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Re: Help!

On Thu, 2005-09-08 at 10:52 -0600, Paul E Condon wrote: 
> On Thu, Sep 08, 2005 at 08:25:29AM -0400, David Clymer wrote:
> > On Wed, 2005-09-07 at 08:14 -0400, Stephen R Laniel wrote:
> > > On Tue, Sep 06, 2005 at 06:43:16PM +0100, Jon Dowland wrote:
> > > > We've had a lot of these queries recently. Does that suggest the
> > > > installation process needs to be adjusted slightly, to combat the
> > > > assumption a GUI environment is installed by default? Or should we be
> > > > pushing for people to read the installation docs before going ahead with
> > > > it?
> > > 
> > > I don't think people should ever have to read documents in
> > > order to use a product. Requiring people to read the docs
> > > suggests that the product itself isn't designed well enough
> > > that it explains its own usage. And it allows programmers
> > > the luxury of being lazy in their UI design. We should
> > > assume that people won't read the docs, and build our
> > > products with that assumption in mind.
> > > 
> > 
> > Well put.
> > 
> For some products, Stephen's position is simply silly. Consider,
> for example, a Boeing 747. Another example is a C compiler.
> There are many more. Too many to list, and more than I could
> possible even know about. In general, the world is larger and
> more complicated than any of us know. 

That's true, a statement like that can't withstand any illustration you
throw at it, though perhaps not even its author would have expected it

I took Stephen's comments as a reaction against the (all too common)
tendancy of programmers to create a utility with a host of unnecessarily
byzantine switches and arguments, then call the user a moron if he/she
has trouble using it without reading the man page 5 times. I think that
a good peice of software should, by default, hide complexity as much as
possible. Simple things should be simple, complexity should be hidden
from those that don't know how to use it. Folks who want to jot down a
few notes should be able to start openoffice and quickly figure out how
to do so without reading documentation. Someone who wants to do mail
merging, macros, etc. should expect those operations to be a little more
complex (perhaps requiring TFM).

If a programmer has the mindset that stephen described he/she is more
likely to create software that is easy and fun to use. On the other
hand, a user with that same mindset cripples themselves.


gpg-key: http://www.zettazebra.com/files/key.gpg

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