Re: 3 ring binders or no?

Subject: Re: 3 ring binders or no?
From: Elna -dot- Tymes -at- SYNTEX -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 1994 12:38:06 PDT

> Two advantages of the change page method are that you know what hasn't
> changed, and you can keep unchanged pages that you may have made notes on.
> I'm no fan of change pages or mil std requirements, but it's not fair to
> assume that the people who wrote the spec are stupid. ...RM

I'm no fan of change pages either. There is considerable anecdotal evidence
that says that (1) people think documentation in a binder is less "real" than
documentation in a perfect-bound book, and (2) change pages tend to get
accumulated for "when I have time" periods, and left in their shrink-wrapped
packages forevermore.

There was a particularly telling set of video clips at last month's BayCHI
presentation by Jakob Nielsen, of Sun's Usability labs, demonstrating how
people make sense out of icons and documentation. The clip that drew the most
laughter (from a packed auditorium, I might add) was one where the subject, a
programmer, was told that the docs in binders on the left were new and
reflected the system he was testing, that there was an online help system, and
two older, perfect-bound books on the right which didn't reflect the current
version. The programmer spent most of the first part of the test playing with
the screen, inferring how the program worked and occasionally using the online
help. When he wanted to know more, he turned to the old books and looked at
the index. When he didn't find what he wanted in the index, he gave up. Note
that he never even looked at the new docs in binders.

The anecdotal evidence from user groups all over the country and over a wide
variety of software producers indicates (1) that people resent the desktop real

estate that an open binder requires, (2) that three-hole punched paper can be
pulled out far too easily, (3) that they prefer the type of perfect binding
that is categorically referred to in the Bay Area as "lay-flat" (which means
that a book with this type of binding will indeed lie flat regardless of how
new the book is or where it's opened), and (4) they regare docs in a binder as
"less professional" than a perfect bound book. Note that this is all
anecdotal, not academic research.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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