Re: Updating User Docs

Subject: Re: Updating User Docs
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 1 May 1998 08:06:20 -0400

Ah, the eternal question.

I'd suggest that asking the question mean looking at this thing backward,
albeit with a sound business reason. As always, the real question isn't so
much how we're going to get word of enhancements into the hinterlands, but
how we're going to help the user run them. And I don't personally think that
two books is a very good method.

In most customer companies, turnover is fairly high and users who start with
the new software aren't using "enhancements" at all, but simply "the
software". When you say you have "old users" I suspect you mean "old
owners". However, consider that even old, established customers have
constant turnover internally and that there may be few "old users", merely
"old owners". And while the old owner may be your customer, the new and
tenative worker is your user. When you update your product, it's installed,
and a month later the veteran operator leaves and a newbie gets his job.
This neophyte doesn't know from enhancements. And doesn't care. He needs
help, yet when he needs to look up something, he can't be blamed for
thinking that "the manual" will have the answers. But it doesn't. And it
doesn't even cross-reference to this new skinny thing for "enhancements". A
veteran user will know which feature is an enhancement, though a new user
will simply be trained on "the software". But knowing the difference between
the two will be crucial for using the documentation from this point onward.

So what does he do from this point on...look first in the "enhancements"
manual, just in case, or look in the "big manual" first and, failing to find
his needed information there, default to the "enhancements manual"? Either
way it's wasteful. Without meaning to, issuing a second enhancements manual
essentially shifts the wastefulness of reprinting from us to our customer so
his _users_ can waste time and money. Pointing out enhancements under these
circumstances seems to me to be for marketing purposes, not for user

<begin original>

Hi techwhirlers,

Another lurker in the list! Can any of you out there help this first timer?

I have to write a user doc. for old users of our software who will be
requiring only upgrades. Both my boss and I feel that it doesn't make much
sense (nor is it economical) to give them the complete new user doc as only
enhancements have been done (on the software) and almost all the information
they have (in the old user doc) is still valid.
What we basically need to tell them is about these enhancements. How do I go
about it?
I'd be awfully thankful for any ideas, tips or advice from those who have
and haven't done this before.

<end original>

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Creators of the Clustar Method for task-based documentation

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