Re: Not Wanted--Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Not Wanted--Technical Writers
From: Scott Miller <smiller -at- CORP -dot- PORTAL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 13:14:16 -0800

I don't think the article is going to prompt very many outfits to fire
tech writers and replace them with poets, but if it advertises that
there is an alternative to dense, difficult-to-read technical
documentation, so much the better.

Also, whereas this should be old news, it isn't. Chunked, user-centered
writing is still something new to a lot of writers. It's even more
unknown to our colleagues in tech support, engineering, and marketing;
in fact, they tend to resist it. Writers, therefore, are often
encouraged to produce weighty tomes. Although they aren't that usable,
they inspire confidence in the writer's co-workers that all the
information is there.

I've been a judge for several years for various STC-related writing
competitions, and in general, the quality of technical documentation is
about what you would expect; a very few really good jewels, a lot of
average work, and a few stinkers. More stinkers than jewels. Here is
what I wonder about: is the "average" document still going to cut it in
today's internet-time, fast-paced enviornment? I think that readers
might have been more forgiving of over-stuffed documentation when they
knew that their learning investment was going to be relevant for a year
or so. These days, with new technology surprising us daily, the type of
documentation described in the article might have much more appeal
because it allows users to focus on essentials, knowing that in-depth
knowledge might become obsolete in a hurry, so why learn it?

Missing from the article is the concept of layering, that is, providing
the crucial information up-front, with a safety-net of additional
information for those who need it. However, that's probably too boring
to discuss in a newspaper article.

- Scott Miller
smiller -at- portal -dot- com

>Did anyone else get a look at this article in the Washington Post's
>weekly business section yesterday?
>What do you think?
>, or

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