Re: Examples of Great Software/Web-based User Guides

Subject: Re: Examples of Great Software/Web-based User Guides
From: Laura Lemay <lemay -at- lauralemay -dot- com>
To: techwr-l mailinglist <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2009 12:17:58 -0700


FWIW "automagically," the adverb, is an extremely ancient nerd term.
(its in the jargon file.) It's up there with "kludge" and
"frobnicate" for common usage, and is well understood, amongst a
certain class of (older) engineers.

There was also at one point in the early/mid 90's a minor movement
especially in small companies toward extremely informal conversational
documentation, with the idea that "no one reads the docs" could be
counteracted by writing funny, interesting documentation. (this was
right around the same time the Dummies books were invented, and the
rules of formal corporate documentation vs writing for consumer books
weren't quite as clear then.) I wrote some manuals around that time
that now seem painfully precious, and deeply wrong. Jargon like
"automagically" would not have been out of place in that kind of
manual. I'm not excusing it; just explaining from whence it might
have come.

Laura



On Aug 21, 2009, at 10:31 AM, Erik Hare wrote:
> Robert Lauriston wrote:
>
>> Actual usage of "automagical' seems to be "automatic" with the
>> implication that the speaker is impressed that it works but doesn't
>> know how, or, when used ironically, knows how it works but can't be
>> bothered to explain. I don't see that either would ever be
>> appropriate in formal writing.
>
> I wouldn't use it in an instruction manual, for example. But in a
> magazine article it could be useful to describe the attitude of
> people involved. Ideally, the speaker isn't a significant player in
> that writing, formal or not, so to infer that the disconnect between
> the technology and its users is the writer's affliction implies a
> larger problem with the piece, IMHO.
>
> I think that the attitude implied by "automagical" is abhorrent,
> absolutely, but it's still a very common problem. I like having a
> word to describe it.

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