Re: Reality? Was: HTML vs PDF

Subject: Re: Reality? Was: HTML vs PDF
From: Nora Merhar <nmerhar -at- CHARLESINDUSTRIES -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 14:21:03 -0600

A couple of things:

> Ask yourself, what are these people doing on the web? They are
> information! That is, they are learning. They certainly aren't
> entertained.

Huh? Not being entertained? I wouldn't use the WWW if I wasn't being
entertained. For the most part, I'm not learning anything new--only in
some cases, for instance when I read Salon magazine. Sometimes I use
the WWW for research, but for the most part I read my horoscope, check
out a bulletin board that complains about my local NPR station, see
what dogs are at my local Humane Society. I'm gathering information,
certainly, but not *learning*.

> You say "no one buys VCR's this way", Is this because they don't
want to

Why would I? Maybe I'm the only person in the world whose VCR is not
flashing "12:00", but programming the VCR is the least of my worries
when I go to buy one--in fact, learning to use a product (which I
assume is what you're talking about teaching people on-line) is the
least of my worries no matter what I'm buying. What I want to know is
does it have the features I want, will it do what I want it to do when
I want it done--which no tutorial will teach me. I worry about
learning to use the product once it's actually in front of me.
> Anyone who claims they can't learn a skill by experimentation isn't
> learning at all. 100% of people learned to drive a car by driving a
> car, not by reading a manual. Even the guy who buys the book on
> programming the VCR must actually program the VCR to learn to do it.

Exactly. So what's the point in my taking an on-line "course" on how
to program the VCR, or use a cash station, or operate my cellular
phone, when I can learn on the actual product? It's like
paper-training a dog--an unnecessary step, and what you end up with is
a dog that pees on paper.

> Computers offer a way to simulate these learning situations and take
> fear away of actually breaking something.

OK--maybe I'm just not afraid to break stuff.

> In fact, I also think that is the non self starters that online
> reach. People who are generally unknowledgable and consider
> an unlikely candidate for learning such things, and certainly not
> to even go about buying a book but who happen across an interesting
> site they can interact with and suddenly before they know it they
> learned something. After all, it's free.

OK, but my guess is that people like this are not very likely to be
wandering around on the Web.
> Properly written online tutorials give users a chance to try their
> at things-- RISK FREE. They don't risk money, and they don't risk
> embarassment.

I just don't see what products this would apply to. On-line tutorials
are useful, I think, for teaching *computer related* topics to a very
specific audience. For most products (like the aforementioned VCR)
they're overkill.

nmerhar -at- charlesindustries -dot- com

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