RE: Tracking off

Subject: RE: Tracking off
From: "Kathi Jan Knill" <Kathi -dot- Knill -at- template -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 13:49:19 -0500

Okay, I have a minute so I'll use it to express my thoughts ...

Aoidin wrote:
"Hey, why even assume that your audience can read? Use hieroglyphics for
the illiterate.
But now we're assuming that our audience can see.
Hmmm... " etc.......

I say:
Come now Aoidin, aren't you taking things a little too far?

Mark Baker wrote (among other things):
<vicious personal attack>

I say:
Now, now, no need to get nasty and personal. Remember the rule...we post
on topics not on personalities. Agree or disagree with an opinion, not with
a person.

Mark wrote:
The waiter would simply dump the entire contents of the pantry on your
table and leave you to sift through for something edible.

I say:
See above comment to Aoidin.

My thoughts on audience analysis -- don't spend too much time on it, but
then again, don't ignore your audience. However, keep in mind that most
audiences are made up of a number of different types. So you have do your
best
to provide the information that each type needs without putting the others
to
sleep.

All of us have written docs for novice users that are also going to be used
as refreshers for experienced and expert users. How do we address the issue?
Some use chunking, some divide the types of information (conceptual vs.
instructional) into separate chapters (using the "skip this chapter..."
comment)
or books, and so on (I am not about to touch on each method
since surely I don't know them all!).

Salette said:
"Isn't it almost as condescending to assume that more experienced users of
the system won't be able to read my instructions and skip the parts they
already know?"

I say:
Touche (darn, wish I had an accent key).

Okay, we've probably had to write doc where we could not determine our
audience. If you cannot possibly find out...your manager doesn't know, your
client doesn't know, and really no one knows (I know now accuse me of
exaggerating) ... then write in such a way that you can provide as much
information as you can, given the time you have to write the doc.

So find out who your users are, what degree of information they need, and
who else might be picking up the doc. Then, write what you know, what you
don't
know but will surely find out if the user type might need it (ok so we can't
assume
we know everything a user will need to know, but most of us have enough
experience
to at least make an educated guess), and then tell them where or how they
might acquire additional information.

Having said all that, you see that I am pro "knowing who your audience is."
But I
also think that as educated, experienced writers, we can safely make certain
assumptions about readership and the amount of information we provide,
without those assumptions being detrimental to well written, accurate doc.

As for accuracy...if you are not accurate, you could potentially cause a
user
to create a big problem. On the other hand, sometimes you write inaccurate
information that does not do anyone damage, and can be corrected in
your next edition.

So, always, always write the most technically accurate doc that you are able
to write (given whatever constraints you are working under), but if you
goof up, remember that it may not be the end of the world.
(Or then again, it might. However, so might Y2K.......!)

Kathi Jan Knill
Sr. Technical Writer
Template Software
Kathi -dot- Knill -at- Template -dot- com
The best things in life are yours,
if you can appreciate yourself. ~ Dale Carnegie ~





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