Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Start of Work Questionnaire



Table of Contents

1. What is the Product?. 3

2. Who is the Audience?. 3

3. What is their Readability Index?. 3

4. What is the Purpose?. 3

5. What is the Deliverable?. 4

6. What are the available Resources?. 4

7. What is the preferred Writing Style?. 4

8. What is the Timeline?. 4

9. Who are the Key Information resources?. 4

Whenever starting on a new project, go through this questionnaire. All of them may not be applicable, so pick and choose. This is a broad outline.

1. What is the Product?

· The detailed description of the product.

· Its various features, applications, practical uses.

· How is it different and better than the existing market products?

· How will it help the users?( Helpful in writing the Introduction)

· What is its scope, its limitations, known limitations?

2. Who is the Audience?

· Who are the people who are going to use the product, and hence may need to use the documentation?

· What is their designation? Their educational background?

· Any other specific details?

3. What is their Readability Index?

· What is the comprehension level of the end user?

· Who is the average user? Define.

· Who is or can be the least qualified user of the application? Do they want to document keeping him in mind? Do they want to document the product keeping a specific user (say a system admin) in mind and let other users call tech support?

4. What is the Purpose?

· Why are we creating the document?

· What purpose does it serve?

· What measurable difference will it make to the end user (like easier understanding of application, hassle free and quick solutions) or you (like lesser calls to help desk, increased product credibility, boost in sales and thus higher ROI)?

5. What is the Deliverable?

· User Guise, Web Help, Quick Reference Guide, Video Based Tutorial, Installation Manual, Trouble shooting Guide, Computer Based Tutorial, Maintenance Guide, Release Notes, White Paper? What is your (Technical Writers’) opinion on the deliverable?

· What is the output format? PDF? .doc/.docx file? Web help? Printed doc?

6. What are the available Resources?

· Do you have access to the Internet, if onsite?

· Do you have access to the application, if off-site?

· What are the tools that you will require, considering the deliverables?

· Do they have the proper Computer setup and is it in place?( May and does lead to delays)

· Does that particular computer have all the application you require?

· Can you download trial versions of tools needed, if any?

· Where do they need their documentation stored? Do they need the images?

7. What is the preferred Writing Style?

· Do they follow a style guide?

· Do they have a template? Do we have to make one?

· Do they have copyright information/logo/ other things they want to incorporate in the document?

· Do they prefer an informal style of writing?

· Do they have previous written documentation? Do they want to follow the same writing style? Do they want to deviate from it? If so, how?

8. What is the Timeline?

· What is the deadline? (Do you need to negotiate over the deadline?)

· What are the working hours of the company?

· What time will the SME’s be available?

9. Who are the Key Information resources?

· Who are the SME’s? Their contact numbers, e-mail addresses, extension numbers and designations.

· Who are the Project Managers? Their Contact numbers, e-mail addresses, extension numbers.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lots of Thank you's.

Today, I completed my first solo Technical Writing project. It was about Cheque Truncation System. The clients find me competent enough to immediately start on another application, which is yay! I have finally done what I wanted to do. To curb my Creative Writing instincts, I write this. How did I get into Technical Writing? Why? Who were responsible?

I was bored of designing Heat Exchangers. Not that it is a boring job. It’s just that, it wasn’t for me. Right since the time I could form sentences, I had derived immense pleasure in writing. People would appreciate the effort too. Each person unfailingly scoffed at my horrid handwriting though. God bless Keyboards and Print-outs. Due to certain circumstances which are best ignored (What do we say, let sleeping dog’s lie.); I came out of the academic grind as a Mechanical Engineer. I would have traded many a teeth and perhaps my weaker left arm for a degree in Arts or Journalism. Make no mistake; I am no English Literature fan. Neither do I fancy Keats (Well, I really am not a poetry person), nor do I want to prod a mike in a sloshed actor’s face-I felt and robustly maintain that I would have been better off with a degree in either Journalism or Arts. Those degrees would have given me the needed writing exercise and practice. I just love writing. I am happiest while Writing or playing Football in the rain.

I am not what you may call ‘bright’, ‘intelligent’ or ‘sharp’ even. One thing you will surely call me is pretty darn lucky! I have had the privilege of being tutored, mentored and guided by the best. I want to thank all of them and let the world know how cool they are! Most have shied away from my appreciation and said, “Hey man, it’s all you”. But I know where to give credit when it’s due, and by God I will do just that. As some of them have taught me how to write coherently and chronologically, I will list their names and qualities in the same manner.

Nazeeruddin Ikram- It all started with Nazeer Sir. I bet he still squirms when I call him that, ‘Sir’. I was searching for ‘Freelance Content Writing’ jobs on Orkut. Someone happened to give me an offer. I was unsure of accepting it. Miraculously, I found his Orkut profile in some community. I don’t remember how and why I approached him for advice, but I sure as hell don’t regret it! He paved the way for my foray into Technical Writing. Most of the people who have mentored or tutored me will agree that I ask too many questions, mostly stupid ones at that. However, I saved the most senseless ones for him. If there were a Guinness for patience and politeness, he would be right up there. Add one for being knowledgeable too. Nazeer Sir, I thank you.

Rahul Prabhakar- The Internet is vast. Everyone knows that. It is also intimidating for someone looking for some information. There is so much of it! Not every bit of it is relevant or correct. I was in a tizzy until I chanced upon a yahoogroup owned by Rahul Prabhakar. He accepted my invitation and gave me a jump-start with a few Tech Craft newsletters. He is himself an excellent writer and a role model. On joining the group, I had a vast resource of reliable information and many a helpful people on my side! Rahul, I thank you.

Sumedh Nene-I had begun my journey into Technical writing, but was all at sea! No lesser than when I was developing Hangar doors for Indian Naval Ships. Due to the geographical distance between me and Nazeer Sir, it was difficult. I needed someone to tell me what Technical Writing was in an organized manner. It is then that I happened to read about his 4 day weekend workshop on Software Documentation. Pune was not very far from Mumbai, so I decided to attend it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life! His abridged notes are extremely handy. I might go as far as to call it my Quick Reference Technical Writing Bible. Apart from his tips on Technical Writing, he would be the one to call me and instill the confidence needed to face an interview, along with priceless insights, of course. People say; to be successful, replicate the actions of successful people. Well, I want to be like Sumedh Sir. Helpful, good at his job and content. Sumedh Sir, I thank you.

Swapnil Gupte- I met Swapnil at one of Sumedh Sir’s workshops. He came across as a silent and friendly person. We hit it off instantly. I have been in touch with him even after the workshop and he has always been extremely helpful. Be it discussing interview questions, or sending me a CD full of TW apps, Swapnil has always been there. He is a tech whiz, and I honestly doubt if there is any application he does not know of! Swapnil, I thank you.

Kashmira Mulye- I knew what Technical Writing was about. I knew I could fit in. But employers wanted tool knowledge. I didn’t have a lot of it. Being the spoon fed guy I am I was uncomfortable learning new things on my own! (And now I have made a 150 page manual ON my own) Mulye madam not only gave me a push by teaching me the basics, she also instilled the much needed confidence. I was scared of changing industries. I was a tad apprehensive of getting out of my comfort zone for my love of writing. The recession was looming. She assured me to dive in, calling me a natural. I took her advice and I’ve never been happier. She also got me a few job offers. Mulye madam, I thank you.

Aruna Panangipally and Ibruk staff- She is my new boss. An ideal one at that. She is the best boss a Newbie Technical Writer could have. She told me clearly what she expected of me- “Delivering information”. Not five years of experience in tools. She also had the confidence in me to deliver a User Guide on site. In all earnest, I had thought that I would be under training for a few days before documenting anything! When she asked me if I was up for a challenge on my first day, I thought I would be asked to give a test! But off I went to the client site. I wanted to repost her faith, but was overwhelmed the first day. I didn’t think I could do it. I spoke to Sumedh Sir, and he helped me immensely. I was a bundle of nerves! And when I said, I didn’t get any training, I was so wrong! Aruna madam and the whole staff of Ibruk were so helpful and co-operative! Whenever I was in a rut, I knew I could depend on them. Aruna ma’am encouraged me constantly, and helped me, tutored me whenever I was stuck. In the end of it all, I am glad! And so are the clients as they are happy with my job and want me to start documenting another application immediately!
Aruna ma’am and all, I thank you.

After a lot of thank you’s. I would also like to thank my dad who understood my decision to overlook money for job satisfaction and supported me throughout. And my pals who have read my articles and praised me even if they weren’t so cool! I love my life!


Kartikeya Dwivedi.