A post over on Seth Godin’s Blog that I ran across today has left me thinking. In it, Seth talks about how technology now allows us to help our readers:
Just recently (a decade or so) we opened two doors that change the way we communicate: we can link now, which means that any time you’re worried you’ve hit something too complex, you can easily link to more data and more explanation, and second, you can keep writing. Length (given appropriate organization) is no longer an issue.
I’ve been thinking about this when it comes to training, because I think we might actually have this backwards. We spend a lot of time putting together printed training manuals, and of course, the all important “hand-out”, because we are expected to leave our students with something they can walk out of the room with and take back to their offices. That’s all well and good, but we are seriously limiting what we give them when we take our information and “dumb it down” into less usable formats, like the printed book or printed cheat sheet.
By their very nature, we are limited in what we can put in a book, or on a cheat sheet. We can’t link to more information for those readers who might not understand a particular concept, we have to keep it short, and try to use static screenshots in our manuals instead of how-to videos. (And god help us if a new update changes the screen slightly before we can update the manual!) That’s a lot of work that could be done more easily, and be more useful to our clients, if we could utilize web technologies.
Of course, there are copyright, and commercial, concerns in many cases. Materials provided online are much harder to “limit” to just those who have paid for them. We all know that, but I do believe that is a challenge we’re all going to have to face at some point. The added advantages are simply too great to continue ignoring online based materials, and our more digital workers are only becoming less likely to keep printed books and cheat sheets around.
What do you think? Do you like leaving training with something to hold, or would you rather be able to grab the parts you want electronically?