A model approach to effective documentation
Many people believe that good documentation is important, yet few use it regularly and effectively. An attempt is made to find reasons for this contradictory behaviour, by examining the existing practices of providers and users of documentation. Reasons for not using documentation appear to fall into two classes; predictable interaction effects and unpredictable interaction effects. Providers usually try to predict the problems users are likely to have at the user-documentation interface, by following standard quality control procedures. When these fail to produce good documentation, users become dissatisfied and turn elsewhere for their information needs. On the other hand, good quality documentation may not be used for reasons which cannot be predicted, and often cannot be explained. An approach which suggests methods for dealing with both of these situations is formulated, and ideas for raising the status of documentation are discussed.