RTFM Being Replaced by GTFM
October 18, 2011 Dan Burger
“Read the freaking manual” (RTFM) is a common response (usually agitated response) to questions that invariably come up in IT settings. Sometimes it’s conversational, but it more frequently occurs in email or instant messaging or a posting on a forum.
But in a conversation I had last week with Bill Hammond, product marketing manager at Vision Solutions, he asked me to imagine a world where sagging shelves overloaded with manuals the size of Tokyo phone books no longer existed. What? No product manuals? You’ve got to be kidding. How will anything get fixed?
It’s all about changing the user experience, Hammond says.
“The old way was to sit down and read a manual, or maybe go to a training class. That’s how they learned,” says Hammond the history teacher. “But we are hearing that people want to consume information differently. They want a Google-like interaction. They don’t want a manual.”
It’s changing the way Vision is structuring its documentation.
According to Hammond, Vision has plans for putting all its product documentation in a portal where a single user interface will allow content-sensitive, problem-solution searches for information.
There’s a changing demographic on the IBM i customer, Hammond suggests. In the past, a person who wanted to be an expert on a certain piece of hardware or type of software read everything available and was prepared for all contingencies.
“That person wanted to be able to take the engine all apart and put it all back together again,” is how Hammond describes it. “But now there’s more of a focus on just driving the car.”
When something goes wrong, there’s Google or YouTube or a subject-specific portal to supply the specific information at the point in time when it is needed. It’s a better fit to the workflows, processes, and motivations of the modern IT worker.
But if all the manuals are Web-based, what will I do with all that space on my book shelves?