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I confess: I tossed in the CAL Technologies Ltd. (not CalTech mind you!)
study for the dogs to ravage because it's inferences have always made me
squinch a little. They got certain results from the people and documents
that they matched up, but I still wonder if the conclusions were accurately
drawn from the evidence. (Remember that bad joke about the researcher
removing limbs from a dog and concluding that when all four legs are
removed, it makes the dog deaf, because it does not respond when commanded
However, I do kinda like the idea that a little exotic poetry could send
chills up the spine of an engineer. (Back, back I say, I've got a book full
of Ginsberg and I know how to use it!!)
At the same time, a copy of the SIGCHI Bulletin for July 97 landed on my
desk this morning, containing an article by Steve Portigal about "Design as
a Cultural Activity". He suggests that cultural fit "should be the
foundation of functionality, ergonomics and cognitive fit, and the starting
point for a development project". In other words, (I'm paraphrasing
Portigal here) a product will be successful to the degree it fits the
culture of the consumer, beyond its other attributes.
So when we design a manual or help system, if the end-user is part of a
culture that thrives on, say, logic, the more logical our manual is in its
structure and content, the more it will satisfy that consumer. Portigal
notes that "culture" refers to "the way a group of people give meaning to
the world around them, how they solve problems and how they do work." Thus,
a corporate culture, or a culture of engineers, poets, midwives, etc.
Culture, then, in this context, may indeed dictate whether one should use
ragged right or justified text. (If anyone wants the Portigal article, I
can e-mail it to you.)
All this stuff is fascinating, beyond the "Do I write Click or Click on?"
issues that we get caught up in. There are subtleties in our publications
that we may not notice or control. And there are _so_ many variables it's a
wonder we can ever get the stuff out the door.
What a great profession, eh?
Senior Technical Writer, InSystems Technologies Inc.
65 Allstate Parkway, Suite 100
Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 9X1 mailto:bagnew -at- insystems -dot- com Tel: (905) 513-1400 ext. 280
Fax: (905) 513-1419
Visit us at: http://www.insystems.com