RE: FW: Technologically Challenged

From: Brock Hinzmann (
Date: Fri Mar 27 1998 - 23:46:04 EET


I see you are the source of the nothing is foolproof (make that, to a
sufficiently talented fool) quote. Is that an original line, or do you have a
source? Anyway, thanks.

However, remember the people who read the manual and couldn't find the
ANY key?

If you had never seen a pencil before, would you read the manual or would
you go ahead and use it for what it looks like it was intended to be used
for: as a weapon.

When you bought your last toaster-oven, did you read the manual?
Your last TV? A TV is a fairly complex piece of equipment.

How about your first VCR? You probably thought you could plug it in to
your TV and away you go.

Some computer companies used to observe novices take the computer out of
the box, assemble it, plug it in and turn it on, to see if they could
improve the design to make all of those things obvious (lots of funny stories
there). Judging by the last couple of computer products I bought, they
must have stopped doing that, assuming that everyone would know by now how it
works right out of the box or would be smart enough to read the manual.

Everyone is different. Consumers are different. They are not all
engineers (and engineers aren't all alike, either). We all think differently and
approach life differently. Many of them are busy with life. They hear and
read things differently. You may think they are foolish, but if you want to
sell them something, you should learn their language. In fact, they are
usually too smart and out-think themselves. They make associations in their
life's surroundings that you may not consider in a controlled

If you don't stop to think about it, your competitor just might.

Brock Hinzmann

Justin R. Kidder wrote:
>On 27 Mar 1998, Brock Hinzmann wrote:
>> Although RP can do little to fix directly the challenging
>> problems described on Jeff's list, the relationship to RP is stronger
>> appears on the surface. The people in his examples may appear foolish,
>> they are genuine customers and they were genuinely frustrated by the
>> products they paid genuine good money for. The earlier in the design
>> you can get a physical prototype in the hands of users and the sooner
>> tech writers can get a shot at describing how to use it, the sooner
>> find out what us fools will do with it and either change the design or
>> change the manual to avoid potentially disastrous results. As someone
on this
>> mailing list used to sign off, (to the effect that) There is no such
>> thing as foolproof to a sufficiently ingenious fool. The bottom line
to that
>> is, however, that nothing you produce is foolproof, you are just
making a
>> business decision about how close to foolproof you want to try to be.
>> once you build your reputation (and pricing structure) on being close
>> foolproof, you had better stick to it, or the competition will eat you
>> alive.
>> Brock, the Badger
>> Technology Navigator
>This is true, however, for a complex piece of equipment such as a
>(in the case of the tech support jokes), even the foolish should attempt
>to read the instruction manual when things don't go as planned. No
>of preparation on the part of the engineer, the tech writers or anyone
>else can help the person who isn't willing to help him/herself to some
>small degree.
>Justin Kidder, Research Asst. | Automation and Robotics Laboratory
> | University of Pittsburgh
> Home page:
> "Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool"

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