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Subject:Re: One publication or two? From:John McGhie <jmcghie -at- WORLD -dot- NET> Date:Tue, 26 Sep 1995 23:35:25 +1000
At 19:51 24/09/95 PDT, Matt Ion wrote:
>I'm afraid the size of the manual doesn't have much to do with it. I worked
>for a few months at IBM as a TSA when Warp was released last year. A good 50%
>of the calls I took could have been answered by simply opening the manual...
>about 50% of those by reading the "Getting started" section. Warp's manual,
>covering installation, basic use, and most common problems, is far less than
>200 pages in size (I don't have mine with me or I could tell you exactly how
>thick it ISN'T.
I have mine, buried here under all the Windows 95 stuff... let's see... 378
pages all up! (Hell, that surprised me too; I could have sworn it was
'under 200 pages'.)
Of course, I take your point, the OS/2 Manual is well done. But I am afraid
the sins of our forefathers are being visited upon us: we have been writing
flat, boring, humourless and inhuman books for so long that the public
expects them to be that way.
They do not open the manual because they already "know" what will be in it,
and they do not want any more of that. That's our fault. I learned, as a
radio announcer, that the public will allow you to make a mistake for seven
minutes. You can play one "bad" record and they will let you get away with
it. Play two, and they'll turn that dial. If you NEVER make a mistake
again, it will be 18 months before you get half of them back!
In my early days, I kept asking my bosses: people read magazines, they do
not read the manual. Why? After a while I got sick of being expected to
take their answers seriously, and stopped asking. These days, I make a fat
living out of "developing alternatives" so I am more than happy to leave the
status-quo alone. But then, I am towards the end of my career...
In my not-so-humble opinion, our biggest mistake was trying to "control" how
our readers accessed the information. That involved an attempt to control
the way they thought. Now, I don't know about you, but if someone tries to
control the way I think, the only thing I can guarantee you is that I will
not think the way you want me to. If you want to watch this happen, try to
get a bunch of technical writers to prepare a detailed design document for
something they are each going to write part of...