The power of educational journalism

  bloodstone 23:40 23 May 05
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I'm sure most people would agree that an article that explains a subject is aimed at those of us who know little or nothing about said subject.
That said I was looking forward to the article titled 'Upgrade your motherboard' and as I read on it seemed good...until I got to the Configuring the Bios and drivers page, then the author started using geek speak eg Advanced features: the Bios includes 'chipset features'??..for the CPU and RAM set the 'correct bus frequency and multiplier'???? at this point further mentions of 'Sata Raid controllers' and 'multiple Sata drives' and I gave up,realising that the final paragraph 'Congratulations youv'e just completed a major PC upgrade'was only meant for those who already understood how to carry out an upgrade, didn't need to read about it,and, unfortunately for me, I wasn't one of them...

  1911 01:30 24 May 05

I have to agree with you. Even using the ever ready Google didnt get me very far, the eyes closed, the head nodded and I gave up and went back to Helproom Forum for any assistance i needed for imediate problems.

  octal 07:03 24 May 05

I haven't seen that particular article, but I understand both points of view, from the author, having been there and the reader.

When writing anything for a magazine, particularly a technical one, I suppose computer magazines come under this heading, its very difficult to write an article which is going to please both camps, the beginner and the geek. The author either gets accused of "dumbing" a subject down by the geek or totally confusing the learner.

I have seen this type of comment time and time again and there's no easy answer when you've got a commercial magazine trying to cram as much in as little space as possible, the author ends up trying to please both camps and ends up getting flak from both.

Maybe don't try and take the article too literaly, you must have learnt something from the it, because you mention 'Configuring the Bios and drivers page' and one or two other points, it might just jog you own natural curiosity to try and find out more. Above all, give yourself time, I been working in electronics for 40 years and I'm still learning!

Good luck.

One last comment, have a go at submitting an article for publication yourself, you will learn an awful lot in the process. It doesn't matter how simple it is, if an editor thinks its worthy of publication they will help you, at least that's been my experience.

  Total Care Support 11:19 24 May 05

Its not just when writing an article either.

When answering questions in forums as well, you can answer as a techie which means that some other people following the thread can get lost or confused if they are less technical or non technical, but in the same vein if you dumb down the answer and post it in the terms that non-techies understand then you can get comments that you are talking down to people or that you are being sarcastic etc.

Every industry whether computers, law, chefs, tree surgeons, all have their own language which they talk to people within their own industry with, and to those people who work around it all the time it becomes a second language that they don’t think about, law its torts and injunctions and all that stuff, computers its PSU, FSB, KHz, DDR SD, but with computers being in more and more peoples homes and work environments the industry is more interactive with Joe Public than any other industry, (personally I think this is a good thing). But it does open people up to criticism; there are so many fields unlike other professions where the language does not cross over.

A lawyer in the UK can talk to one Germany, Hong Kong etc using the same terms and jargon, the same with a Chef, or a policeman, or a nurse or doctor. But a computer techie well if he is a OS specialist he can hold an ok conversation with most but then they have spin offs like Data mining software (for example SAS institute software) or Novell, then it gets to C+ and A programmers DNS servers that can confuse people who specialise in one area. This all leads to people thinking they are "dumbing down" yet this still loses some people or Joe Public outside the industry.

It is one of the hardest things in any form of communication you want your readers to remain and continue to read and in the case of PCA to help them become better with their computers, but how do you write something that keeps all the readers happy. Communication one on one is not a problem as you can see hear or read during the communication if the person you are talking to is understanding it and you naturally become adaptive lowering or raising the level of the conversation until both parties are talking at the same level, that is the great thing about two way viable live conversations.

But, when writing an article for approx 250,000 readers. Then you have to weigh up what level will be understood by the largest number of readers.

But that is where PCA has an advantage it has a forum so if you don’t understand you come into the forum and discuss what you don’t understand and hopefully people in here give answers and advice that assist.

Best regards

Daniel

  spuds 11:49 24 May 05

A number of years ago, I purchased a copy of Mueller's Upgrading and Repair,because I wanted to be in the know. This particular publication is about 3"-4" thick of all the relevant information that any computer person would be proud to read. Did I read it!-Did I understand it!. I think I managed to get past the intro page, before my 'knowledge block' activated and suddenly closed down. The book, now makes a good door stop.

If anyone follows the Fred Dibnah programmes, then he as stated on many occasions, that there are a good selection of books out there, that are written by very clever academics. But the published word doesn't always reveal the actual fact. Experience is usually in the hands of the beholder.ie Get your hands dirty, and you will find out :o)

  mbp 11:58 24 May 05

All magazines today,(99%) cater to the beginner to intermediate IT user. If it is totally over the average readers head then that article was either very badly written or lifted and pasted onto the wrong place. More than like the latter!

  Aspman 12:32 24 May 05

You can't learn much by reading below your level.

[quote] Maybe don't try and take the article too literaly, you must have learnt something from the it, because you mention 'Configuring the Bios and drivers page' and one or two other points, it might just jog you own natural curiosity to try and find out more. Above all, give yourself time, I been working in electronics for 40 years and I'm still learning![/quote]

The reader possibly can't understand all or much of the article at the first reading. If the reader has to go away and possibly read a few other article to progress a bit more through it so be it. After a while the reader will be able to read and understand the article that was beyond them a little while ago and in the future they will be better equiped to deal with articles at that level and above.

Many people do like to have their information spoon fed to them but I think it is better to pitch these articles a little higher.

  Total Care Support 14:13 24 May 05

I agree with Aspman, if you don’t understand with a first reading put it aside and come back to it over time with fresh reading more and more information gets taken on board, PCA and other mags like it are not written to be a buy this month and throw it away when you buy next months, they hold useful information which can be referred to over time and as you read more and more articles so you learn and earlier items that before you might only understand 50% you can now understand 75% then 85% then 100% hopefully.

An education does not educate if all you read and hear is the same thing over an over it is exposure to new things that increases knowledge.

Like when you learn English if you only read books at school with the same words in them then you have a very narrow dialect, however by reading newspapers, comic books, lord of the rings, dare I say it mills and boon so your vocab increases and so you are able to use words that more accurately describe the message you want to get over.

With any subject there is a learning curve, and depending on how seriously you take the subject be it a hobby or a vocation or your job will depend on how much time you allocate to learning about the subject.

For things to develop then skills need to be learnt, playing chess you could only learn the skills to move the pieces i.e. the horses goes like this, but though the playing of the game so each person develops their own skill and tactics in which to try to win other wise you lose all the time and the game would be no fun. As with nearly every thing in the world you have to keep your skills in use to understand what is going on. In some cases this does mean that when you read something for a first time you might not understand it and feel lost, however do not give up look at it as a challenge to yourself to find out what you don’t understand and if you are interested find out what the words or phrases you do not understand means.

Daniel

  jack 14:54 24 May 05

This was said once and has stuck with me over the years.
If you want to get to grips with the technicalites on any dicipline, do not take a manual from an 'expert'
Get one by a 'User'

I guess here on the PCA forums we are in the main users - with a smattering of expert -users

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