Minimalist approach to conceptual information (was: minimalist or low-level)?

Subject: Minimalist approach to conceptual information (was: minimalist or low-level)?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 08:38:36 -0500

Maaike Groenewege wonders <<...does anyone here have an opinion (or even
better: research) about minimalistic approaches for *conceptual*
information? In theory, conceptual information should be related to a task,
but in practise, some types of information just don't fit.>>

I don't claim to be an expert on minimalism, but my understanding is that
you can boil down the philosophy (thereby producing a nourishing broth while
losing most of the meat) into a simple statement: "provide only the
information the user needs to accomplish the task". If the task is
understanding rather than doing, it seems to me that this statement still
applies perfectly well: provide only the information readers need to
understand the concept.

It's a tautology to say so, but if you provide everything your audience
needs, and nothing that they don't need, then by definition you've satisfied
their needs. The research question then becomes how to correctly identify
those needs, not whether minimalism is effective in communicating conceptual
information. That's a much more interesting and complex question, and it
doesn't matter what you call the approach.

John Carroll's work undoubtedly contains examples of successful minimalism,
and there have been many followup reviews of his work by other authors that
can provide good food for thought; the Journal of Computer Documentation
(May 1999) had a few reviews that were interesting. But the results of other
people's research are less relevant than whether you can figure out how to
apply the approach successfully to your own work.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
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