Re: Online Documentation. New! Improved!

Subject: Re: Online Documentation. New! Improved!
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 15:13:06 PDT

Mike Wing writes:

>Maybe I would not jump to these conclusions if you did not supply the

And maybe you're straining at gnats.

It's not that I think that there's something inherently wrong
with on-line documentation. I just don't understand why the
on-line documentation that came with the apps I use is so bad.
A lot of it is really dreadful -- much worse than the old paper
docs by the same companies. My theory is that the dreadful stuff
comes from people who are slavishly imitating Microsoft and
each other, rather than learning about on-line documentation from
the ground up. This is not an indictment of on-line documentation,
but of the tendency towards imitation. I remember when I was put
under considerable pressure in the 1980's to reformat all of Weitek's
documents so they looked like IBM PC manuals, and to put them
in those wretched binders. The reasoning was that we would be
more successful by mindlessly imitating IBM than we would be if
we used our own brains. The managers aboved me believed this
with great fervor, but any examination of manuals in the industry
would have revealed that IBM's work was nothing special,
while other companies (notably Apple) were doing some very good
things -- well worth stuffing into one's own bag of tricks.

Anyway, there were a lot of bad IBM-esque manuals out there for a
while, but they eventually faded away. The good stuff generally
wins in the end. But there's this annoying delay.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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