Want better tech manuals? Don’t talk to engineers.

I have finally found someone who has hit the nail on the head, and I’m extremely excited that I actually got to hear what they said. It was on the latest TWIT show. (This Week In Tech with Leo Laporte) It was show 315 for August 21, and I am still thrilled with the results. One of his guests on the show said “I have been talking to allot of engineers lately, and they tell me that is it the responsibility of the consumer to know what it going on with technology”, or something like that. Anyway, he went onto say, “I think it is the responsibility of the engineer to educate the consumer” or something close to that.

The ‘jist’ of the statement was to act as a thought provoking concept that helps you realize that engineers will almost always assume that the average consumer knows the basics of engineering, and thinks like an engineer as well, and that’s why engineers are the worst choice to write a technical manual, period. You see, engineers will jump ahead of steps they fully understand because in their minds they may think that the next step is just ‘common sense’. That means, that the person or persons who designed the latest technically based thingy majingy should never write the manual, but should work with a consumer or group of consumer to put thinks into perspective.

I have seen some of the most horribly written manuals that you could imagine written by well meaning people who thought they were contributing a service to humanity. Confusing, bizarre, off balance, dead ended and obscure can be the principles of crafting a manual that only a PHD could understand. Trust me, when I was part of the training and development center for one of the largest technically based call centers in North America, you see the good, the bad and the ugly. So, we’ve covered the huge chasm of distance you can¬†acquire between engineers and the ‘common folk’, let’s take a look at some other variables that can drive you crazy.

What if the company is offshore? Well, someone had to ask. Have you ever read any kind of a manual from China? I have seen spelling mistakes, bad grammar, horrible punctuation, and yes, even bad tech instructions. If the manufacturing company has sharp people that double and ¬†triple check their work, there is a reasonable chance that you may get something that is just barely readable. Notice I said barely readable. Personally, I think that consumers should be able to help contribute to a well written technical manual, and I know just the site that does it. It’s called ifixit.

This is possibly the best fix it site on the internet. They are well seasoned professionals that make certain they explain what they are doing in text, pictures and videos. If you want to see an example of a group of people who are ‘doing the right thing’, then ifix it is for you.

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