Re: Future of Technical Writing (was "Can I Have Your Opinions")

Subject: Re: Future of Technical Writing (was "Can I Have Your Opinions")
From: Laurie Rubin <lmr -at- SYL -dot- NJ -dot- NEC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 09:37:51 -0500

Along these lines, I may be at this job longer than I think, and I may need to
give a nifty title to a department of one (plus future others) where I (future
we) do technical writing, usability testing and review, window specifications,
human factors, GUI testing, and any other hat I end up wearing!
So, please post/send some suggestions!

> It was interesting to read Margaret Penman's comment on the involvement of
> tech writers in product usability. I agree with Margaret.

> > Rumour has it that writers might/will become more involved with the design
> > of the user interface.

> Here at Hewlett-Packard, this is what we already do. Here at HP, we are
> called "learning Product Engineers". (We recognize that this title is
> confusing and are looking for alternatives.) This role has evolved from
> technical writing. Our backgrounds are split between "traditional" writers
> (people with a Master's degree in technical writing) and people with a
> technical background (generally a previous customer). I'm in the second
> group.

> The evolution from tech writer to writer/designer is natural. IMO, we are
> actually a "pre-alpha" test for the product. Why should we write many pages
> documenting a poor design? Why not provide feedback and *fix* the design
> first? The goal here is a good design with minimal documentation. This
> reduces the costs and produces a better product. Besides, it's a lot of fun
> being involved in the design process ;-)

> In our division, we even review the product specifications and provide
> feedback. We also design & do usability tests. Then, when the prototype is
> ready, we document it. We try out the product and provide constant feedback
> to the developers while we're documenting it. So, instead of interviewing
> the experts, we actually *become* the experts. Ok, ok, we're not *really*
> experts, but we do know the product very well. Actually, on several
> occasions, the experts have asked *me* how something works ;-)

> As to Margaret's question "Do we see ourselves as "writers" or "communicators
> "?
> IMHO, we are communicators. (Please no flames..) IMVHO (as a former user),
> our users are less concerned with whether the period is inside or outside the
> quotation mark, than whether or not they can readily find clear answers to
> their questions. This doesn't mean that we don't want quality documentation.
> We want to help the customer use the product. Writing, design, etc. are means
> to achieve this goal. If we are successful, the product gains a good
> reputation, the product sells well, and we get more profit sharing ;-)

> BTW, for more information on usability, see the Net discussion group
> " comp.human-Factors ". This group is also focused on the "user point of
> view."

> I agree with Margaret: This is not to start a war, just some healthy discussi
> on.

> Disclaimer: My boss probably wishes that I was doing my work, but I hope he
> shares my enthusiasm for this work.

> -Regina Doorlay
> ............................../.....................................
> Regina Doorlay / Internet: regina -at- hpbbn -dot- bbn -dot- hp -dot- com
> Network & System Mgmt Div /_ __ HPDesk: Regina Doorlay/HPGRMY/02
> Hewlett-Packard GmbH / // / Telnet: 778-4798
> Herrenberger Str. 130 / //_/ Phone: +49-7031-14-4798
> D-71034 Boeblingen / Fax: +49-7031-14-1388
> Germany /
> ........................../.........................................

> Ge

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