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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?
Righty
iheartmodular wrote:
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


I name this iHearts Constant

Mannequins is off the charts obnoxious poseur nonsense. Off the scale
Disting Mk 4 - sorry, but you suck in manuals. 6
Make Noise and Tip Top violate some of the ZenitSar's insightful issues - using other of their their own modules in the manual is obnoxious. 5
My Doepfer A-156 manual is... wait, it doesn't have one! 9
Paranormal Patroler
I'm a tech writer by profession. I doubt it would be an easy task to write manuals for all manufacturers in their preferred style. Don't forget that Eurorack manuals are not just about simplicity, but also marketing (which frankly speaking they shouldn't be but if it's the only copy around... ).

I'm also very unsure whether most manufacturers would justify the expense. Modules get sold nonetheless. Not a lot of people complaining about manuals. The manufacturers I've worked with it's usually just out of courtesy or curiosity; or because it's a module I've beta tested or I wanna get involved in.
vailsy
The nerdseq manual is one of the best ones i’ve read for a while, unless the module itself is just very intuitive in my case. Probably the manual is good though
Rigo
Righty wrote:
My Doepfer A-156 manual is... wait, it doesn't have one! 9


http://www.doepfer.de/a100_man/A156_man.pdf
iheartmodular
mskala wrote:
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.


thumbs up for mutable instruments manuals

good and bad in this context are interchangeable

some people like clear and instructive others like mysterious and challenging

love
Illwiggle
I wonder if Muff’s forum would be so active if thorough manuals were written. We wouldnt be asking each other quite as many questions haha
Righty
Rigo wrote:
Righty wrote:
My Doepfer A-156 manual is... wait, it doesn't have one! 9


http://www.doepfer.de/a100_man/A156_man.pdf


Damn, meant A-185-2, yet even without a manual I love it.
ZenitSar
Paranormal Patroler wrote:
I'm a tech writer by profession. I doubt it would be an easy task to write manuals for all manufacturers in their preferred style. Don't forget that Eurorack manuals are not just about simplicity, but also marketing (which frankly speaking they shouldn't be but if it's the only copy around... ).

I'm also very unsure whether most manufacturers would justify the expense. Modules get sold nonetheless. Not a lot of people complaining about manuals. The manufacturers I've worked with it's usually just out of courtesy or curiosity; or because it's a module I've beta tested or I wanna get involved in.


Yeah, true it might be difficult for a "normal" person to understand the ins & outs of a module enough to produce a good manual. Like anything, it helps to know a product, it's uses, and it's buyers really well.
Xtheunknown
I am most frustrated by the lack of output voltage specifications and input voltage requirements in most Eurorack documentation. The Moog Mother 32 manual, however, is excellent in the regard and superb overall. Make Noise is excellent in providing voltages for all inputs and outputs as well.

I’d be interested in hearing from some Eurorack module manufacturers on this topic. Providing this data shouldn’t be that hard and is quite useful, in my opinion.
MarcelP
richardisabelle wrote:


Nice!

Shouldn’t the water level have a sustain stage that is modulated by bladder integration time? At my age the sustain stage is getting shorter... Peter Grenader
motorhead412
iheartmodular wrote:
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


Mannequins gets an 11
radin
Interesting and fair discussion of Mannequins by Tom Whitwell and Mylar starting at the 1 hour mark on the video below. The whole thing is worth a watch

(alt+y)
ckwjr
In my opinion 4ms has some of the best manuals I've seen, e.g. the Stereo Triggered Sampler and Dual Looping Delay. Firmware update documentation is great too.
Shledge
Good to see that even youtubers like mylar hate mannequins manuals lol
adaris
I think the Flame Chord Machine 2 is a fine module, but I found the manual to be really confusing at first. Clear explanation is just not the strong suit of whomever wrote it. It's never a good sign when they think you need to know the width and height of the module in mm but not the depth.
toxoplasma_gondii
motorhead412 wrote:
iheartmodular wrote:
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


Mannequins gets an 11


And to make matters even worse, the manual comes rolled up like a scroll. If conserving space is that much of a concern, why even bother? I'd rather just download a .pdf than have to leave the manual weighted down just so it becomes usable.
Paranormal Patroler
ZenitSar wrote:
Paranormal Patroler wrote:
I'm a tech writer by profession. I doubt it would be an easy task to write manuals for all manufacturers in their preferred style. Don't forget that Eurorack manuals are not just about simplicity, but also marketing (which frankly speaking they shouldn't be but if it's the only copy around... ).

I'm also very unsure whether most manufacturers would justify the expense. Modules get sold nonetheless. Not a lot of people complaining about manuals. The manufacturers I've worked with it's usually just out of courtesy or curiosity; or because it's a module I've beta tested or I wanna get involved in.


Yeah, true it might be difficult for a "normal" person to understand the ins & outs of a module enough to produce a good manual. Like anything, it helps to know a product, it's uses, and it's buyers really well.


Well, yeah, I would be happy to be working on such a thing full time. But frankly speaking I doubt the request is so big that manufacturers would comply.

Maybe I'm wrong.

A proper manual can only be written if you fully understand the device and the purpose of use. One of the issues with some manufacturers (Euro, modular, or generally electronic music instruments) is that they consider "clarification" as "dogma", and they don't want to cage their users into a specific way of working with their product. It's a fair point, but that doesn't make for good documentation. It can make for a good reading though!

Also, it's funny, but we tend to think of documentation as a PDF kind of thing. Videos and tutorials are also documentation. Some people prefer those, others prefer PDFs. A manufacturer ought to cater for both in my humble opinion.

And since someone brought it up, I really like the Mutable Instruments stuff, but I always find that the documentation leaves me wanting. Not everything is explained in detail, a lot of information can be found missing if you're digging deeper. It's a relatively relaxed and engaging read, which covers 70-80% of a module or more. Some things could've been done better, but they do stand out in terms of graphic design ... that's a given.

I look to Mackie for inspiration myself. hihi
adaris
Videos are nice but IMO they really shouldn't take the place of a manual. If I want to know what voltages the CV inputs are expecting I don't want to have to try to remember where in the video that information was mentioned (if it's mentioned at all). I should be able to search through some text and find that answer very quickly. Also I've seen some videos that fail to answer even basic questions about their module's functionality, so the people that are bad at writing manuals are often just as bad at making explanatory videos.
Shledge
A good panel design should speak for itself. Manuals are there for the details or if it's complex by design (eg. shapeshifter).

If you need a manual just to actually use basic functions on a module, then it has failed.
deke
Shledge wrote:
A good panel design should speak for itself. Manuals are there for the details or if it's complex by design (eg. shapeshifter).

If you need a manual just to actually use basic functions on a module, then it has failed.


Hey, we got off on the wrong foot in another thread, but I'm willing to bet in person we would agree on many things. We might even be chummy. Apologies if I was a pedantic dick head.

You are right and certain modules (and other devices) make this look so easy. Of my stuff, there are a few standouts. Metropolis, Batumi, Oscillation, Black Wavetable VCO, and a few utilities. Filters are always easy it seems. A couple are sort of in between. Plaits and Clouds for example. You can kind of get by to a point, but need the manual for some important modal/hidden stuff. The one module that is really interesting (to me) is 0-Coast. You can do a lot with it, discover a lot, right out of the box, without really knowing what the heck you are doing. Then, the manual and countless videos can help you discover even more.
Paranormal Patroler
Shledge wrote:
A good panel design should speak for itself. Manuals are there for the details or if it's complex by design (eg. shapeshifter).

If you need a manual just to actually use basic functions on a module, then it has failed.


Saved by documentation is how it's called. A good UI is irreplaceable.
Plugler
Shledge wrote:
A good panel design should speak for itself. Manuals are there for the details or if it's complex by design (eg. shapeshifter).

If you need a manual just to actually use basic functions on a module, then it has failed.


+1

If I look on a module, and can not understand in a few seconds, for what each knob and switch is for, I will not buy it.

And that goes for many modules!

That's one of the reasons, why I have only Doepfer modules (and two DIY) until now.
Only grey ones with black text and a good readable font. Easy to read and use, even in low light conditions.
adaris
Plugler wrote:
Shledge wrote:
A good panel design should speak for itself. Manuals are there for the details or if it's complex by design (eg. shapeshifter).

If you need a manual just to actually use basic functions on a module, then it has failed.


+1

If I look on a module, and can not understand in a few seconds, for what each knob and switch is for, I will not buy it.

And that goes for many modules!

That's one of the reasons, why I have only Doepfer modules (and two DIY) until now.
Only grey ones with black text and a good readable font. Easy to read and use, even in low light conditions.


Call me crazy but if I was a module designer I would try to accompany my good panel designs with clear, concise, comprehensive documentation, regardless of how basic or complex the module was. It really isn't that hard to do both. Speaking for myself, I don't like to make a lot of assumptions about how a module works before I buy it. Take the Trogotronic Model 11 for example:

https://trogotronic.com/product/m11/

The description says it functions as a VCA, but it also functions as a CV generator and a momentary switch controlled by the button on the module, and the accompanying video explains these latter functions very clearly:

https://youtu.be/iIsTLWCNR2Q

So given the other, less common functions of this module, should a potential buyer still assume that the CV In controls the VCA in the usual manner? IMO this is a natural question for a potential customer to ask, and one that could easily have been anticipated and answered with one or two lines in either the video or in an accompanying manual, but wasn't. And as your post just demonstrated, there are potential customers who will pass on buying a module if it's not immediately obvious to them how it works. In this case though I don't see this as a failure of the panel design, I see it as a failure of the video/manual.
akrylik
I think these are all good points!

But why are we ignoring the fact that many people buy a module for their own entertainment or escapism (let's see what happens when I plug this into that and turn this knob!) and not as a tool to increase musical productivity? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the people who use their modular with a specific goal in mind turn out to be a minority.

I hope we can accept both types of modular usage and the manufacturers that target them.
Paranormal Patroler
akrylik wrote:
I think these are all good points!

But why are we ignoring the fact that many people buy a module for their own entertainment (let's see what happens when I plug this into that and turn this knob!) and not as a tool to increase musical productivity? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the people who use their modular with a specific goal in mind turn out to be a minority.

I hope we can accept both types of modular usage and the manufacturers that target them.


True, but you can always choose not to read the manual.
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