Re: Readers who don't read

Subject: Re: Readers who don't read
From: Peter Montgomery <MONTGOMERY -at- CAMINS -dot- CAMOSUN -dot- BC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1993 17:42:28 -0800

> Date: 01 Apr 1993 20:05:20 -0500 (EST)Thus spake Maureen J. Akins
<csvmja -at- ADMIN -dot- AC -dot- EDU>

MJ>My own stance on the concept of technical manuals is that manuals are for
MJ>reference. They should be well indexed, including synonyms for each
MJ>manual entry. Each section should be able to be understood on its own. A
MJ>user shouldn't have to read a manual cover to cover. Training manuals
MJ>should use clear and consistent examples and shouldn't simply parrot back
MJ>the screen. If users understood the screen, they wouldn't be looking in
MJ>the manual! Training manuals could recommend a user complete the lessons
MJ>in order, but shouldn't necessarily depend on it. That's why references
MJ>like "(This was covered in detail during lesson 2.)" is helpful.

I pretty well agree with the above. I suppose it is dangerous to jump
into a discussion that one hasn't been following carefully. Apologies if
I cover old ground. As a standard, college-level English prof., I have
been for a long time concerned with finding ways to get students to
respond more positively to the apparatus of print culture. There is a big
gap between electronic and print attitudes. It is particularly noticeable
in people engaged with electronic culture on a regular basis. There is
an important principle to keep in mind. It is sometimes called Hertz' Law.
Instant Response Creates Involvement In Depth. The bottom line for the cur-
rent discussion is, I think, that documents have to be INSTANTLY trans-
parent to their users. That is accomplished by treating them as graphic
entities first, and print entities second. The design must be an instant door
into the whole experience of working with the software or whatever. If not,
the document has lost to its nearest competitor, the telephone. It always
seems faster to phone a help line, because of the involvement of instant

* Peter Montgomery Montgomery -at- camosun -dot- bc -dot- ca *
* Exitus effigium effigies exituum *

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