RE: Any ideas for a presentation on the documentation process?

Subject: RE: Any ideas for a presentation on the documentation process?
From: melonie -dot- mcmichael -at- amd -dot- com
To: ginger -at- aatech -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 13:08:22 -0500


As technical writers our biggest plague is the attitude "anybody that has
9th grade English can write a manual." I can really get on a soap box about
this, but since it is one of our FAVORITE topics around here, I don't see
reason to rehash it. These simple demonstrations, PB&J and shoelaces alike,
are great ways to help other people understand that writing can be a
time consuming and mind-numbing process.

I have had so many people walk in with the attitude, "can't you just write a
200 page manual by tomorrow. I've given you the specks" or "usability
testing for the manual. Why would we want to do that? You told us you
could write." These kind of simple little demonstrations help others
what our job is about. Jeez, when I tell most people what I do I get a blank
stare and the question "what is a technical writer?". How on earth do I
them to understand why I am valuable when they don't understand what I do?

My 6th grade teacher did the PB&J demonstration. I still think about that
when I sit down to write step-by-step instructions. I think the
demonstration would
be a great way to start out a meeting introducing the documentation

Then, I would go into the "life of a document" and the review cycle. I would
sure to point out common places and common problems where the cycle gets
bogged down. I would also explain a little about distribution: the time it
takes, the
forms it takes and potential problems (engineers seem to have problems
that it really takes 2 weeks to print a 350 page perfect-bound manual). I
also try to explain what things tend to take very little time and what takes
a lot. Finally,
I would try to give them hints of small things which will save huge amounts
of time
(i.e. don't go make your own template. We have one already and, even if the
is gorgeous, we will convert it to our corporate style. So save us both some
time and
use the one already made!)

Thanks for the ideas! We have some changes going on, I think I would like to
do this in
the future. So, if any of you try something like this, I would love to hear
how it
comes out.

Melonie McMichael
CG, Marcom
Advanced Micro Devices
(mailto:melonie -dot- mcmichael -at- amd -dot- com)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ginger Moskowitz [SMTP:ginger -at- aatech -dot- com]
> Sent: Friday, October 22, 1999 2:37 PM
> Subject: RE: Any ideas for a presentation on the documentation
> process?
> After reading the creative ideas for this type of presentation, I'm still
> wondering what the purpose of the presentation is? Why do engineers and
> marketing personnel need to know the documentation process? Is this
> intended
> in some way to justify the amount of staff or resources the tech writers
> are
> using? I'm genuinely curious.

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