Re: CD-ROM and Internet Documentation

Subject: Re: CD-ROM and Internet Documentation
From: Garret Romaine <garret -dot- h -dot- romaine -at- EXGATE -dot- TEK -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 15:32:58 -0700

Marguerite wrote:

> At Nortel Networks (once fondly known as Bay Networks), we provide our
> documentation free of charge over the Internet AND on CD-ROM. Up until the
> release on which we're currently working, we have also provided, for a
> fee,
> hard-copy documentation. Now we offer only online documents, and anyone
> can
> view them.

There are some fascinating issues here. I'm curious if there was any
financial justification required at Nortel (or Cisco, also referred to in
Marguerite's post) to distribute the manuals free of charge, or if it just
"felt right"? Our situation is different -- charging for manuals produces a
high-dollar revenue stream, and with sales slow, now isn't a good time to
suggest we give anything away. Yet that is exactly what our manufacturing
team requested -- less paper, and more electronic distribution.

What I have been asked for from my boss is a set of guidelines on when an
electronic-only distribution is appropriate. Here's what I have so far:

1) for programming reference manuals, where a CD-ROM makes searching and cut
'n paste much easier
2) for systems where an interactive demo is required, since users are
already "forced" online
3) for products that are primarily software in nature

Any other ideas?

What I worry about is that writing for paper and writing for an electronic
medium are different animals. In many cases, we seem to be talking about
simply plopping .PDFs onto a CD and letting the customer replace our
printer. Instead, we need to set the files up to take advantage of the power
of browsers, search engines, and so forth. But as a way of weaning
customers, it was suggested we might want to do both for awhile -- write the
documentation in book form, save as a .PDF and put that on the CD, but also,
perhaps save as HTML? That sounds like what Janet Valade's group does, but I
fear it would blow our development budget.

Thanks to Marguerite for the food for thought, and to Janet for the

Garret Romaine
Tektronix, Inc.
garret -dot- h -dot- romaine -at- tek -dot- com

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