by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/09/30 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/09/30/475182.aspx
In my post About [not] writing books I said the following:
And there was one great idea I had for a book and I even pitched it to my former acquisitions editor Sharon when she started working for Hungry Minds (when it was its own company). But it was a slightly radical idea and her boss said no, and none of the editors I have talked to since then have been interested either. So perhaps it was a little too radical (or maybe just a bad idea). Perhaps I'll blog about it some day and readers here can tell me if I was on track or on crack.
The book idea was a simple one. It started one day when I realized that MSDN was several gigabytes in size, and that is even allowing for the fact that most (all?) releases trim information out to kep the size down. Telling someone to "read the manual" is unrealistic hopefulness at best and ignorant optimism at worst. There is simply way too much information out there!
Further to that, the indexing system(s) of the data, both the internal indexes and the external ones built by search engines, all work in different ways. And it is hard to know which ones to use and how best to use them. Even those internal indexes have their content built by many different people, with all of the info folded together like shuffled cards.
Clearly, the indexes have not been keeping up with the indexed.
So how can one find the information one needs?
This is where the book idea came from.
The idea was a book entitled:
How to make sure Microsoft's help actually helps
The main title of course stands for READ THE FREAKING MANUAL (that is the PG-rated version!). The subtitle speaks for itself....
The book would work to give all the tricks to getting the information you need from the gigabytes of information in MSDN, from the smaller files that ship with VS and SQL Server and Windows and Office, down to the smallest files that are not adequaetely indexed at all. From the ones that are on the web to the ones that never have been and probably never will be.
It would have had assistance from several UE/UA writers/leads/managers who I had talked to, all of whom were interested in being involved with the project. We are talking about a very motivated group of people who truly want the words produced by User Education to assist and the words produced by User Assistance to educate.
There would even be info on building indexes for your own help files, and the mistakes that people make doing this....
Some of the strategies described could even perhaps be automated and used by future versions of the help compiler products!
This is the kind of book that I imagined could be like a smaller-scale version of tomes like Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, where people would buy it whether they were going to read it or not. Even if they did not really work on MS platforms they might buy it, just to have on their shelves -- especially since I seem to hear the term RTFM used more often in relation to UNIX and Linux than to Windows!
It just struck me as a book that might really have helped people who did read it and might really have done whatever it was supposed to for the people who bought it and never bothered to open it.
Anyway, the folks at Hungry Minds felt it was too risky of an endeavor, and others were against it because they thought it would be an MS-bashing book despite my proven track record for being very pro-Microsoft even when I am posting about flaws in MS technologies and products.
So in the end, it did not happen.
Well, what do you think? Worthwhile concept or worthless tripe? Was I on track, or on crack?
# CornedBee on 30 Sep 2005 3:44 AM:
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# Michael S. Kaplan on 1 Oct 2005 8:42 AM:
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