When more is more

The 1930s short film How The Differential Gear Works is a great example of video instruction. Not only is it clear and nicely done, but it does its best to be entertaining, too. As the YouTube commenters indicate, however, today's sensibilities might be offended by having to sit through nearly two minutes of a talented demonstration of motorcycle acrobatics before getting to the instructional portion.

For modern technical writers this video demonstrates the tension between providing what users needs to know, and what users might enjoy knowing. Clearly no automobile user's manual would include a description of the marvels of the differential axle. And thankfully, most software manuals omit discussing firmware and bus design. But nonetheless, sometimes this information can be interesting. The trick is to present it well, and in a way that doesn't frustrate users who don't care to know it.

Posted: August 15, 2009 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item