Re: What's with the new docs?

Subject: Re: What's with the new docs?
From: Ron Rothbart <ron -dot- rothbart -at- DOCUMENTUM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 13:34:17 +0800

>Anybody got input on when the minimalist approach should be minimized?
>Tim Altom
>anyone else concerned about this new non-documentation approach?
>Jane Bergen
>I fear this extreme of minimalism.
>Beryl Doane
>Toss this manual on that pile of books you mean to get to someday
>Richard Mateosian
>John Carroll... *never* said only document 1/3 of the system.
>Sue Gallagher

I agree with Sue that minimalism is getting a bad wrap. Minimalism doesn't
equal brief. The minimalist thesis is that users learn best by jumping in,
doing real work, exploring, making and recovering from mistakes -- with the
help of documentation that supports this "natural learning process."

Typically, the result is a relatively brief manual or Help system. But
producing really good minimalist documentation requires serious planning,
thoughtful design, excellent writing, and usability testing if possible. And
this can take as much time and effort as writing lots of pages. A famous
quote from Pascal goes: "I have only made this [letter] longer because I
have not had the time to make it shorter."

I think Minimalism is a great step forward. We need to develop it further
and leave behind the simplistic reduction of minimalism to "briefer is better."

David Farkas, who teaches at U. of Washington, has some thoughts on
Microsoft's "minimalist" approach to Help. He apparently plans to talk about
them in his "Designing for WinHelp 4" session at the WinHelp Conference in
Seattle: "We will consider what minimalism really means, how to design
minimalist Help in WinHelp 4, and the pitfalls to be avoided." I'm looking
forward to the discussion.

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