Re: encouraging learning by experimentation?

Subject: Re: encouraging learning by experimentation?
From: "Dana Worley" <dana -at- campbellsci -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2002 08:37:31 -0700

As others have pointed out, whether or not this is sound advice to
the user depends upon the product you are documenting.

We have a report generation tool (called "Split) that can be used to
post process a data file (collected from our dataloggers) and save
the output to a different file. A sentence in one of the first
paragraphs of the documentation reads "Split lends itself to
experimentation." Though this sentence has always bugged me for
some reason, it's true. One of the best ways to learn how to use the
tool and all that it it is capable of is to get out the manual or help file,
read about a function, and then monkey around with it to see what
results you get. The help files and the manual both give step-by-step
instructions on how to accomplish specific tasks, but there are so
many functions and so many things that can be done with the tool
that it would be near impossible to document them all (and no one
would read it anyway :) There's no way to overwrite your original
data file so there's no harm in experimenting.

We've had customers come up with things that I would never have
even thought was possible using the tool. They figured it out
because they weren't afraid to experiment.

Dana W.

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