Re: Sam Clemens is dead

Subject: Re: Sam Clemens is dead
From: "Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 1994 13:41:00 -0500

>2. The size and complexity of software packages are increasing
explosively, with no end in sight. The technology of paper manuals can't
keep up. The semiconductor and disk memories that support software
advances will provide a medium for increasingly complex user guidance and

If you don't also intend to argue that the days of people training people are
dead, I'd suggest that you don't fully believe this point yourself. I'd be
interested in the differences in turnaround time for large manual production
runs and well-designed online help systems (beyond late-breaking "read me"
files, that is). Since what we do here is locally consumed, I don't have any
experience with those kinds of production runs. I wonder how many extra features
creep into systems after the documentation is frozen that would be able to be
added in time to good on-line systems.

>3. The technologies that make on-line multimedia user assistance
possible are planting seeds in users' minds. Paper manuals will continue
to appeal to users' nostalgia but won't satisfy their expectations.

You're changing your premise. You're moving from "Paper manuals are dead!" to
"Paper manuals will not live forever!" I'll go you one better -- On-line
documentation, including help screens and multi-media training aids, will also
die. To quote an MCI commercial, "Art is eternal; tools change."

If we're now discussing whether at some undetermined time in the future paper
manuals will die, then we have a horse of an entirely different color. (To
return to Sam Clemens, he never once chided his eulogizers that he would never
die, only that he wasn't yet dead. This is the same assertion I'm making about
paper manuals. To say that *any* particular means of conveying information will
never die is folly indeed. To say that it it still very much alive and kicking
at this moment is entirely reasonable.) I'm willing to believe that sometime in
the future on-line systems will be developed which can satisfy most of my needs
from manuals. I will continue to argue that it hasn't happened and won't happen
before the turn of the milennium, at least.

One more thing of note in this discussion. The endangered manuals are the
extreme minority used for SW documentation. As far as I can tell, if the volume
of all SW documentation were instantly subtracted from the volume of all
Technical documentation, it would be difficult to notice the loss.

Have fun,

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.

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