RE: Use of Optional in instructions

Subject: RE: Use of Optional in instructions
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Phillips, Wanda" <wanda -dot- phillips -at- philips -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 10:20:11 -0400

Phillips, Wanda had this to say:
> Generally, we use the topic title to indicate a larger goal
> (Measuring the Need to Reply) and then within the
> instructions choices, optional actions, and required actions
> are handled differently.
> Choices are listed (Perform one or more of the following:),
> optional actions begin with the goal (To include more
> respondants, do this.) or an indication of the optional
> status (If required, If desired), and required actions are
> simply stated (Select the names from the x list.)

For me, as a user, the problem arises when (a-la Microsoft, Adobe, and many more including open-source projects) the instructions obligingly say "to do this..." but they don't tell me - nor do they point to another help topic that would tell me - WHY I might want to do this, what the benefits and drawbacks of doing it might be, how necessary it is... In other words, in the world of "context-sensitive" I'm frequently stranded without context, and no obvious way to put a plausible one together.

This goes back to somebody else's comments about finding yourself confronted by instructions that assume you have already done a bunch of necessary things previously, and if you follow the current instructions without having done those pre-requisites, you get into all kinds of not-well-explained grief and murderous-rage-inducing wheel-spinning.

> We do, for regulatory reasons, include descriptions of every
> control, option, and piece of equipment and we do describe
> *every* OK click for much the same reason.

Regulatory reasons cover a multitude of sins, but they do protect our butts when courts have to take the regulations as guidance for "what a reasonable person should expect" or "what a reasonable person should have done".

- Kevin

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Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:

RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Combs, Richard
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)
Re: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Robert Lauriston
Re: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Phillips, Wanda

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