Re: Text is bad: Was Ideas in Motion

Subject: Re: Text is bad: Was Ideas in Motion
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 13:46:18 -0500

Tim Altom wrote

> People have used text only because it was cheap to produce, not because it
> was truly effective.

This is a bit much for someone from a company called "Simply Written".
Perhaps it should be "Simply Drawn".

<heavy handed irony>The superiority of pictures over text is clearly
demonstrated by the virtual extinction of phonetic alphabets in favor of
hyroglyphics. We writers are the last surviving remnant of literate
civilization, and the sooner we learn to quite this archaic use of words and
learn to communicate by grunting and drawing pictures on the walls of our
caves, the better.</heavy handed irony>

We live in a civilization that can be characterized by one feature above all
others: it is a literate society. All the vast progress we have made in
science, technonolgy, government, trade, and scholarship are founded first
and foremost on the broad based literacy of the population of the developed
world and on sophisticated and widespread communication of ideas by the
written word.

> For some 20 percent of the population, it's
> problematic. That number includes dyslexics, the barely literate, speakers
> of other languages, and a scattering of readers with other problems. In
> areas, the percentage is even higher. I know...I did the research for an
> article that appeared in an STC publication. The article is in white paper
> form on our website.

Yes, sometimes an accomodation is required for the illiterate. This does not
mean that text is ineffective, it means that it is sometimes necessary to
communicate with those who cannot effectively handle text. But the cure for
illiteracy is to teach people to read, not to stop using text.

> Today, it's widely recognized that procedures can often be more
> communicated with visual means, such as videotape or demos. They're still
> little more expensive, but they provide a quantum leap in usefulness.

There are some cases where pictures are a very useful supplement to text.
Pictures show physical relationships very well. But only the simplest
procedures can be effectively document with pictures alone. For conceptual
material, of for procedures with more than rudimentary conditional logic,
pictures are non starters. Can you imagine this conversation, or any of the
conversations on techwr-l taking place in any media other than text?

Videos and demos can also demonstrate physical relationships well, and can
convey simple conceptual information. But they are linear media which
dictate the pace of instruction to the learner. Their information density is
very low compared to text. (Compare the information density of a TV newscast
to that of a newspaper.) They make very poor reference material. Can you
imagine trying to write a program with only a video tape as your only
reference material? Can you imagine a videotaped version of the phone book.

Text it the only full service media we have or will ever have. It is the go
anywhere do anything media. All the rest are niche players with limited,
though valuable, contributions to make to certain specific communication

Text is effective enough to be the foundation of the most advanced
civilization we have ever know. That's effective enough for me.

Mark Baker
Senior Technical Communicator
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

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