Re: Reality? Was: HTML vs PDF

Subject: Re: Reality? Was: HTML vs PDF
From: Scott Gray <scotty -at- CM -dot- MATH -dot- UIUC -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 14:41:53 -0600

> 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*.

Gathering information is not learning? okay.

> > 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.

Two purposes could be served. One, someone learns ho to program the
VCR. Two, the person discovers the features the VCR offers.
Documentation suddenly becomes advertizement and vica versa.

> >
> > 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.

Nora, you haven't met my parents! They are scared to death of these
things. (note: they are on the web however). The point is that they need
help. It's why you write documentation. Another point is that it is
quite possible for the documentation to PRECEED the sale of the product
rather than the other way around.

Also I wish I could count the number of times I've heard someone complain
about the manuals that come with particular products (especially VCRs).
If quality documentation is online it certainly will convince a certain
percentage into giving their loyalty to that product. The question is
how large is the percentage and is it worth the cost to get them.

> > Computers offer a way to simulate these learning situations and take
> the
> > 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
> tutorials
> > reach. People who are generally unknowledgable and consider
> themselves
> > an unlikely candidate for learning such things, and certainly not
> likely
> > to even go about buying a book but who happen across an interesting
> web
> > site they can interact with and suddenly before they know it they
> have
> > 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
> hand
> > at things-- RISK FREE. They don't risk money, and they don't risk
> of
> > 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.
> Nora
> nmerhar -at- charlesindustries -dot- com

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