Re: online vs. paper

Subject: Re: online vs. paper
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 18:15:04 EDT

Susan Fowler writes:
>My rule of thumb is: whatever you do online, put online; whatever you do
> offline, put offline.

Agreed. I'm curious, though: we're documenting a software product here, so
what documentation would you ship with the product that _didn't_ involve
doing something online?

>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 ther
> _where_ and _when_ the user needs them.

Agreed. I think this is true at a higher level as well, though. For example,
the online docs should _also_ cover why I might _want_ to push that button
(and have a list of links to possible tasks, and background info).

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

If the explanation has anything to do with what the user can or cannot do
with the product, I'd be in favor of having it online (under "limitations"
perhaps, or "tax systems in other states" or somesuch). This is a matter
of convenience: if the question occurs to me while I'm working with the
product, then I should be able to get the answer without leaving my desk.
If the question would never occur to me while I'm using the product, I
question whether it belongs with the product at all.

I'm inclined to throw everything online to be on the safe side, and then
make sure user-guide type stuff is available hardcopy too.

Take care,

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

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