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Subject:FW: Comment on tech writers, response to From:Ron Sering CDS <ronaldse -at- MANX -dot- CDS -dot- TEK -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 23 Dec 1997 12:52:49 MST
I couldn't resist making a personal response to the "Comment on Tech Writers," posted Dec 22. The original writer of the posting sent me a response, and I've reproduced it for you here. Happy Holidays!
JUDY: Hi Ron
I would like to apologize to all of the outstanding professional
technical writers out there who caught the brunt pf my frustration in that
letter. When things are going wrong, I guess it is human nature to look for
a convenient scapegoat. You have certainly let me in on the bigger picture.
I thank you for your patient and informative letter.
RON: "-- Well, as a tech writer, I think it's worth mentioning that in many cases, the material that a TW includes in a manual is obtained from
>research and interviews of subject matter experts (SME for short) who
>have actually written the program, and does not necessarily reflect the
>opinions or views of the writer."
(I also added that TWs must often include material that they consider unnecessary or inappropriate in order to get SMEs to sign off on the product, and that docs are often delayed until the very end of a project, resulting in a hastily-prepared product. I added that companies often will not allocate sufficient resources and expense to determine the actual information needs of their users, so manual content often is a shot in the dark at the lowest common denominator and may not be appropriate for every user.)
JUDY: It seems to me that their is one very important component missing from this picture - The TIS-FAD! (technically inept short-fused artistic dunce)
Actually, I'm now considering starting a TIS-FAD consulting firm. If you
know of anyone who might benefit from my services, please direct them this
RON: Software has gotten incredibly powerful. I suspect that to cover the
subject matter appropriately (for a graphics processing software), you would have to write a manual as thick as a phone book.
JUDY: Perhaps the software industry needs to look at a way to provide this
information in an interactive format, so that it is easy to get the
information you need. Surely our information technology has progressed to
this point! Mabe a help mode you could turn on- where rollovers would pop
up a name, and a click would give an explanation.
RON: And did you learn everything you know about photoshop from a manual?
I learnt photoshop in school from teachers. They could answer my questions
without an information overload.
RON: Hmmm.....not to disparage the fine profession of software programming, but
isn't it generally *their* job to design intuitive user interfaces?
JUDY: I know that TWs are responsible for stock market instability in Southeast
Asia, but I guess that I'll have to concede the point and agree that they
are not responsible for unintuitive interface design. ;o)
RON: To conclude, if you do have problems with a user guide, the only way you
>will >ever see that change is to contact the company that sold it to you.
>It is very >likely that the technical writer who wrote that guide would
>love to find a >reason to convince management that they need to budget
>more time and resources >for researching and writing the user guide, or
>allow the TW more latitude in >content development....Believe me, I've
>been there. Many times.
JUDY: Ron, I will start to direct my whining towards more appropriate channels.
Thanks for taking the time to so patiently explain the situation to me.
Please post this note to your list and forward my most sincere apology to
any TWs whom I might have offended.
P.S. Can you tell me where I can find the any key?