Re: quo vadis, docs
- From: Matej Cepl <mcepl redhat com>
- To: desktop-devel-list gnome org
- Cc: gnome-doc-list gnome org
- Subject: Re: quo vadis, docs
- Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009 13:44:39 +0100
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
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.
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