In my usual desire to find greener grass on the other side of the fence I started tinkering with GameSalad. GameSalad is game authoring software for mobile devices, sort of like Corona but more drag-and-droppish like GameMaker. The obvious place to start is with the manual that is a tutorial. So I start working through the Windows manual. The manual does not match the latest version of GameSalad. After an hour or so of “huh”, and “where is the thing the manual referring to been moved to this time”, and “that tab does not exist so where do I look now?” I am about ready to give up. As a semi-experienced programmer that has a stubborn streak I can fiddle, tinker, search and cobble through the manual/tutorial and slowly get somewhere. As a high school teacher with very little extra time to waste on out-of-date documentation I will no longer bother to look at this software a viable greener grass. Tutorials make such a significant first impression that a crappy one will eliminate the very large educational programming population for a product. Why is it so difficult for companies to hire a competent individual or team to keep the documentation up-to-date and legible? This seems to be a persistent problem industry wide. I gave up on GameMaker because the tutorials were written by someone who assumed the reader knew how to use the software already. I will give up on GameSalad because I do not have time to rewrite the documentation to fit the software. The companies will not lose big bucks if I do not use their software. They could lose big bucks in that I do not introduce their software to 20 aspiring game writers every year.
Actually, I do sort of understand the documentation problem. My one short (six month) professional experience working for a software company showed me the issues involved. This company wrote 911 call-in software. One of my friends worked in the documentation department of the company. She literally had to walk around and ask the programmers what changes they had made in the latest version of the software. If she was not quick enough the department that handled updates would send out the updates without any documentation. The next couple of days were always interesting for the customer support people. And of course they blamed the docs people who blamed the programmers who were oblivious to the whole issue. Read Dilbert and watch Office Space. Exact fits for this company. I cannot image the company is unique.
Here is a solution. Hire a bunch of high school programming teachers to write the tutorials and pay them in free licenses for their classrooms. (OK, many be squeeze in some $$ there somewhere.) Wow, good education based documentation AND a bunch of kids that know how to use your software.