Re: online vs. paper

Subject: Re: online vs. paper
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 1994 15:01:19 EDT

I wrote:
>> Perhaps your working habits are entirely different from mine, Arlen. But

Arlen replied:
>They are, Mike. And ours are probably both different from LaVonna's. And I
>won't suggest any method is superior. But you are, by insisting that everythin
>belongs on-line and a limited subset belongs off-line.

I don't think my suggestion implies that one is superior to the other. My
feeling is that _all_ the docs are potentially useful online (so put them
all online!), while only _some_ of the docs are potentially useful in
hardcopy (so only put some in hardcopy). Which of the documents actually
get used depends on the person and the circumstance, and the superiority of
one media over another will likewise be contextual.

Try this on for size: are you likely to want the contextual help for an app
printed out? How about docs for every command possible? I know of at least
one product where they _used_ to provide the reference both hardcopy and
online, but now only provide online simply because _nobody_ every used the
hardcopy! It was reference information, it was only needed when they were
using the software, and it was easy to access online, through the software.
The fact that online is obviously more _appropriate_ for these cases does not
imply that online is inherently superior, or superior for other cases. I think
we are simply miscommunicating, since you say much the same thing as me here:

>I'd like to suggest
>something radical: that the paper documentation contain a description of
>everything the SW can do. Since walking you through the details of a task is
>sometimes easier on-line, let the on-line help contain that in addition. But

See? We agree. BTW, I don't think any docs will ever describe _everything_
the software can do (unless it's very limited software). But certainly
it should describe the major tasks, and the more common tasks. As an
example, my last project had about 60 task helps - all online, but the user
could print them out. They ranged in size from half a page to two pages.
You could access these tasks from: the table of contents; the index; any
other help panel that referenced them. Help for a window _always_ had links
to any tasks that involved that window (as well as access to the TOC and
index). FWIW, we probably should have provided those task helps in hardcopy
as well rather than force the user to print them out, but we were operating
on a budget, and....

I'll take up off-line with you the reason I was ticked off in my last post.
I think if you re-read the post I was responding to (with my reaction in mind)
you'd see what set me off.

Take care,

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

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