Re: "Teaching" wizards?

Subject: Re: "Teaching" wizards?
From: Martha J Davidson <editrix -at- SLIP -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 10:19:21 -0700

At 09:52 AM 9/17/98 -0700, Scott Miller wrote, in response to Geoff Hart's
suggestion about "teaching wizards":
>I think that worrying about teaching people is only a concern from a
>writer's viewpoint. We feel compelled to do so. But from the user's
>perspective, having to learn something is an obstruction to getting
>their work done.

Actually, I think it depends a lot on the user. I may be a tech writer by
trade, but that doesn't make my any less typical as a user at the same
time. One of my strengths, in fact, is that I can see from both sides--I
can write from the perspective of one who understands the software and can
explain how to make it do what you need, and I can step back and play
novice user and see what I would need to hear before I could accomplish my

I don't find learning an obstruction at all; on the contrary, unless I have
a feel for the context of an application, how it was intended to be used,
and a sense of what real-world action it automates, I often feel lost.
When I read a document that gives me even a fraction of conceptual
information, I find myself much more at ease as I use the software, and I
have a better sense how to use other features that I might not have learned
about yet.

I really liked Geoff's idea of the "mentor" as a wizard that explains a bit
about what it is doing so that I have half a chance of being able to do it
myself the next time. I appreciate having the words in front of me, so I
don't have to spend so much time searching through a manual or help system
to learn how to bypass the wizard the next time.


Martha Jane {Kolman | Davidson}
mailto:editrix -at- slip -dot- net
See my friendly face at

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?"
--Hillel, "Mishna, Sayings of the Fathers 1:13"

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