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Minimalism Doesn't Mean No Concepts

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Many people think minimalism in technical communications means just writing less and eliminating concepts - but it's more about WHERE you put the concepts, and how you help users remember them, that counts!

This is from my presentation to the InfoDev DC Meetup Group and STC Washington DC Chapter on 28 January. Enjoy.

Published in: Technology
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Minimalism Doesn't Mean No Concepts

  1. 1. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Minimalism Doesn't Mean 
 No Concepts Member, Board of Directors Ray$Gallon
  2. 2. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon The only thing we know about the future
 is that it will be different -Peter Drucker Our job is to help people use our products well and wisely, which means they learn to adapt, 
 and cope with changes in technology and society. “User” is passive, to me –
 you’ve been handed something, use it – whereas I think what people are doing is much more actively a matter of ownership and appropriation and coming to control a new tool in a newenvironment…" - John Carroll
  3. 3. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon “Users” are Learners “…‘learners’$focuses$on$the$human$development$and$appropriating$new$ knowledge$and$skill,$which$I$think$is$really$more$the$essence$of$what’s$going$on.”$ 1 0 0 B 0 0 3 3 - , B C 0 -2- 0 0 -
  4. 4. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon eLearning:$InstructionNfocused$learning,$presenting$content$that$the$ learner$must$remember$or$practice,$conducted$via$electronic$media,$ typically$on$the$Internet$ eKnowledge:$Information$you$can$look$up$ User$Assistance:$Guidance$that$helps$you$start$ doing$real,$useful$work$as$quickly$as$possible.$May$ include$eKnowledge. But User Assistance is NotTraining
  5. 5. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Two$common$ideas$about$ minimalism:$ Don’t$waste$user’s$time$with$unnecessary$ detail,$especially$concepts$ Save$money$in$production$and$localization$ with$reduced$content Procedures Aren’t Enough STEP 1 STEP 2 STEP 3 DO THIS DON’T DO THAT WARNING! NOTE: Is$memorizing$a$procedure$by$rote$ necessary$for$competency? If$concepts$are$important,$how$ do$we$include$them$without$ “wasting$users’$time?” How$do$I$know$if$I$need$to$do$this?
  6. 6. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Not Just Minimal – Minimal and Meaningful Minimal$and$meaningful:$one$task$helps$ us$understand$many$related$tasks. Minimal$and$meaningful:$one$quick$look$ tells$us$we$don’t$need$to$bother$with$this$ (or$that$we$do). People$best$learn$about$product$use$by$ doing$something$and$making$connections$ in$the$process.$ Learn$by$doing$–$put$the$concepts$where$ they$will$be$useful$and$remembered.
  7. 7. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Provide Decision Support User$assistance$that$is$limited$to$ procedures$cannot$help$people$with$ contingent$needs.$ People$with$contingent$needs$are$not$ going$to$wade$through$long$conceptual$ texts.$ Modern software’s complexity, features, & power can leave users perplexed – often just when they have some immediate, contingent need: “I$need$to$get$this$done,$and$NOW!.”
  8. 8. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon In$traditional$“static” documentation,$the$product$gives$meaning$to$the$docs.$ Users’ experience$with$the$product$takes$them$from$the$abstract$realm$of$
 reading$about+the$product...$ Experience is More Important thanTaxonomy
  9. 9. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon In$traditional$“static” documentation,$the$product$gives$meaning$to$the$docs.$ Users’ experience$with$the$product$takes$them$from$the$abstract$realm$of$
 reading$about+the$product…$ to$the$reality+of+performance. Experience is More Important thanTaxonomy The$real$meaning,$then,$is$embedded$in$the$realm$of$action!
  10. 10. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Get$straight$to$procedures$ Don’t$waste$user’s$time$with$unnecessary$detail,$especially$ concepts$ Procedural$information$must$be$separated$from$conceptual$ information. Everything We Know… IS WRONG!..
  11. 11. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Double Embeddedness Embed$procedural$
 User$Assistance$directly$ into$the$Interface Embed$simple$concepts$ directly$into$the$
User$Assistance Cognitive$Science$$(and$John$Carroll)$backs$this$up$
  12. 12. Presentation$©$2014$Ray$GallonThe$Transformation$Society @TransformSoc$@RayGallon Active Learning: Learning by Doing Roger$C.$Schank’s$Schema$N$We$remember$independent,$selfN contained$scripts,$or$Memory$Organization$Packets$(MOP’s) Restaurant Airplane Clothing$Shop Pay Being$ seated Eat Choose Romantic$ Conversation Pay Being$ seated Eat Choose Pay Choose Fasten$ Seatbelt Try$on MOP’s$are$ composed$of$scenes,$ which$can$be$ generalized$from$ one$MOP$to$another Serve$ wine REF:$http://cogprints.org/637/1/LearnbyDoing_Schank.html
  13. 13. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Active Learning: Learning by Doing Restaurant Airplane Clothing$Shop Pay Being$ seated Eat Choose Pay Being$ seated Eat Choose Pay Choose Fasten$ Seatbelt Try$on MOP’s$are$ composed$of$scenes,$ which$can$be$ generalized$from$ one$MOP$to$another Serve$ wine REF:$http://cogprints.org/637/1/LearnbyDoing_Schank.html Networks$of$Scenes Choose$Network Pay$Network Eat$Network
  14. 14. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon We$want$to$give$the$user$all$the$information$s/he$needs$and$only$the$ information$s/he$needs.$ We$want$to$deliver$that$information$when$s/he$needs$it$–$which$implies,$at$ the$moment$s/he$has$real$work$to$do.$ The$logical$conclusion$is$that$user$assistance$needs$to$be$embedded$in$the$ software$itself,$in$such$a$way$that:$ The$user$can$find$it$immediately,$without$excessive$searching,$if$
 s/he$needs$it.$ If$s/he$doesn’t$need$it,$it$stays$out$of$the$way. Kanban Information: 
 Help Users LearnYour Software Fast
  15. 15. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon The Place to Learn Concepts is When Performing Tasks
  16. 16. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon We$often$use$concepts$to$introduce$&$lead$into$multiple$tasks: Blending Concepts andTasks: 
 Kanban Information meets DITA We$don't$know$how$else$to$do$it,$but$this$is$an$inappropriate$use$of$ conceptual$information:$ Not$good$cognitive$development$ Not$good$Kanban $Concept:This$concept$ explains$what$this$ element$of$the$interface$is$ all$about.$It$is$used$in$the$ following$tasks: Task$1 Task$2 Task$3 Task$4
  17. 17. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Blending Concepts andTasks: 
 Kanban Information meets DITA <task>$Topic$ General$conceptual$information$using$<context>
 Includes$decision$support$ Step$1$ <cmd>$ <stepresult>$–$What$happens$after$execution$–$can$include$why Step$2$ <cmd>$$ <info>$–$Use$when$there$is$no$result.$Embeds$concepts$pertinent$to$the$step.$ Should$relate$to$the$task,$and$be$generalisable$to$other$similar$tasks,$if$appropriate Why$not$use$the$DITA$Task$topic$structure$to$deliver$conceptual$ information$where$it$will$do$the$most$good$and$be$best$remembered?
  18. 18. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Semantic$structure$of$the$XML$is$maintained$ Users$are$served$ This$example$not$specific$to$DITA$–$GENERALIZE$IT! Blending Concepts andTasks: 
 Kanban Information meets DITA
  19. 19. RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon 20$years$in$technical$communication$with$major$companies$such$as$G.E.$Healthcare,$Alcatel,$IBM,$etc.$ Member,$board$of$directors,$Society$for$Technical$Communication$(STC)$ Past$president,$STC$France$ AwardNwinning$radio$producer$and$journalist$–$CBC,$NPR,$France$Culture,$etc.$and$former$programme$ manager,$WNYCNFM,$New$York$Public$Radio I’m Ray Gallon -The Humanist Nerd Research$collaborator$and$principal,$The$Transformation$Society,$a$new$research$and$training$institute$ in$Barcelona,$Spain Owner/Consultant,$Culturecom$–$specialist$in$$$business$process$improvement$through$communication
  20. 20. Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@TransformSocThe$Transformation$Society What We Do Analyse$your$needs$and$help$you$get$a$jump$on$complexity$ Help$you$design$and$architect$a$content$strategy,$user$information$ systems,$communication$ Work$with$you$to$capture$value$from$your$users$ Workshops,$webinars,$or$training$to$help$manage$and$adapt$to$ change The$Transformation$Society
  21. 21. Presentation$©$2014$Ray$Gallon@RayGallon Thank Email:$ infodesign@culturecom.net Google$Plus:$$$+Ray$Gallon$ Twitter:$$@RayGallon$ LinkedIn:$$$$$$Ray$Gallon RAY$GALLON C U L T U R E C O M Pass$me$your$business$card
 Let’s$talk! Blog:+Rant+of+a+Humanist+Nerd+ http://humanistnerd.culturecom.net Portions+of+this+presentation+based+on+research+by+ the+Transformation+Society+Research+group.

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