Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Computers help you learn to swear
Writing Conversations With Computers Bring Out the Sailor In Me for Florida Today, Larry Johnston describes his experiences with learning how to use a new laptop computer. After commenting about how the young sales clerks make him feel inept with their technical-laden answers to simple questions, he turns to the computer's manual:
"Computer manuals are mind-numbing in size and content. They go into meticulous detail about the most stupid of things, e.g. "Your plug must be connected to a source of electrical energy." Finally, at about page 100 they show you where that on-off switch is. It will be the last thing most of us understand."
While many criticize the shrinking size of product manuals, is those that spend page after page documenting obvious or inconsequential features at the expense of clear explanations of items that truly do need more expansive and helpful discussion.