Subject: Skills/Authoring/Writing/Desperation
From: Richard Lippincott <rjl -at- BOSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 30 May 1997 18:08:31 -0400

Dan Brinegar said:

>Every techwriter/info developer should hafta go thru restarting the backup
>generator in the rain (under fire), use a third-party formatting utility to
>resurrect their hard drive when the driver partition corrupts the Finder,
>and/or translate a Subjunctive Parable Routine from Cobol into a set of
>Java classes; then imagine their moms trying to do the same things:
>user-advocacy from real-life experience <smirk>.

TRMOAS*: The most significant lesson about my audience took place
several years ago in a hanger at Travis AFB in California. I had a
newly-written procedure for some work inside the engine support pylon on
a C-5 Galaxy (for those of you unfamiliar with aircraft, that's a cargo
plane about the size of a Boeing 747). I had three Air Force mechanics
who were going to perform the procedure. Two of them were big burly
guys, the third was a diminutive woman. (All three were tech sergeants,
for those of you interested.)

We had the access cover removed from the top of the pylon, and I was
looking down at the parts that needed work. The parts were about three
feet below us inside the box-like structure of the pylon. "How are we
gonna reach down there?" I asked.

"We'll show you how we do it." said one of the burly guys. He turns to
the woman and asks "Are you ready?" She stuck a screwdriver into her
mouth and nodded. The two guys then grabbed her feet, flipped her over,
and stuck her head-first into the opening.

I'm standing there with my mouth open, and about thirty seconds later
she yells "Pull me out." They did, and she was finished.

I've always tried to write everything since then assuming the user would
be upside-down in a hot, dark, enclosed space, with few tools in reach.
Usually they're not...but one never knows...

* TRMOAS - This Reminds Me Of A Story.

Rick Lippincott
Boston Technology
Wakefield, MA
rjl -at- bostech -dot- com

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