Re: online help vs. paper (how did Mark Twain get into this?)

Subject: Re: online help vs. paper (how did Mark Twain get into this?)
From: Susan Fowler <sfowler -at- EJV -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 14:50:13 EDT

My rule of thumb is: whatever you do online, put online; whatever you do
offline, put offline.

In other words, pressing a button is something you do online, so you put
step-by-step instructions and "what this option means" online so they're there
_where_ and _when_ the user needs them.

Explaining how your tax accounting system meets NY requirements but not
California requirements (say) is something that you read at your desk and share
with your CIO. That kind of information goes on paper.

Another advantage to this split is that programs change and necessitate changes
in the docs. But it's relatively quick and easy to keep the docs current with
the program if they're distributed the same way at the same time--online.

Underlying business information, on the other hand, doesn't change much, so you
don't have to reprint the books every quarter or every six months. Ergo, you
can lavish more care on what I, at least, find infinitely more interesting to
write about--the business purpose of the software.

Susan Fowler
sfowler -at- ejv -dot- com

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