that I could build the time into my schedule.

I was scared going in. Some of these users are like my mom--not
stupid by any stretch, but technophobic, to say the least. So I eased
them in the same way I did (am doing) with my mom. I held some hands
and I gave some pep talks and I addressed a lot of fears. I think a
very big part of technical communication involves addressing users'
fears. My users needed, more than anything else, assurance that
computers are tools. I think it was Thoreau who said we were becoming
"the tools of our tools," and it's true. Sure, it's a fairly "soft"
concept, but I could sense the relief in peoples' voices as I
explained to them that all I want to do is give them the tools they
need to do their jobs. I've kept myself open to their suggestions and
available for them when they need help. Now, I'm confident that most
of my users actually enjoy using the web. (At least a few have
even gotten accounts at home as a result.)

Naturally, I spent a lot of time setting up proxies and writing basic
instructions for using the web, but I really think that the single
most deciding factor in the project's success was being patient and
understanding (but not patronizing) with users who were dealing with
a fear of technology in general.

lhiggins -at- lucent -dot- com

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