Thursday, January 29, 2009

Manuals for Dummies

I was just reading Machinery Talk and found a thread on operator's and repair manuals. I got to thinking about the file cabinet I have full of manuals.

What makes a good manual? A good manual gives a clear, concise description of the product and its features step-by-step with good illustrations and pictures. A well written trouble shooting section and list of all fluids and capacities is invaluable.

One farmer brought up all the legalese written into manuals to try and support the manufacturer in case of a lawsuit. "Too many laws and too many lawyers" and not enough common sense in this country immediately came to my mind! How much money do we spend on language, converting one language to another, printing one manual for use in several different countries? Press one for English comes to mind. All because we won't enforce the laws we have and make English our common language!

The legal part brings up the local situation where a little village had a real problem with sewage from septic tanks trapped on poorly drained soils. The EPA deemed the situation intolerable after a man wrecked his lawnmower into the effluent, got gangrene and lost his arm.

Now the 500 homes in three communities have been required to hook up to a new sewage plant at over $100 a month forever with three lagoons built on a 50 acre swamp farm! The new line fronts our property but thankfully our house was over the 200 foot limit needed to mandate us into the sewer system. The neighbors are outraged and will never trust the EPA, let alone the government again!

Back to Manuals for Dummies. Have you read yours? Honestly we quickly skim the information, get it running, figure it out for ourselves and only refer to it as needed. Half the time the information you need isn't in there. My filing cabinet sets here full of pretty much useless material.

How about a manual written by a farmer who understands engineering and can actually write in English we can understand? Most of the innovation came from farms anyhow, it was only tested in the lab or the university. You have people who never farmed a day in their life telling farmers how to farm and how to operate the machine they sold them!

Farmers would just LOVE to have the engineers who design some of this stuff on their backs in the "mud, the blood and the beer" repairing some of this junk they design! Some farmers wondered why they started tractor pulling and combine demolition derbies, it seems to go against preservation.

I tell them I like to see the limits of the machine and the demolitions have moved a lot of our unused old machines out of the fence row onto the track! Talk about hands-on learning now, this is the epitome of machine meeting man!

This country sorely lacks common sense. Maybe life is too complex for all of us to understand. A well written manual and all of us speaking the same language here would really help!

Have a great day! The weather is frightful in the Midwest and I hope you aren't reading this powered by a generator!


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