RE: Readers who don't read

Subject: RE: Readers who don't read
From: "Katie" <KATALBE -at- NERVM -dot- NERDC -dot- UFL -dot- EDU>
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 1993 09:00:08 EST

In response to Mary Jean's inquiry about users who wait for something to
happen without pressing the <Enter> key --Yes, I have run into this
situation. In fact, I have been the user in this situation, and, I feel
compelled to point out that sometimes _This_has_produced_results_! And
as Eric's initial post about readers who don't read makes clear, there are
some systems where the computer captures text as it is typed.

It seems to me that most of our complaints on this topic have not actually
been about readers who don't read - but rather about readers who read and
do exactly what we tell them to, instead of what we mean for them to do.
The lesson here is that when we want our readers to do something literally,
we have to give them the literal command - In its entirety. It's no good
telling them that they should do exactly what we say and then they should
know to go ahead and do something else we didn't mention, because, gee,
everybody already knows that you have to do that.

I have worked on custom systems where typing the identical character string
followed by an <Enter> produced a different result from the character string
followed by a <Return> or from the string without anything following it.
But in any case, my philosophy of user manuals is that if the user needs to
ask a question, I need to provide the answer in the docs -- because someone
else will ask it again someday, if they haven't already. It is always my
documentation that is inadequate, never the user. I try to look at it as
perpetual market testing.

Katie Albers
katalbe -at- nervm -dot- nerdc -dot- ufl -dot- edu

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