“Okay. I’m in Costa Rica. Now what?”

“Okay. I’m in Costa Rica. Now what?”

on Sep 3, 09 • by Patti Murphy • with 3 Comments

“Now what?” is that uncharted territory between “Getting Started” product guides and the challenge of incorporating a new tool into day-to-day activities. In fact, I’m convinced that “Now what?” is one of many creatures inferred by the “Here be monsters” legend inscribed on uncharted regions of old...

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Going beyond "getting started"

“Now what?” is that uncharted territory between “Getting Started” product guides and the challenge of incorporating a new tool into day-to-day activities.

In fact, I’m convinced that “Now what?” is one of many creatures inferred by the “Here be monsters” legend inscribed on uncharted regions of old nautical maps.

I think of it like this: You buy an exciting adventure package to Costa Rica. You put your money down. The tour operator hands you a map. And then you end up…in Holland.

Time to call your emergency number:

You: “Can you help me out? I was supposed to go to Costa Rica and I followed the directions, but I’m in Holland.

Customer support: “Let’s go over what happened and take a look at the directions.”

Customer support reviews your actions and examines the map. (They are incredibly patient, discerning and resilient people, these customer support types.)

Customer support: “It appears that you took a wrong turn at Albuquerque (except it’s pronounced Albekoiky).”

Then you’re put on the right road. A problem report gets logged against the map-makers to clear up whatever ambiguity there was. Now you and future travelers can end up at the intended destination.

Excellent.

“Okay. I’m in Costa Rica. Now what?”

Exactly.

This is an issue sales engineers frequently encounter in the field. It is also something that Geoff Babb touched on in his response to Helen’s post, “Exposing our soft underbellies“,  about moving documentation to a wiki.

Useful examples are great, but finding the right scenario can be difficult, particularly when customers can range from a couple of guys in their basements to companies with thousands of developers.

With a large documentation set, it’s difficult to keep up with new features and include scenarios that are relevant to everyone—a major rewriting effort indeed.

During a meeting where we presented our documentation plan for moving to a wiki, “Now what?” showed up again.

I don’t remember putting “Now what?” on the list of invitees. But it appears that there’s no stopping that beast.

Our move to a wiki means rewriting a helluva lot of material anyway. Might as well take on the beast.

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3 Responses to “Okay. I’m in Costa Rica. Now what?”

  1. Kevin McGowan says:

    I’ve been very curious about the whole wiki-doc scenario, for a few reasons.

    1) How does one manage to track changes? I imagine there would be a lot of “Undo” work, as customers and well-meaning individuals may in fact introduce errors or misinterpretations into the “official doc set”…I predict a LOT more time doing actual editing and reviewing and quality testing with a WIKI scenario.

    2) Is this a way of changing the role of the technical writer from “writer” to “coordinator”, where essentially you are now monitoring changes etc.

    I imagine a hybrid would be ideal…have a set of “regular docs” as well as a WIKI that can be changed by users and other experts.

  2. Richard says:

    My friend Ralph Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” So he doesn’t offer any insight here either. (But come to think of it his middle name is Waldo – another ethereal creature.)

  3. Kate says:

    Great post Patti!
    This couldn’t be more true regardless of industry.
    Keep the posts coming.

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