A few weeks ago I sat with a client’s SME (one of the software developers) who briefed me on the changes in the new version of the product. Danny (not his real name) earnestly explained the whole backstory in great detail: the problem that made the change necessary, the different approaches the development team had considered, the solution they finally chose (and why), how they finally fixed it, and what it looks like now.
His detailed lecture lasted almost an hour. Yet at the end, I had almost nothing to actually write. The result of this information was one additional sentence in a concept topic, three words added to a table entry, and a single line in the release notes.
Understandably, Danny was not pleased. "Why didn’t you put in all that info?" he demanded. I tried to explain that the information focused on internals of the company and the software with virtually no impact on the way a user does anything with the product. "But it is interesting," he insisted.
It occurred to me that countless tech writers are allowing this kind of useless or non-essential information to creep into the documentation because they are afraid to upset the SMEs. Sadly, they are not doing their users any favors by allowing unnecessary content to clog their documents.
A few days later, I was reviewing another client’s ...
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