Re: Does learning get in the way?

Subject: Re: Does learning get in the way?
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 15:55:38 -0700

Geoff Hart wrote:

> If our goal is to help
> users become productive rather than simply fill a seat in front of
> the software, we need to provide some degree of instruction on the
> purpose of the software and how to think about using it. The tricky
> part is not whether, but to what extent and how.

Which misses the whole audience definition part of the exercise that gets done before your ever start
writing: just who's using this, how's he using the tool, and what's the context (the environment where
he's learning to use the tool)?

We tend to write books for USERS, not for students. The difference is largely one of context - users
tend to be busy people, with an immediate need to be productive on whatever this tool happens to be,
and usually don't have a whole lot of time to dwell on theory. Students, on the other hand, can be
assumed to have a bit more time to learn the theory behind the use of the tool - and it is to those
folks that theory should be presented. Not to say that all manuals aimed at users should be devoid of
theory; rather that FOR THESE USERS theory should take a back seat to directions on how to accomplish
foreseeable tasks.

The Dummies books have succeeded because the publishers have realized how to combine disarming the
fear and other forms of resistance some people have to learning how to use tools with simple, clear
instructions on how to perform tasks the designated user can actually perform, and quickly. In other
words, the 'small experiences of success' that are so crucial to quick learning are delivered in as
painless an environment as possible.

And a quick aside to Rowena, who posited that the Dummies books were aimed at female readers: as a
recipient of instructions from publishers on the projected audience characteristics for Dummies books,
I can vouch for the fact that publishers aren't biased toward (or against) either gender. (I decided
against writing the books in question because the publishers weren't willing to pay enough.)

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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