Re: User vs. Reference

Subject: Re: User vs. Reference
From: John McDermott <jjm -at- JKINTL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 09:04:40 PST

>In-Reply-To: Re: User vs. Reference, From: John McDermott <jjm

>John - Thanks for contributing the definitions for User vs. Reference
>however, I believe that the classifications limit our ability to serve our
>users. Any form of communication - manual, handout, on-line file,
>etc. - should contain any information (concepts or procedures) that the
>user needs to complete their task. If you establish the criteria for a
>based on traditional methods rather than the users' needs, you
>limit the usability of the manual. - George

First, how does the dictionary/textbook distinction limit our ability to
serve users? In fact, this seems to be a well known paradigm to which users
can relate.

If every manual contained "any informaiton...the user needs to complete
their task", then the dictionary should also be a grammar handbook--which
would mean that every book on, say, the English language, should be a
dictionary, thesaraus, grammar handbook, etc.

No, rather, I think manuals should follow the evolution of books, magazines,
and software: one purpose - one book (with a Master Index, PLEASE!). Just
as no one English language book can meet all my (a user) needs, niether can
a single manual.

In my earlier letter I used the example of the UNIX manuals. I chose these
because the USERS wrote these manuals, not some other staff. The manuals
were written by and for users. The general format (if not the content) has
proven very useful. [ I must admit that nowadays some of the manuals are
overly verbose and often inacurate, but then that is true of most software
documents these days, but the reasons for that are a whole different

Let's keep this going. As a tech writer and a technical manual user this is
of major importance to me.


Name: John McDermott Author and Consultant
E-mail: jjm -at- jkintl -dot- com (John McDermott)
Voice: +1 505/377-6293 FAX: +1 505/377-6313

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