Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A bit of a grumble

It's happened to me so many times, I should be used to it by now, but I'm not. I meet people who are involved in product development, and when I try to talk to them about user documentation I get brushed-off with "It's OK, we do all our user documentation in-house." "That's great," I say, "how many technical writers do you have on staff?"
"Oh no," they reply, "we don't have any technical writers, the programmers (or the engineers, or whoever) do it themselves."
These are intelligent people, who wouldn't allow anyone other than an experienced and qualified accountant to prepare their company's balance sheet, or anyone other than a qualified and experienced lawyer to prepare their end-user licence agreement, but they'll happily entrust preparing their user documentation to someone without any relevant experience or qualifications!


VaishVijay said...

This is a common issue that most of us face. Besides this, recently I was having tough time trying to make them understand the difference between Copy writing and Technical writing!

Unknown said...

Another issue is to ask them how many hours it takes them to prepare a NON professional documentation and how they prepare it.
Answers become funny.
Hours ans hours, normally in the evening or on Saturday (sometimes payd, sometimes not depend on the level of the developer).
Then the authoring tool: you will discover how to manually enter a table of contents, or how manually number the pictures or other funny issues..
Then you can, just tell them the lower metric of your best manual, and show it...if you have the opportunity. Or, if you are a true sadist, tell them that even in Word you have something called "field" (oh.."field"!! As in a software code!!)...
Sometimes it works. Try it. And they will start to ask you "How it was possible...?"