Re: Online/print

Subject: Re: Online/print
From: Richard Mateosian <srm -at- C2 -dot- ORG>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 08:27:33 -0700

>What do you do if your (extremely intelligent but incredibly busy) user
>community won't use the tools available, and the program itself
>isn't particularly intuitive?

In the situation you described the users have somehow found out enough to do
whatever they're doing. Maybe certain parts of the program are like other
programs they're familiar with.

When microprocessor designers discovered that compiled code only used the
simplest instructions, they started making simpler microprocessors. This led
to a net gain in microprocessor power, reliability, and time-to-market.
Assembly language programmers were out of a job, and everyone else was happy.

There may be the seed of an analogy here:

CISC microprocessor :: Huge powerful computer program
Compiler :: Intelligent but incredibly busy user
Assembly language programmer :: Power user, aka hacker
RISC microprocessor :: ??

I'm not sure where the analogy leads, but it's clear that paper software
manuals don't have the capacity to describe every feature and every
interaction of features that manufacturers have stuffed into today's
computer programs. Users are not becoming power users solely by studying
enormous manuals, even if they take them to bed. Ordinary users are ignoring
most of the contents of manuals. Many successful third-party books ignore or
skimp on advanced features and focus on teaching a few core features
effectively. ...RM

Richard Mateosian Technical Writer in Berkeley CA srm -at- c2 -dot- org

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