Re: Online Documentation vs. Help

Subject: Re: Online Documentation vs. Help
From: "Burns, Nancy" <nburns -at- BREAULT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 1997 17:24:07 -0700

William Horton presented the following definition on online documentation in
his book, "Designing and writing online documentation":

"Online documentation is simply the use of the computer as a communication
medium. This term embraces a rich diversity, from one-word messages to the
proposed docuverse of project Xanadu, which would make accessible all
documents ever written. Uniting all these systems is the essential goal of
using the computer to get information...By document we mean any organized
body of information, not just one on paper or even one suited for paper.
Online documents can include animation, voice, music and other sounds, and

Horton designates common types of online documents as: computer-based
training, online books, informational databases; Help facilities, guided
tours, information vending machines, read-me files, and messages.

In case you assumed that online documents encompass all forms of electronic
communication to the user, Horton explains that:

"Online documentation is often confused with other MEDIA or METHODS
(emphasis mine) of presenting computerized information. A few of the most
common ones are: CD-ROM, hypertext, hypermedia, multimedia, Help facility
(embedded with a product), CBT, electronic books, softcopy, electronic
reference documents, and EPSS (electronic performance support systems)."

So, to borrow a phrase, "it's not the medium, its the message". In the case
of online documentation, it's an electronic message.

I recommend Horton's book, as have many others on this list.

Nancy Burns
nburns -at- breault -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron D Rhodes <Ron_D_Rhodes -at- MAIL -dot- BANKONE -dot- COM>

> Ben asked,
> <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
> How would you pithily explain the differences between on-line
> reference documentation and contextual help to non-technical
> communicators?
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
> A darn good question,
> I would love to hear more on this discussion.
>, or

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