Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool

Subject: Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool
From: Sandy Harris <sandy -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 13:14:39 -0400

Andrew Plato wrote:

> > I agree, Bruce. I want to reduce the alienation that novice users feel,
> > not increase it. I can think of no reason for writing "boot" instead
> > of "start," except possibly as a way to display one's geek plumage, and
> > that's just not appropriate in documentation.
>
> The inverse of this is true as well. Many geeks will find attempts at
> converting perfectly good jargon to "friendly terms" as proof that the
> writer (and hence the maker of the product) are clueless and uncredible.

I can think of no reason to write "start" instead of "boot" except possibly
if you're writing for a computer-illiterate audience. Even then, I'd suggest
using the standard term and adding an explanation thereof.

> When it comes to network security products (something I am very much
> involved with), I can tell after reading just a few pages whether the
> writer knew what he/she was talking about by how many complex ideas he/she
> glossed over with "friendly words." I want information, not a hug and some
> chamomile tea.

Also, everyone who knows anything about that area is extremely leery of
"snake oil" products, and for good reason:

http://www.counterpane.com/real-world-security.html
http://www.interhack.net/people/cmcurtin/snake-oil-faq.html

Any document that glosses over complex issues with simplified "friendly
words" raises hackles. The only thing worse is one that uses with bogus
psuedo-technical babble as a marketing ploy.

> Also, geeks have powerful influence on a product's ability to penetrate
> the market. Generally, if geeks like something, it will survive and get
> popular. I mean what else would explain the rampant popularity of Linux or
> FreeBSD? It certainly isn't "friendly."

"Unix is user friendly. It is just choosy about who its friends are."
(anyone have a attribution for that lovely quote?)

> A good document can appeal to both the geeks and the non-geeks and use a
> mixture of jargon and friendly terms. There is no reason to exclude one
> audience in favor of the other. All that does is limit the reach of your
> documentation.
>
> Now, if all you're writing is end-user manuals for clueless drips - well
> then I can understand wanting to protect them from all those scary words,
> like "boot". But you know - they got to learn it sometime. Better you
> teach them, then they learn it from some Linux-bully at work who tells
> them that "boot" means "Microsoft is taking away your freedoms and
> infecting you with Anthrax."

Yes.

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Follow-Ups:

References:
Jargon Lovin' Fool: From: Andrew Plato

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