FW: Geeks and readers again (was "Losing my profession")

Subject: FW: Geeks and readers again (was "Losing my profession")
From: david -dot- locke -at- amd -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 17:38:05 -0500


Yes, I used model as in construct a mental model. See Rasmussen's for a
discussion on constructing mental models. The OVID method for UI design
talks about the UI as being based on a view of the black box components of
software rather than the black box components themselves. These views
provide the basis for the user's construction of the user's conceptual
model. I used to work for a vendor that sold a product that would turn
queries into API calls. There was no database, but a database provided the
best metaphor or model for what was going on. The programmers would disclaim
the database, but for the user it was clear that there was a database. It
didn't matter. Users queried it, and got back forms and tables like a
database. The user's conceptual model is an abstraction based on what they
find in the interface and the behavior of the system. The reality was that
distributed directory service (DSs) calls were made to every container in
the scope of query. The short of it is that DSs are databases. But, all the
programmers saw were API calls.

Minimalism, aka Guided Discovery, was predicated on the acts of testing that
a user does while they are constructing these mental models. The goal was to
provide just enough guidance, so the user would construct an accurate model,
or learn the user's conceptual model accurately enough. The users would
discover the information that was not there in print for them.

Looking at the technology adoption cycle as described by Geoffrey Moore in
"Inside the Tornado," and "Crossing the Chasm," Moore talks about the risk
behaviors of technical enthusiasts (geeks) in their relationship with
technology, and the risk behaviors of mainstreet users (readers). The
technical enthusiasts don't have a product. They don't have manuals. They
model. They develop a mental model. They will not pay for the privilege of
using the technology. The mainstreet users don't have a choice. The products
are usually forced on them, and their literacy is not model based, but
rather it is built on training classes, and manuals. They don't play with
the product. They do real work.

The problem with minimalism is that it is only developed after there is a
product, and usually after there is an existing manual. This puts it into
the same timeframe as the mainstream users. Minimalism was never instant
except under Microsoft's interpretation as less documentation rather than
guided discovery. The matter of what to leave out was easier to deal with
after you already put it in.

No TWs I know have been taught to base their decisions about what content to
develop when on the technology adoption cycle, so it should come as no
surprise that minimalism didn't take it into account. Most of us, including
me, do not work in places that take the technology adoption cycle into
account. I've interviewed at a few that did. So there are companies that do,
but its more on the business development side than documentation. The first
time it was mentioned at a document management conference was about three
years ago. Minimalism is older than that. Even Post-Minimalism is older than



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