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> Why must it be that we can only write for the user if we're as
> uninformed as the user.
John, that's not what I suggested at all, and I don't think it is what Gene
is suggesting either. My point was that you need to understand the user's
task and to do that you need to understand the user's trade. You need to
know what the users of your product know about their own trade, not what the
designers of your product know about engineering. This is not about
ignorance of the product, it's about knowledge of the task.
You need to know what an *experienced* user of your product knows, both
about your product and about the job they are doing when they use the
product. You need this knowledge both to lead the novice through the basics
and to give the experienced user new information in an appropriate way.
As Gene says, this has the added advantage that you can provide a user voice
on the development team, but this must the voice of an ***experienced
user***, someone who knows both the task and the tools. That is something of
real value to development. A person ignorant of tools and task alike is of
no use specifically because they do not represent the user. The user is not
ignorant, and we do them a disservice if we treat them as if they were.
The argument on this topic often breaks down into sniping between two
equally untenable positions, one that the writer must be an engineer on par
with the lead developer, and the second that the writer must be a complete
novice who knows nothing of the product or the tasks for which it is used.
Both of these positions are nonsense. The writer needs to be knowledgeable
in the trade and tools of the audience he is writing for.
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