Re: quo vadis, docs

On 2009-02-09, 17:37 GMT, Dan Winship wrote:
> 1. Users don't have the manual, and if they did, they wouldn't
>    read it.
> 2. In fact, users can't read anything, and if they could, they
>    wouldn't want to.

As much as I like Joel and his writing (and particulary this one 
about user interface), I think he wrote really sloppily here.  
I have two remarks for this:

1) This was written for user interface designers, not for 
   documentation writers. And the point was IMHO (and I would 
   agree with that) that making awfully complicated user 
   interface and defend it with saying "that everybody should 
   spend good quality time with my documentation to understand 
   how it works" makes sense only for very professional high-end 
   software (yes, you should spend some time with InDesign 
   documentation if you want to be a efficient typesetter) and 
   usually it just an excuse for broken user interface design.
   However, when a programmer says "Great, I don't have to bother 
   with documentation at all; I hate writing it anyway, so now 
   I have an excuse for not doing it", I am afraid they just 
   misused Joel's writing to cover their laziness.
2) Of course, Microsoft et al. quickly concluded from studies 
   like what Joel cites, that they won't write doucmentation to 
   save money.
   Current result, that no commerical software has any 
   documentation whatsoever, and people pay for it second time to 
   O'Reilly and others, is quite unsatisfactory. There are many 
   people in this world who are actually literate (surprise, you 
   are not the only person in the world who can read!), and who 
   would welcome some good documentation when they are lost 
   (which is most of the time of course, because Joel's 
   conclusion expected user interface which doesn't need 
   documentation -- where do we have such programs?).
   The result is that not only we are implicitly saying by our 
   broken user interface design "You are too stupid to use super 
   smart software I wrote" (that's what I hear from many users is 
   the message they get), but also "I couldn't waste my precious 
   time on writing a documentation for you, because you in your 
   dullness wouldn't appreciate my terrible sacrifice and 
   wouldn't read it anyway". And then we are surprised that 
   people are afraid of computers.
   Sometimes, I think that a terrible problem of free software is 
   that there is no feedback from customers (and their wallets) 
   to the programmers. For most free software programmers I am 
   afraid it acutally doesn't matter if they have any users, and 
   even less how these few users they have are actually satisfied 
   with their software. It is enough (as in some kind of 
   intellectual masturbation) that they could expose their 
   smartness on writing a piece of software.


Matěj Cepl

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