RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?

Subject: RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?
From: "Mike Bradley" <mbradley -at- techpubs -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2002 14:13:36 -0800



> 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?

In the 1980s, for everything from word processing to electron-beam
lithography tools, I routinely wrote chapters explaining an
application's or system's basic principles and general operations.
Sometimes I included training exercises and even sample files, as well.

In 1991, I drafted the manual for the first release of Adobe Premier,
their video editor. It was just about the first video editor sold to
consumers. So I wrote a chapter on how to develop a good video, with
simple advice about camera shots, pace and so on.

Adobe cut it from the manual and cut all such comments throughout the
book. I was blown away by that.

A big sea change occurred here in Silicon Valley with the introduction
of the IBM PC. Partly, it was simply because we'd been a CP/M and Unix
culture, then a Mac and Unix culture, but we also changed from pioneers
and enthusiasts selling to other pioneers and enthusiasts to businesses
selling to businesses. No time for enjoyment and enthusiasm. Nose to the
hard drive, shoulder to the screen.

Granted, I've written training chapters once or twice since Adobe, but
by and large, it seems manuals focus on documenting tasks and the screen
nowadays, and leave the bigger learnings to the user and his company's
training department.

Who knows? Maybe that's a better model, but it makes writing less
enjoyable.

= Mike Bradley
Tech Pubs


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References:
RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?: From: Jim Shaeffer

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