Direction Reading

Day 340 Week 49 Q4 Thursday, December 7, 2023

Yes, I know this sounds like a very dull topic because creative outliers don’t like to redirect and read directions.  We prefer to just jump in and use the thing that we’ve just acquired and figure out how to use it. Admittedly, improving user interfaces does make this possible more of the time. At least, it does when it is done well. But sometimes, for expediency or cost reduction, controls serve more than one function, and displays are ambiguous at best when they exist to indicate the status of the device or application. It is a time like this that is truly worth reading the directions. This is not as easy as it once was because no one wants to spend money printing out manuals any longer, and they do not include anything other than a Quickstart, which typically does not get to the level of detail that one needs to truly take advantage of the power of whatever you are trying to do.

I know reading directions is unsexy and doesn’t make you feel like you’re brilliant, and it disturbs your flow, but sometimes it is far faster than continuing to poke around and trying to figure it out yourself. The problem is, if you use a massive number of different tools and devices that require direction, you can forget how to use them when you have been away from them for a long time. And you can only keep so many tools and circulation where you remember how to use them. Considering there seem to be more than 300 apps on my computer and another 300 apps on my mobile devices, I simply cannot remember how to use 600 different apps. In fact, I cannot even remember all of the apps that I have never mind how to use them.

Back to direction reading. There are many different ways of reading directions. You could simply look for which part of a manual describes the particular thing that you want to do and dive in and grab it. Frequently, more context is needed to make sense of what that portion of the direction is, and you find yourself increasing your horizon about this tool. As a professional tool developer, I sometimes feel obliged to understand how the whole thing works. And, of course, this takes an order of magnitude longer than finding out how to do the specific thing I had in mind. But I am very interested in what other things can be done and what the big picture thinking of the creator of the tool was, so I involuntarily find myself trying to wrap my arms around the big picture.

This is not a bad thing to do. It is just not a fast thing to do. Still, sometimes it is actually faster than trying to dive in and find the specific capability because the speaker designers have had some breakthrough thinking, which caused them to take things up a level. It’s always exciting to see what they were thinking and how they manifested it. In all of these cases, reading the directions is excellent value because it saves you a lot of time and effort. I find the best way to deal with reading directions is by using two devices, one to operate the app and the other to read about the app. We tend to need two different screens to do this, especially if we are using a laptop. But since we all have multiple screens, this does not seem to be very difficult for many people.

So, get reading the directions on your newly acquired tools. And I don’t know whether this belongs under the category of entertainment or escape or professional development or getting the job done, but it is really not something that you should expect to be paid for, at least not directly.