RE: theory behind document usage; sage input please.

Subject: RE: theory behind document usage; sage input please.
From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: lwright -at- positron911 -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: 02 Mar 2004 21:08:04 GMT

It seems to me that it's usually a mistake to base
documentation on assumptions about the way users are
learning about products, but it's especially wrong when
you're dealing with one of this type. When I wrote
manuals for military systems, users learned about the
systems the way they were *told* to learn about them;
operators weren't handed a manual and left to use it as
they wished, but were led through a course of instruction
by the nose and were taught to perform every operation
"by the book," to ensure that procedures would be rigidly
adhered to. The repetitive nature of your documents may
reflect this same thinking, and it's not necessarily a bad
thing, considering the potential consequences of a missed
step at a critical, stressful moment. It's possible
that the operators are being drilled not to "dip into"
their manuals at such times, but to find the required
procedure by section number and follow every step to the
letter. If you haven't already done so, you need to do
some first-person research to determine exactly how the
current manual set is used in the field before spending
a lot of time being creative or trying to "improve"

Gene Kim-Eng

------- Original Message -------
On Tue, 2 Mar 2004 15:09:33 -0500 Wright, Lynne wrote:
>I work for a company that develops software used by >emergency response centers to process 9-1-1 calls,
>dispatch response teams, etc.

>Our documents have traditionally been written with the >assumption that users will be learning the product by
>reading our manuals...

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