Re: PDF v paper

Subject: Re: PDF v paper
From: Martha J Davidson <editrix -at- SLIP -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 09:23:44 -0800

At 04:11 PM 12/16/98 +0100, Mark Craig wrote:
>If the task is obvious before the user even gets to the software, they
>maybe we can forego thick manuals. If the task is not obvious, perhaps
>some paper documentation makes sense.

I think, once again, it is a matter of audience. To quote my sophomore-
year math professor, when he was emphasizing for us how to present
proofs of theorems, "Nothing <pause> is ever <pause> obvious."

I've held onto that for over 20 years, and it's a principle that's stood me in
good stead. I find that it doesn't take many words to provide a bit of
contextual information that fills in a conceptual gap for those unfamiliar
with the subject, in a way that folks who already know it can easily skip
over it.

I hesitate to decide for anyone else what they will consider obvious, because
so many things over the years have been so *un*obvious to me, even those
that "anyone would know how to do." For instance, I could have used
"Winzip for Beginners," though I muddled my way through using the online
help and asking lots of "dumb" questions instead.

I'm definitely a fan of paper documentation, because I like to "talk" to my
books as I read, by writing notes and questions in the margins, and also,
because I seem to have an inordinate need to mark up poor syntax and typos
as I go. I can also get a much better sense from a "real book" that I've
seen all of the information that's available. With hypertext-based help
systems, I always feel that I've missed out on something crucial because I
didn't find it.


Martha Jane {Kolman | Davidson}
mailto:editrix -at- slip -dot- net

"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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