Re: Paradigms

Subject: Re: Paradigms
From: Leonard Paul Olszewski <saslpo -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1993 11:51:11 -0500

> With a Tecate on the line next time I'm in Lubbock, I'll bet that
> we *will* see a paradigm shift in manuals, from poke-this-and-that-
> will-happen instruction toward "education." (Maybe Donald Knuth's
> "TeXbook" approach will have the last laugh after all???) This
> will be driven, properly, by users and their needs.

This is interesting to me, since the nature of stuff I'm writing now is
currently being redefined. Luckily, I'm involved in the process 8-).

I don't think the paradigm shift will proceed away from a standard
reference, usage, introductory, and procedural/tutorial breakdown. The
need for each of those kinds of documentation continues to exist (in
spite of our best efforts to eradicate it 8-).

Rather, I think the shift will be from single purpose reference books,
or single purpose usage books, etc., to a more accutely focused mixture
of each kind of material, based on a more sophisticated understanding of
the needs of a growing variety of different audiences.

It used to be, in the software world, that you wrote about code; you
showed syntax, explained options, gave some examples. Then you concocted
a task, provided a sample application with progressively more
complicated code, and so on. You did this regardless of who was reading
your books. As a sop, you provided introductory stuff for beginners.

Nowdays, you've got a distinct audience of "data processing challenged"
end-users who just know how to use a mouse, applications developers who
know how to fill out screens to implement simple applications as another
audience, MIS and data administrators who keep both of these groups out
of trouble as another audience, single application or single platform
users who cut across all of these groups but in just one area as another
audience, and on down the line. Each group has a distinct need for a
specific mix of "classic" reference, usage, tutorial, procedural,
introductory, conceptual, etc. material. The paradigm shift I foresee is
mixing together customized "blends" of this type of stuff to meet each
audience's particular needs.

Reading what Joe said again, I guess we agree. And identifying each of
the audiences, and the characteristics of each one, is quite a
challenging task, kind of like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. Things
continue to change. Except for me, of course. I'm a universal constant.

> Whether this "traditional" manual is paper or online, of course,
> is quite another matter.

Yes. I think you'll see identical elements of each kind of material in
both media, but within completely different organizational frameworks. I
also foresee more customization of paper documentation as on-demand
printing technology improves.

As always, I speak as an observer here, and not as a spokesperson for my
employer. I only do that in hard-copy print, to everyone's continuing

I am extremely dubious of any hardware or software innovation that
"learns for you". Then again, I picked Seton Hall to go all the way.
|Len Olszewski, Technical Writer |"You can observe a lot by watching."|
|saslpo -at- unx -dot- sas -dot- com|Cary, NC, USA| - Yogi Berra |
| Opinions this ludicrous are mine. Reasonable opinions will cost you.|

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