Re: Tracking Off

Subject: Re: Tracking Off
From: gyaker -at- csc -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 11:04:00 -0500



I don't think this discussion boils down to what information is appropriate for
the users, I think it's more about where do the individual technical writer's
sympathies lie. Do you enjoy writing documents that stand as Objective Tomes of
Reference or do you prefer writing manuals to help the user complete his or her
task?

Someone asked for an example of when technical inaccuracy is desirable, here
goes: I was writing a user manual for a certain US Government Department. The
program was essentially a front end to a database in which the users entered
data collected from the field. Naturally, many data elements had to correctly
correlate with each other to ensure accuracy (the data could not indicate that
something happened at 3.30 AM and the weather condition was Sunny). Depending on
how correct the data as a whole was, a score would be assigned to the current
instance of data entry. If a score wasn't high enough, the current data set
could not be submitted to the database.

We kept track of how each user scored. I guess the idea was if a user
consistently showed poor performance then they would be fired or reprimanded.
But as this was a government job, we could never tell the users that we were
gauging their performance, and that their job possibly depended on this aspect
of their job (note: required experience for their position was High School
Diploma). So in the manual I had to write some really puffy-sounding explanation
of what the score meant.

Gil Yaker
gyaker -at- csc -dot- com
Computer Sciences Corporation
Federal Black Lung Project






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