Has anyone mentioned structure in this discussion? I don't mean structured vs. 
unstructured, I mean documentation design. Documentation can be basically 
sound, but rendered unusable by poor information design and/or lack of suitable 
navigation tools.

This problem becomes geometrically worse as documentation sets grow, especially 
for complex systems with many interacting components. Many years ago I worked 
with Hewlett Packard minicomputers (the HP1000 series, if anyone remembers 
those). These machines were ferociously good for their time, but the 
documentation was pretty dire. As the capability of the machines had grown, the 
documentation set had grown alongside them by merely adding new manuals, much 
as Nature evolved the human brain by adding new bits on top of old bits ;-)

There was no global view, so solving a technical issue often involved picking 
through multiple, thick, manuals that deal with older, newer, higher and lower 
levels of detail. I often found myself five or six deep in open manuals at the 
end of a happy day of debugging. I am sure this was very good for my mental 
training, but it was not an efficient way to work. I doubt if this was an 
isolated problem. 

I would be a lot richer now if I'd applied the same level of concentration to 
Unix systems, but sadly I merely became expert in an operating system that was 
soon to become obsolete. But the memory lingers: great hardware, awesome 
operating system, ghastly documentation.

-- 
Steve 
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