How many technical writers does it take to document replacing a lightbulb? TEN!
1 to secure the proper hardware (e.g. lightbulb, ladder, etc.)
1 to actually replace the lightbulb
1 to document the process
1 "graphics expert" to include a picture of a lightbulb in the text
1 to edit the draft
1 to change a lightbulb using the new documentation
1 to verify that the light is now "ON"
1 to get the documentation out to tech writers sitting in the dark
1 to manage the entire project
and of course...
1 to go to upper level management and let them know the next time
this happens there is NO WAY it can be done without more resources!
An actual paragraph from a user manual:
Instructions: For results that can be the finest, it is our advising that: Never to hold these buttons two times!! Except the battery. Next, taking the earth section may cause a large occurrence! However. If this is not a trouble, such rotation is a very maintenance action, as a kindly viewpoint from Drawing B.
Real Stories from a Virtual World
A computer manufacturer is considering changing the command "Press Any Key" to "Press Return Key" because of the flood of calls asking where the "Any" key is.
Technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.
A technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn't read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble-shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labeled the diskettes then rolled them into his typewriter to type the labels.
A customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes to the technician. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with Xeroxed copies of her diskettes
A technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer put the disk in, asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and closing the door to his room.
A customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of troubleshooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the screen and pressing the "send" key.
A customer needed help setting up a new program, so the technician suggested he go to the local Egghead. "Yeah, I got me a couple of friends," the man said. When told Egghead was a software store, the man said, "Oh, I thought you meant for me to find a couple of geeks."
A customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it by filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking the keyboard for a day, then he removed all the keys and washed them individually.
A technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was "bad and invalid". The tech explained that the computer's "bad" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be taken personally.
An exasperated caller to Tech Support couldn't get her new computer to turn on. After ensuring the computer was plugged in, the technician asked her what happened when she pushed the power button. Her response "I pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens." The "foot pedal" turned out to be the computer's mouse.
Another customer called Tech Support to say her brand-new computer wouldn't work. She said she unpacked the unit, plugged it in, and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked "What power switch?