Re: Thoughts on working WITH developers...

Subject: Re: Thoughts on working WITH developers...
From: Rowena Hart <rhart -at- XCERT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 14:25:12 -0800

Eric et al,

>Is it? Or is our job to provide useful information to our
>audience? I think that's a significant distinction.

Sorry if I was being too literal. I can't write about
a product without first researching it. Part of that
research -- a critical part, in any situation where
you are documenting a product for the first
time -- is interviewing the SME and extracting
as much information about the product as possible.
Sometimes research is 80 percent of the job.

In most cases, the SME I have to interview is the
person who created the product. Sometimes the
SME is the only person in the company who has
used and thoroughly tested the product, i.e. they
know the product's personality and behaviour (talk
about anthropomorphism). I would certainly ask to
install the product and use it but that would still
require co-operation and communication from
the SME.

>At the risk of sounding like an HR cheerleader,
>if you're working for a company (as a temp,
>contractor, or regular employee), you'd better be
>on the same team as everyone else and going in
>the same direction.

I agree completely. Similarly, the SME needs to
believe that they are on the same team as the
technical writer. There is no "i" in team, as the
saying goes.

>with techniques, I've rarely had to be confrontational,
>and never deceptive or tricky.

And most people won't need to use "last ditch"
interviewing techniques. Still, it doesn't hurt to
be aware of them. Not everyone on the list works
in an ideal environment with co-operative peers
and full access to product information.

I would like to clear up an incorrect assumption
that Eric made regarding "tricky, deceptive, and
coercive" interview techniques. Eric assumed
that these interview techniques are bundled with
a bad attitude, rudeness, arrogance, and an
assortment of negative vibes. This is incorrect.
It is entirely possible to use these interview
techniques without abusing your peers. There is
absolutely no need to be rude, even if you are
using aggressive interviewing techniques to get
the information you require.

I hope this clears up any misunderstandings
that Eric or the list have regarding my previous
post(s) on this subject.


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