We aren’t all noobs!

One gripe I have with the help systems in many consumer software applications: they’re written with the assumption that we users are all clueless newbies.

Take the Microsoft Office tools: they have many advanced and powerful capabilities; it is both interesting and useful to know what exactly they do. But the Help system only gives you the step-by-step “How To”. Say you want to try the Auto-Summarize feature of MS Word, and are curious what exactly it does (I mean, beyond automatically creating a summary). How does the feature work? What algorithm is involved? How does it identify the important parts of the document? Knowing this is not only interesting; it can let us users know what to expect, and how to use the feature better. But all we are served is a sequence of steps like

  1. On the Tools menu, click AutoSummarize.
  2. Select the type of summary you want.

And so on. Necessary and useful for the computer-naive types, but not sufficient for the technical or curious.

I sometimes imagine the day when I’ll run into a button (perhaps in Word 2015?) that says “Stop world hunger”, and when I check it up in Help it will only say

  1. To stop world hunger, click the button Stop world hunger.

C’mon, folks, you develop awesome code – let us know what is going on behind the scenes. At least give us a link to this information after the stuff the noobs use is listed…

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