Re: Recap of the messasge about screwing up

Subject: Re: Recap of the messasge about screwing up
From: Chuck <writer -at- best -dot- com>
To: techwr-l
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 15:21:39 -0700

"Merrick, Tim" wrote:
> Chuck,
> Dealing with prima dona developers is a part of the responsibility we assume
> when we sign on to be technical communicators. And doing it successfully is
> the mark of the professional. It's not pleasant, but neither is the crap
> journalists, cops, emergency room docs, store clerks, etc. put up with every
> day. I rather get sneered at than shot at.

Heck, I'm at least as much of a prima donna. I know I write well, and I
know I'm good at the various technologies that produce different types
of documentation. I'm also more than a little educated in computer
related stuff, so I'm not totally clueless when a discussion with a
programmer starts getting way techie.

> I took John's point to be more than "be nice." It comes down to showing
> professional interest in the product you are documenting. If I act like I
> don't care about the developer's work, why should he or she give a rip about
> my documentation? Overcoming objections to the need for effective
> documentation is a part of the job.
I've had some oh-so-joyful experiences with programmers where there's a
true team going forward, truly caring about the product. Where part of
my role as user advocate is heard and has an influence on the end
product. And I've had some experiences where anything I say is summarily
dismissed with the tone of either I don't know what I'm talking about
(one time from a GUI designer who routinely violated basic concepts of
GUI design) or there's no time in the schedule before release (but the
issues are tossed away like yesterday's newspaper and never given the
light of day, even when I've tried.

I not only care about the developer's work, I'm passionate (sometimes to
a fault) about making the end product as best as it can be. That means
understanding end users and designing for their goals, as well as
providing documentation that they can use when the software design

"Online help should ignore first-time users and concentrate
on those people who are already successful using the
product, but who want to expand their horizons."
- Alan Cooper
"About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design"

Chuck Martin


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