RE: Tracking off

Subject: RE: Tracking off
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- jci -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 14:02:33 -0600

I really can't believe Andrew actually believes:

"nobody is improperly served with too much information"

Let's say I (or Andrew, or anyone else on this list) is given the task of
writing the user manual for a web browser. I could add several chapters on
how the mechanics of the mouse allow it to be tracked by the browser, how
the web browser reacts to the clicking of the mouse (including detailed
discussions of the programming code it is executing) how the resulting
action is decided upon, how the request for the next page is formatted into
TCP/IP packets, how the web browser determines what physical network
address to send the packets to, how it unpacks the GIF file it gets in
response, and precisely how it twiddles the video bits to display it on the

And the book would be avoided by everyone but the most maniacal

All of that information is directly connected to the operation of the
browser. It would supply concise and accurate (trust me on this)
descriptions of precisely what the user is directly causing to happen when
the product is used.

But those facts, no matter how eloquently presented, are useless to the
audience, many of whom would be rightly ticked off that I had wasted their
money presenting them with information they had no desire to have.

And they would quite probably ignore my user's manual as too difficult to
be useful.

What belongs in the document is the decision we all have to make. All of us
(even Andrew) decide to leave out material. Why? Because we make the
decision the material is not relevant to the audience of the book, no
matter how accurate it is.

That having been said, let me now agree with Andrew that audience analysis
is not an exact science. It's a nebulous idea at best, and acknowledging
that is essential for good writing. Since it isn't an exact science, it's
foolish to labor long and painfully over the analysis; I join in condemning
those who practice it to the detriment of the writing itself. The
"paralysis of analysis" is indeed something to be avoided.

An audience analysis should serve us as a pencil sketch would serve an
artist. We should use it to quickly put together a rough idea of the
territory we need to cover. Once that is done, we should get out the oils
and painfully labor over the painting (document) itself. Or, to abuse
another metaphor, audience analysis is to writing what a globe is to

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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