Tom Johnson’s recent blog article (a must-read, involving ice picks and eyeballs) reminded me of one reason we want to move Klocwork’s user communication content to a Wiki: we want to talk to our users. Crazy idea! Let the doc team talk directly to the users? What stupid things might those literary types say?
I confess that it’s taken me a long time to get to this point. Johnson says tech writers are often subject to figurative lobotomies, like “don’t bother the subject matter experts; they’re busy”, “don’t use your own voice on video tutorials”, and “don’t talk to your users”.
So we’re crippled from the start, and some of us take years to discover that we produce the most helpful help when we become more of an investigative journalist, actively engaged with those who create and test the tools and those who use them. (It seems fitting at this point to mention that one of the writers on the team is a former newspaper girl who recently created a video tutorial for Klocwork Solo, using her own voice.)
I’m also inspired by Sarah Maddox, who regularly blogs and tweets on tech writing, especially on using Wikis for user documentation, chatting with customers about the tools she documents, blurring the line between documentation and product management.
So, we’re going to expose our soft underbellies. We want to hear from our users directly, rather than the usual generic rants transmitted through our product managers (a recent example: “Need better documentation”). When you rant to us, we’re going to want details. How exactly is the help not helpful? What page made you throw up your hands and curse us? And telling us what works can be just as effective as telling us what doesn’t.