Re: "I, User" (re numbering schemes)

Subject: Re: "I, User" (re numbering schemes)
From: Arthur Comings <atc -at- CORTE-MADERA -dot- GEOQUEST -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1993 16:03:58 PST

I've been riding herd on several large manuals for over a year now, and
I still get thrown off track almost every time I have to decode a page
number like 22-14 -- to figure out which is the page number and which is
the chapter. I keep thinking it's just me, but . . .

I think maybe I'd like to replace "Page 22-14" at the top of the page
with "Chapter 22, page 14." Seems kind of long, though.

Arthur Comings
Corte Madera, CA

> Alexandra Bernstein wrote:

> >
> > as a manual user, I find sequential page numbers much simpler to
> > deal with than chapter-by-chapter numbers
> >
> > imho

> It's good to see someone speaking up on behalf of the _users_.
> We've had adequate discussion of why compound page numbering is convenient
> for the _publishers_ (updating pages, for example). As a tech writer,
> however, I am a User's Advocate. Therefore, I get meaner than a junkyard
> dog at the first sniff of a "convenience" or "progress" issue UNLESS IT
> ADDS TO THE USER'S CONVENIENCE (be it compound page numbering or electronic
> document distribution). I don't write for my company; I write for the
> users of my company's products.

> However, I would have said the exact opposite of Alexandra! Compound page
> numbering is a natural outgrowth of information engineering. Why do we
> have chapters at all? Why headers and footers? Why do we use numbers for
> chapters, but letters for appendices? Why do we have page numbers at all?

> To help convey information effectively, that's why.

> Signposts.

> As Paul Goble submitted,

> > IMHO, the page numbering method (per se) is unimportant for readers.
> > What IS important is that every page is clearly labelled with the
> > chapter number, chapter name, and section name.

> Anybody disagree with that?

> Now, with my "User" hat on, if I'm reading a complex technical document,
> I want as many signposts as possible to help me navigate. I probably
> don't read a manual cover-to-cover, from front to back. If I buy a home
> carpentry book to learn how to install insulation, I may never crack
> either the introduction or the chapter about paperhanging. Pages 1 - 15,
> 145 - 236, and 275 - 320 are irrelevant. Simple sequential page numbers are i

> I, User, appreciate seeing the chapter and appendix numbers embedded in
> section and figure and table and page numbers (e.g., Section 4.8, Figure
> 4.12, Table 4.3, page 4-19). I like plenty of cross references in the
> text, too. And I practically _worship_ tab dividers.

> When I want to look up something in, say, Appendix D, tab dividers are
> the best thing going. Absent the tab dividers, though, compound numbering
> of all sorts helps me find my target. I can flip through the pages and...
> - if I see "page F-12" or "Figure F.2," I know I need to come back
> toward the front*
> - if I see "Section 6.2," I need to go toward the back
> - if I hit "page 2-3," I know I need to go 'WAY-Y-Y toward the back
> - if I see "page C-30" or "D-5," I know I'm almost there.

> * Aside: isn't it one of those wonderful :-\ semantic paradoxes that
> you flip BACKWARD to get to the FRONT of a book, and FORWARD to get
> to the BACK.

> Thus, compound numbering is convenient for publisher and user alike -
> unless it gets _too_ compound.

> Ah, "Define `too compound!'" you say. To give the opposing camp its due,
> compound numbering _is_ a little cryptic. It may "feel" cold. Mechanical.
> Unfriendly.

> And there's no arguing that in the hands of old-school legal/military/
> bean-counter mentality (oh, I can feel the flames already!), it can run amok.
> like "" is as baffling as a software release number like
> "ORACLE Release". (The Oracle gods would make me pay for that
> jab if they could reach me.)

> All of which supports the need for focussed audience analysis, not
> reliance upon either introspection or one-size-fits-all "studies."
> After all, as that great man of physics and Nobel laureate, Ernest
> Rutherford, once wrote,

> "The only possible interpretation of research in the
> social `sciences' is: some do, some don't."

> Cheers,

> Ken d'Albenas (not Kendal Stitzel)
> (-::
> Replies to: kendal -at- autotrol -dot- cuc -dot- ab -dot- ca
> Flames to: kendal@/dev/not

> =======================================================================
> "I filled out an application that asked, 'In Case of Emergency Notify.'
> I wrote, "Doctor." What's my mother going to do?"
> - Steven Wright.
> =======================================================================

> *****************************

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