Russ Lipton Documents Radio ...

How To Get Radio Help

I used to get frustrated that Userland provides so little documentation for its extraordinarily rich and powerful products. Eventually, I came to understand that this is a function of two realities.

First, while Userland is a far more stable software company than many vendors one hundred times its size, it is nonetheless small and lean. While I think the company has greatly underestimated the revenue and customer satisfaction benefits that would come with investments in documentation, grasping their business reality has helped me adjust my compass.

Second (and I suspect more to the point), though Userland's products are remarkably solid and well-performing for leading-edge software, the company moves very fast. As a team, they are always learning and sharing the results of their learning in their products. Consequently, documentation does not quite keep pace with the evolution of the products.

Finally, always keep in mind that you can post to your Radio weblog throughout the 21st century without understanding more than how to enter text and hit the Post-and-Publish button. How much documentation does that require?

I am focusing here on the ways you can explore and experiment with learning Radio on your own schedule to fit your own needs or interests. It's all extra-credit from this point forward.

When All Else Fails ...

We can't start with the manual because there isn't one.

We can start with the Help files that come online with Radio itself. Find them by clicking on 'Help' in the menu at the top of your Radio desktop application.

(You can also take a whirl at clicking the little orange question-mark icon which appears on each page of Radio locally).

You must read all the Help entries on the Help page.

It won't take you more than thirty minutes - okay, maybe an hour if you meditate on the meaning of each Help entry as I must.

Some of the concepts and interconnections on the Help pages may seem strange to you. Some are for beginners. Some for programmers. Others cry out for additional explanation. This isn't a difficulty with the documentation per se. The Radio product puts much of the entire power of the Internet at your fingertips. How do you explain the Internet itself concisely on a single Help page?

Right. You don't.

The Discussion Group

Another useful source for help with Radio is the RadioUserland Discussion Group here.

If you are a true end-user, the Discussion Group may terrify you.

Most of the posts cite technical problems that someone is having with this-or-that nuance of making Radio work as they would like. Such problems are sometimes the result of a direct Radio malfunction but more often stem from legitimate customer fiddling with Radio that expose little 'gotchas' here and there.

Still, your first impression may be that Radio doesn't really work right.

This isn't so.

(Another point along this line: unlike many software companies, Userland hangs its laundry out in plain sight. This not only makes it easier for us as users to learn about the real problems but to discover how folks are solving them .... without paying Userland a dollar a minute to be put on hold.)

A more substantive problem is that you may wonder whether your simple, dumb questions will attract any help.

In most cases, they will. The Userland community is polite, respectful and kind towards the great unwashed like you and me.

When no one chooses to respond to your question online, you can assume it is for the same reason you wouldn't respond: people are so busy putting one foot in front of the other in their own lives that they just didn't have time at that moment.

So, go ahead and ask the question again.

Scripting News and Friends

Dave Winer, Userland's main dude, has long published his own weblog, Scripting News.

Since Dave is a super-techie, you may find some of his ruminations opaque or irrelevant to your questions about Radio.

Since Dave is super-opinionated about many other subjects, you may find some of his views on politics or the nature of life frustrating or irritating.

Hey, it's a weblog! Go write your own! Respond to Dave!

(If you do so without flaming him, he may even link back to you).

Scripting News is a great source of up-to-the-minute information on how Dave and the Userland gang are thinking about, fixing, enhancing, redesigning and envisioning RadioUserland's present and future.

If you are willing to learn Radio in a somewhat non-linear fashion, you will learn a great deal about it there.

Not least, Dave links daily to Radio sites that are either doing cool things with the product or helping to explain how it works. Go to those sites yourself and create bookmarks to them.

In other words, create your own repertoire of Radio help and documentation. Then, share it with the rest of us.

(Other members of the Userland team also maintain their own weblogs: John Robb, Lawrence Lee and Jake Savin.)

Speaking of Ruminations and Sharing ...

Ruminations is a an excellent directory to a variety of Radio resources that will help you learn the product (maintained by Andy Sylvester).

(This doesn't exhaust sources of help and documentation for Radio but should get you started in the right direction).

© Copyright 2002 Russ Lipton. Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
Last update: 06/10/2002; 7:56:21 PM.