RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?

Subject: RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?
From: Jim Shaeffer <jims -at- spsi -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2002 10:16:18 -0500

Has Mike Bradley (quoted below) described something of historic import
for technical writers?
Have we gone through a transition from "documentation that trains" to
"documentation that describes"? Is this an on-going evolution? If we
use "Instruction Manual" as a synonym for "User Manual" are we saying
that the manual contains lists of instructions or that the manual
instructs the user?
Willow Foster (see below), in responding to a different section in
Mike's post, also demonstrates an attitude emphasizing complete and
accurate description over user training.
In my personal experience, our classroom trainer reports that users
have learned to use our software just from the Help files I've
produced. I'm pleased, but I did not create the Help files with that
in mind.

Jim Shaeffer (jims -at- spsi -dot- com)
(These questions have my mind in a TECHWR-L.)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mike Bradley [mailto:mbradley -at- techpubs -dot- com]
> Someone wrote about the experimental mindset of early microcomputer
> users.
> One result was that our manuals were really training manuals, not
> documentation. We often provided a set of sample output files, then,
> in the manual, used them to walk the user through a series of
> exercises. In the exercises you could include demonstrations of
> errors and their effects as well as good practices.
> Can't do that any more unless we sneak into the Training Dept.

And Willow Foster responded, in part:
> We are telling them how to get a job done. If they remember,
> if they learn from it, great. If not, well, that's ok too, the reader can
> look the same thing up over and over and over to their hearts content. I
> don't care.

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