RE: Fw: Why do we put so many warnings in our manuals?

Subject: RE: Fw: Why do we put so many warnings in our manuals?
From: "Miller, Alan" <Alan -dot- Miller -at- prometric -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 14:42:26 -0400

This thread is beginning to look very much like C. M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons," where a very small fraction of the population was responsible for protecting the rest of the world from themselves.

Al Miller
"Chief Documentation Curmudgeon"
Prometric, Inc., a part of the Thomson Corporation
Baltimore, Maryland

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard G. Combs [mailto:richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2002 1:34 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Why do we put so many warnings in our manuals?

letoured wrote:

> You posted a link to a humor page -- with the point being what?

To give us a good laugh while offering us some perspective. Thank, you
Janice, I had a good laugh. But then, I'm not as humorless and
self-righteous as the more "caring" and "sensitive" members of society.

letoured then tried to slip one by us with:

> We sometimes think warnings are over done and stupid. -- But think about
it --
> use the classic 'hair dryer do not put in water' warning as an example;
> are manufactured for sale around the world to people of differing
> and life experiences. The warnings are aimed at the worst-case.

The warnings are for the American market. They're in English, for crying out
loud. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that, if the hair dryer *is* sold around
the world, you won't find translated versions of those warnings in very many
(if any) places.

Then, letoured appealed to our emotions with a heartbreaking little fable:

> Put yourself in this example; There are still places in the US where
people do
> not have electricity, or generate it on their own for food preservation
> little more. <snip>
> Its not really unbelievable that one wouldn't know the danger now is
t. --
> BTW, I just described what could take place here in the 21th century a
> miles or so from Philadelphia.

It *could*, I guess. For perspective, see the warning at Janice's link
( that begins "Advisory:
There is an Extremely Small but Nonzero Chance That..."

For additional perspective, consider that, according to US government data,
in 1993, 97.3% of households _living in poverty_ had at least one color TV
(see Am I jumping
to a conclusion to assume that a large portion of the remaining 2.7% *chose*
not to have a TV and were nonetheless familiar with electricity?

This kind of argument, like the "precautionary principle" in vogue among
environmentalists, prompts me to ask: At what point do you _stop_ imposing
huge costs and draconian regulations and restrictions on all of us in order
to avoid some vanishingly small risk of a bad outcome? Ever? I suppose not,
if you're sufficiently "caring" and "sensitive" -- and self-righteously


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT voyanttechDOTcom
rgcombs AT freeDASHmarketDOTnet

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