Re: (null)

Subject: Re: (null)
From: Matt Ion <soundy -at- NEXTLEVEL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 22:17:29 -0800

On Wed, 28 May 1997 11:49:53 -0400, Julie F. Hesselgesser wrote:

>I've heard this same concept stated many different ways. That's why
>technical writers are so important to a project. They are often the only
>user advocate for the software or documentation. Anyway, I asked an SME
>(subject matter expert) to define the following:
>Euclidean Distance
>Tanamoto Coefficient
>Fuzzy Substructure
>These are selections that appear to our users in our software. The SME, a
>chemist, said, "If they don't know what that means, they shouldn't be using
>our software."

In some fields, and of course, depending on the software's Target
Audience<tm>, this may be a valid argument. The thing is, some people
may learn the same information and be fully qualified to use the
software, but may know these things by different names.

An excellent example is the Haynes series of automotive manuals, which
are produced in Britain but sold extensively in North America (they're
one of the first accessories I buy one for every vehicle I own). This
same SME might argue that someone who doesn't know what "petrol" is has
no business disassembling a car's (auto's) motor (engine), but a
perfectly compentent American mechanic simply may not recognize that
term as being the same as "gasoline". Because of the "cultural"
differences, Haynes includes a list at the very beginning of each book,
listing each British term and its "Americanized" equivalent
(bonnet=hood, hood=roof, tyre=tire, and so on).

>I heard this same argument at my previous job as well. This statement
>invariably comes from someone who's worked there a long time and has on
>"company person" blinders. I mean THEY understand the product intimately so,
>"what's the user's problem?" Is this just a variation of the "stupid user"

Yup. Many companies tend to develop their own lingo over time as well,
and some of that may slip into products and documentation. An outsider
may not understand "dialect" variations on some otherwise-common terms.
"Fuzzy substructure" sounds to me like just such an item. :-)

Your friend and mine,
<insert standard disclaimer here>

To seek the sacred river Alph
To walk the caves of ice
To break my fast on honeydew
And drink the milk of Paradise...
- Rush, "Xanadu"

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