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> readers and users remain very dissatisfied with the quality of
> documentation and manuals produced throughout business, industry,
Umm--OK. Numbers? Citations? I would like to see the study that is
(apparently) being referred to here. Who was being surveyed? What was
the percentage of dissatisfied users? Etc.
I might add that as a user, I am generally satisfied with the quality
of the manuals I get for doing things like connecting/programming my
VCR, installing/programming my wall telephone (which I tend to read
from cover to cover) and generally less satisfied with the manuals I
get for software (which I tend to only use if I HAVE to). Both the
above are written (presumably) by technical writers. Which of these is
> we have reason to believe that the basic causes of this widespread
> dissatisfaction stems from an inadequate foundation (i.e. basic
> set) for doing this kind of work.
Right. Everyone is unqualified but ME! Seriously, where does this "we
have reason to believe" come from? Once again, cite your sources,
point me to them, help me decide if they're valid!
> "technical writers" have unreasonably placed their faith in software
> packages -- to wit: review all the information and discussion on
> software package to use or to avoid, their features, etc.
I don't think it is EVER implied that any of us expects our DTP to do
the writing for us, but if you've ever tried to write a 200 page
manual with chapters, indexing, and a TOC in Word, you're going to be
might grateful for Interleaf or Frame (and if you've ever tried to
draw a diagram in Interleaf, you're going to be mighty grateful for
> nothing exists that resembles a methodology, rather, most discussion
> centers around "style" as if every manual should be different for
> unspecified reason -- in fact, there is an annual contest at the
> university of waterloo that gives merit for "best looking manual".
I believe methodology IS discussed here, sometimes. I also believe
that TW doesn't have a set methodology that works for everyone in
every situation. And why shouldn't every manual be different?
That said, at my last job I developed for myself a template which I
would fill in for every new SW product I documented. I had a set
order for chapters, and a template for the information that needed to
be included in each topic. This made it very easy to gather the
information I needed, and my manuals had a uniform look and feel.
> we view this work as a vital aspect of administrative management
> has been overlooked for far too long -- in re-engineering a
> that should be people-, platform-, and application-independent it is
> necessary to research prevailing opinions, comments, and suggestions
> and then try to separte fact from fiction.
Huh? What are you saying? The paragraph above makes very little sense
to me. Solution to WHAT? Re-engineering? (a word I have never
If you mean that there should be a methodology for technical writing
which is independent of which DTP you're using on which platform, and
also independent of who is doing the writing (and by extension what
they're writing about and who they're writing for), WHY? Most of us
can use the same methodology no matter which DTP we're using, but
surely the way a manual is organized and written depends not only on
WHO is doing it but what the product is and who the audience is. You
CANNOT make it people-independent--it's FOR people!
To me, the purpose of your "survey" is as clear as mud. I can't
imagine what you really hope to accomplish.