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Why are module manuals so bad?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Eurorack Modules Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next [all]
Author Why are module manuals so bad?
radin
(alt+y)
radin
You may be dense but you aren't the only one zombie Excellent video above

Franktree wrote:
TemplarK wrote:
http://www.doepfer.de/a100_man/a108_man.pdf

You must have been looking at some other manual because the Doepfer A108 manual is as comprehensive as you can get for a filter. As for frying modules, well, you plug them in making sure that you get the polarity the right way and other than that your not going to just "fry" modules left right and centre not sure what gives you this idea tbh?


Maybe I'm just dense, but I looked through that manual and nowhere did it provide me the one crucial (and simple) piece of information I needed: which pins are the -12v pins. Maybe I missed it, but if I did, the manual is not especially easily to parse.

I later found a (very helpful) video on Youtube that told me all Doepfer modules have the -12v pins on the bottom. But you'd have thought I could have gotten that info from Doepfer, rather than from Youtube.
MarcelP
tau_seti wrote:
Doepfer manuals are beautiful and thorough. A while ago somebody sold me a rare tiny binder full of them. I love looking through it.

Makenoise’s manuals seem to be through, but it’s like reading a calculus textbook. It gives me a headache. Like Maths, really, it’s not very hard to figure out, but the manual makes it seem like it’s some kind of Wiccan astrological device. After a couple of months, it hit me, Maths is really simple, it’s the manual that isn’t!

I do wish there was a common physical format for Eurorack manuals. It’d make life a lot easier.


I have said it before on various threads so I might as well say it here: block diagrams. A lot of modules would more comprehensible with a block diagram with signal flow - audio and CV, indication of normalising, control ranges annotated, etc. Maybe not everyone’s preferred way of getting information and might not apply to some modules but I bet the majority of manufacturers have block diagrams of their products as a matter of course - just make them available in the manual...minute cost, little effort, rarely done.
Plugler
MarcelP wrote:
tau_seti wrote:
Doepfer manuals are beautiful and thorough. A while ago somebody sold me a rare tiny binder full of them. I love looking through it.

Makenoise’s manuals seem to be through, but it’s like reading a calculus textbook. It gives me a headache. Like Maths, really, it’s not very hard to figure out, but the manual makes it seem like it’s some kind of Wiccan astrological device. After a couple of months, it hit me, Maths is really simple, it’s the manual that isn’t!

I do wish there was a common physical format for Eurorack manuals. It’d make life a lot easier.


I have said it before on various threads so I might as well say it here: block diagrams. A lot of modules would more comprehensible with a block diagram with signal flow - audio and CV, indication of normalising, control ranges annotated, etc. Maybe not everyone’s preferred way of getting information and might not apply to some modules but I bet the majority of manufacturers have block diagrams of their products as a matter of course - just make them available in the manual...minute cost, little effort, rarely done.


Doepfer sells a printed (!) service manual (only in German), which includes all modules: A-100SM

http://www.alex4.de/item/doepfer-a-100sm-service-manual-german

If I have enough time (sometime in the future), to deep into DIY and modding, I will buy this service manual. That will be a good foundation and will save much time and money getting informations.
mskala
Professional technical writing is expensive, and not many customers seem willing to pay more on the base price of a module just to get a better manual. But I wonder if there'd be a market for quality third-party module manuals.
BaloErets
I think it's easy to take an arm-chair approach to the situation, rather than to think back to the days when we all got started with modular.

I personally agree that all printed manuals should clearly state how to properly plug your modular to your power. I specify printed, because this assumes that you didn't go to the respective company's website to download the manual. If you managed to go there to download the manual, then I'm assuming anyone can manage to get the information from the website (and equally assuming that the website provides the information, or a link to the information).

I remember going through the same issue with my 1st doepfer module, and having the same frustrations. With that said, I never felt the necessity to write a post about it, but I regard myself as both a patient person, and one who loves to solve puzzles. At the end of the day, a product that has been professionally manufactured should by all means provide the user with clear and proper instructions as to how to use their product safely and without risks of damage. That's my personal opinion, but I don't think any less of companies that do not do so. I just think they have ways to mitigate time wasted on customer support and easily avoidable repairs.

But I also have to give credit where credit is due, and 4ms make AMAZING manuals. I regularly reference the SISM manual to people who might not even own the module, but rather as a great reference to understanding the necessity and joy of something so mundane as attenuation, offsetting and rectifying in the modular world. The DLD manual should be a textbook and reference as to how to write an intuitive manual.
Illwiggle
Agreed re: the DLD manual. What a pleasant surprise when I opened the box! I hate reading screens for manuals. The worst is when you go to print out a manual and the document is scaled outside the margins of 8.5 x 11”, prints with words cut off. The 4ms SMR pdf is like that, and the Mangrove too
Phitar
To the OP....
The manufacturers you mention in your initial post are very good about providing details on how to properly connect power to their modules. Usually found right after the ubik 1st page safety declarations. Generally everyone follows the Doepfer guidelines for eurorack. Read the whole manual first.

If you still are unsure or in doubt asking on these forums will probably get you a fast response that will help.

I don't think the module user manuals are bad when it comes to basics like how to power it up. Where most seem to fall short in my opinion is in the areas of block or schematic diagrams ( kinda understandable since this may include trade secrets) and a list and diagram with video of every possible way to patch the module ( This I feel is totally unforgivable!)
Franktree
TemplarK wrote:
In no way is that manual bad. Its just not convoluted by information that is pertinent for all modules manufactured by Doepfer and given to you in the case manual. If Doepfer added this information for every module they make it would add 200 pages to their already extremely informative website making it convoluted and difficult to find the information your really looking for, it assumes some prior knolwedge of plugging a module in but once you've plugged one in its pretty easy in most cases to work out how its done for all the others. If your still unsure a quick google of "how to plug a eurorack module in" will bring up several pages and videos with guides of how its done properly.


I don't think that's accurate. All I'm saying is that in each Doepfer module, they include one paragraph that says "the -12v pins are on the bottom." That wouldn't add 200 pages. It would add, at most, 1 paragraph. And it's crucial information. There's no reason to leave it out of module manuals. I would also expect that in a case manual, there would be info about how to plug modules in to the case appropriately. I would not really expect that the case manual would tell me how to plug power into modules.
Franktree
Ok, I agree with the general sentiment that many of these companies are very small and can't afford the cost of writing a detailed manual. That's fair enough. I can certainly appreciate that. But in this day and age, posting information on a website you already control is fairly cheap. If it's not going to be how to use the module (which I recognize might require paying a technical writer, which would be too expensive) a simple diagram or information on one of your webpages saying "this unit should be plugged in this way, this unit should be plugged in that way," etc.

I also agree, and it has been my experience, that most modules are marked to show you how to plug in them. So it's often not an issue. But when it's not marked, it is--particularly if the manual doesn't make clear how to plug it in either.
nomass
Listen up you whippersnappers. Back in the day there was only Doepfer or DIY. You couldn’t be said to be a proper wiggler unless you’d blown up eight or ten modules. We all had singed eyebrows and nose hairs, and we liked it!
richardisabelle
mskala
Are we talking about general quality of manuals, or about the specific question of which manuals do or don't include the specific fact that -12V is at the bottom?

What about modules that have power orientation marked on the actual module - where do those fit in this discussion?
Jaypee
I haven't read the thread sorry...but I find the Doepfer manuals very useful to understand some basic concepts.

Manual from Schippmann (Omega-Phi) is very very technical about FM and PM. Good if you want to learn more about the subject.

Worst manual are Mungo's ones...but it's kinda part of the "you have to discover the modules by your own" philosophy I guess hehe. I'm not complaining here smile
Yes Powder
richardisabelle wrote:
(space pilot!)


hihi applause
TemplarK
Franktree wrote:
TemplarK wrote:
In no way is that manual bad. Its just not convoluted by information that is pertinent for all modules manufactured by Doepfer and given to you in the case manual. If Doepfer added this information for every module they make it would add 200 pages to their already extremely informative website making it convoluted and difficult to find the information your really looking for, it assumes some prior knolwedge of plugging a module in but once you've plugged one in its pretty easy in most cases to work out how its done for all the others. If your still unsure a quick google of "how to plug a eurorack module in" will bring up several pages and videos with guides of how its done properly.


I don't think that's accurate. All I'm saying is that in each Doepfer module, they include one paragraph that says "the -12v pins are on the bottom." That wouldn't add 200 pages. It would add, at most, 1 paragraph. And it's crucial information. There's no reason to leave it out of module manuals. I would also expect that in a case manual, there would be info about how to plug modules in to the case appropriately. I would not really expect that the case manual would tell me how to plug power into modules.


http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

How is that not accurate? I count at least 100 manuals for modules in that list? There is also pages and pages more information in the Doepfer website. Also because every module plugs in the same way isn't it obvious to just provide that information once?
sempervirent
tau_seti wrote:
Like Maths, really, it’s not very hard to figure out, but the manual makes it seem like it’s some kind of Wiccan astrological device. After a couple of months, it hit me, Maths is really simple, it’s the manual that isn’t!

Ha! Laughed out loud. Also you have just discovered the marketing value of willful obfuscation, one area where MN consistently delivers.

Writing (good) manuals is incredibly time-consuming and it's also among the least fun things about making a module. So it's not surprising that documentation (when it even exists) is often so inadequate. For reference the manual I did for Permutation/Variant took about 30-40 hours of work. After months (or years) of working on a module you're ready to move on to the next big idea and writing technical documentation is the last thing you want to spend time doing. And yet... it must be done!



I've been most impressed by some of the manuals that people have made on their own. One of those guys should start up a Patreon or something and then start offering their services to manufacturers. I'd guess that a few people out there would be willing to create user manuals in exchange for modules, especially if they could standardize their design format and not have to reinvent the wheel for every new module/manufacturer.
radin
See the mylar video above as it has everything you need to know about plugging your modules in.

Regarding manuals, the Make Noise manuals are some of the best manuals out there. The shared system manual is an amazing treatise, well layed out and incredibly detailed.

http://www.makenoisemusic.com/content/manuals/sharedsystemmanual_1.10. pdf
Franktree
TemplarK wrote:
How is that not accurate? I count at least 100 manuals for modules in that list? There is also pages and pages more information in the Doepfer website. Also because every module plugs in the same way isn't it obvious to just provide that information once?


I suppose. I assume I'm not the only one in the history of modular who has done exactly what I did, because it seems to me reasonable. I had a module, the A-108. It had no marking to tell me where the -12v pins were. So I went online and I looked up the A-108 module manual. I figured if a manual were going to tell me how the power for a particular module works, it would be in the manual for that module. I did not think that I should instead look for the information about the A-108 module in a manual for a complete different Doepfer product.

I recognize (now) that since all Doepfer modules are the same, there is a certain logic to having the information about all of its modules in one place. But I didn't know that at the time, and I would imagine there are other people just getting started who aren't somehow imbued with that knowledge at birth. I think it remains true that the most straightforward (and safest) thing to do is put power information about a particular module in the manual for that module--particularly if there are no markings on the module itself to provide you that information directly. I don't see why that's such a crazy idea. It would be like 3 sentences.
Mikeyg3k
See I disagree here. I love most modular manuals for example check out tip tops manuals for their drum modules. Seemingly not a lot going on with those yet they contain a wealth of info on electronic drum programming and that really helped me because I’ve always wanted that xox drum sound but never owned a machine and this didn’t know about how to re-create a lot of the things I’ve heard on my favorite records thru the years. (Like choking oh/ch, accents, etc.) mostly basic info but whoever wrote the manuals took the time to explain this stuff.

On the other hand I am never more lost than when I am looking for something not super specific (and looking for a big picture explanation) thumbing thru an Elektron manual. Of course their manuals contain everything you need but personally I don’t find it an easy or enjoyable experience. But also as mentioned, forums help a lot.
Righty
A very simple idea that costs nothing is this.

1. Write a draft of a manual.
2. Find a person who is unfamiliar with your module.
3. Have them walk through the manual with the module.
4. Note where they struggle.
5. Revise content from #4.
6. Repeat 1-4.

As for writing skills, many of the poor manuals I have seen (in any field) suffer from not applying writing fundamentals most of us learned in junior high school. Clear formatting, structuring of ideas... I mean Jesus, there is no excuse to not use a well formed heading structure - even fricking Word does this for you, let alone Markdown, html....
iheartmodular
manual clarity inversely proportional to hipster factor?

just for light hearted fun (no flaming please) please rate your favourite manufacturer's manuals on a scale of 1 - 10

10 being the most difficult/incomplete/arcane/non-existant and 1 being the easiest/clearest/complete/helpful

i will start with:

Mannequins seriously hipster unfathomable artsy word salad manuals

10/10

hihi
Dragonaut
8/10 Synthesis Technology. Paul expects us to comb through various Muffwiggler threads and YouTube videos to get the e352 all worked out. Can anybody tell me what’s the proper way to do the FM calibration on this thing? Just hit the calibrate button?
ZenitSar
In my view if a person or company can develop and create a module then they likely have plenty of brain power to write up a basic manual on their product.

Particularly if there are functions that go deeper than the knobs or buttons on the faceplate then the manual should give you a clear description on how to access those functions. These descriptions should be layed out neatly and easy to read or reference in the future. Not buried in some terribly written paragraph sandwiched between other terribly written paragraphs.

In addition, common uses for their product should be written up as generically as possible. For example, don't use your own product with a long name when describing possible uses (our blah blah z5000 series utltro-digital oscillator in every sentence) when all that needs to be said is that A output goes to an oscillator. Just an example, but point is not to upsell your other stuff, rather make it very clear and simple to understand. Oh, and don't include pictures of your other products. I don't need to know where the inputs are on your (insert long product name here) and how it connects to the product I bought. Simple block diagrams will do, thank you.

I think maybe some of these guys don't have any graphic design skills. I do that for a living, so making things easy to understand at a glance is my business. Maybe I'm biased, but they might hand off the edit and layout job to a pro and the geek who designed the module should do most of the technical writing.
mskala
I don't often see 1-10 scales where 1 is good and 10 is bad. Anyway, I like the Mutable Instruments manuals for coverage and clarity.

Having videos instead of manuals is an automatic fail as far as I'm concerned - videos are nice for promotion, but far inferior to text for presenting the basic facts of how to use a module.
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