RE: Another tragic case of not reading the manual

Subject: RE: Another tragic case of not reading the manual
From: <Daniel_Hall -at- trendmicro -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 10:33:18 -0700

Chuck argues that we're blaming the user here, and that its inappropriate to do so. Not sure I completely agree...

Certainly the manual isn't to blame, and the machine's design might be partly at fault.

But in this case, the user _is_ to blame. You have to wonder what could be done to save someone willing to climb deep into a machine where the temperature was 167F minutes before. It's pretty much impossible to engineer all the danger out of any complex piece of machinery, since it's impossible to underestimate the intelligence of your dumbest user. Actually, for the stupid, even a screwdriver is dangerous.

This is Darwin Award material.


-----Original Message-----
From: bounce-techwr-l-129804 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
[mailto:bounce-techwr-l-129804 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com]On Behalf Of Chuck
Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2003 10:20 AM
Subject: Re: Another tragic case of not reading the manual

Certainly it is sad to read about such a tragedy, but from what I can
discern from the text here, the real problem isn' that the manual laid
unread, but that the design of the hardware apparently didn't make clear
that such an "access panel" existed.

If one was built in, designers presumably knew that people could and would
go inside. That it was not clearly marked, both inside and out, to be easily
findable is a flaw in design, not a failure to read.

Saying that this happened because the users didn't read the manual is
blaming the user for the event, a very wrong but utterly common attitude.

Conceptually, the design of the machine, or at least one part of it, failed
to communicate both its existence and its use.

Chuck Martin

<miriam -at- silvershed -dot- co -dot- uk> wrote in message news:209230 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> Just read this in the Guardian (a UK newspaper).
> We discussed aeronautical instances of not using a manual a while ago -
> this is a much more humble example of what goes wrong, isn't it. And yet,
> in its own way, equally tragic.
> I wonder how far we can go as authors to make sure that this doesn't
> happen - it seems like the manual could have been the most shining example
> of technical authorship, and it still wouldn't have helped.
> A laundry worker died of heat exhaustion after climbing into a giant
> industrial washing machine to free some sheets and getting stuck, an
> inquest heard yesterday.
<the rest of the story snipped>

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