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Subject:Comments from the field (rather long) From:John Posada <john -at- TDANDW -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 11 Dec 1998 13:30:41 -0500
At my job, I was asked to get involved in a long-range project; the
redesign of a set of 4 manuals that has been identified by some of our
customers in the field as being particularly poor.
This is an excellent project because it is a problem identified as a
major issue by a committee composed of high level corporate officers,
created for the sole purpose of taking customer problems and having the
solutions identified and implemented. It is my responsibility to come up
with the solution recommendations and to eventually implement the
solution. In other words, "You as the tech writer, tell us how to create
a set of manuals that the customer will want, then do it."
Therefore, one of the first things I did was to contact one of our
internal technicians and ask him to identify to me "the most vocal
representative of the user community that is the most dissatisfied with
the particular set of documentation."
That was a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, I received a rather long list
of issues and suggestions.
Obviously, most of this is proprietary information, but of the few that
I feel are not, I thought you might find one interesting. Side note: The
information in these documents is very complex, written by developers
used by developers. The level of competence of these developers is of
the highest level, and in fact, this group has the distinction of
developing software with the same defect allowance, of let's say,
airline controller software.
The comment goes something like this (names were changed to protect the
"....For instance, how do I determine if a backup was successful? How
do I determine how trace files are used? How do I know what XXXX should
look like? We need something like a "Chiltons Manual" for automobiles
for the XXX...".
"Chiltons Manuals" are basically manuals designed so that someone with
an eight grade education can work on a relatively complex devices; the
moden automobile, automobile engines, transmissions, electrical
systems, hydraulic systrems, etc.
My point...regardless of the complexity of the information and the level
of the intended audience, users want something simple with lots of
assurances and graphics that they are doing it right.
John Posada, Technical Writer
Bellcore, where Customer Satisfaction is our number one priority mailto:john -at- tdandw -dot- com mailto:jposada -at- notes -dot- cc -dot- bellcore -dot- com
phone(w) 732-699-3077 phone(h) 732-2910-7811
alpha-pager: 800-864-8444 pin 1857522 http://www.tdandw.com
email pager: mailto:1857522 -at- pagemart -dot- net
My opinions are mine, and neither you nor my company can take credit for
"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish,
and he will sit in a boat and smoke cigars all day."
"The only perfect document I ever created is still on my hard drive."