Documentation is more than just lacking, much of it is useless

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Documentation is more than just lacking, much of it is useless

Post by smather2175 » Wed May 06, 2020 4:48 am

I say useless because even when topics and features are documented, they are written in such a blase manner as if they expect everyone to be a CCTV expert. I posted the following on a thread asking about any 'real' manual other than the help screens and someones suggestion to check out one from Amcrest. It explains my topic header.

There is no version 5 manual with the exception of a .pdf offered at an Amcrest site that, unfortunately, is nothing more than the program help file converted to a downloadable .pdf. I've never use ver 4 and am new to CCTV software systems even though I have 40 years in IT - just never security cams. Anyway, their documentation can be described in ones word, 'sucks.' I've let them know what I think, but in no way do I think that will change anything. Since these systems are not in my skillset I need all the help I can get. I paid for priority support and intend to use the crap out of it to make up for the shortcomings in the documentation. It is most certainly not written for the novice, and I'd be he hard pressed to believe that a comfortable user would get what they needed easily. So much of the documentation uses phrases similar to, 'That is discussed further on... later section...' and then when you get there you are disappointed. Many fields are not even addressed. What is this checkbox or text field for? Never referenced. Things like the list of actions that can be taken when a specific camera is triggered are not detailed in any way. For instance, when a camera is triggered you can select,'Outdoor Mode.' What is outdoor mode? No other mention anywhere and this is simply one of many examples. Don't get me wrong, I like the feature set Blue Iris has to offer and according to many reviews it's 'da bomb.' However, in all my years in software development I always told a new gig - I was a consultant - that I didn't know everything right to do, but I sure can tell you some of the things not to do. One of those is trying to be all things to all people. You usually end up over-engineering and working on features and use cases that are rarely, if ever, used by the vast majority of your customer base. Microsoft Word is a great example. There are many features in Word that maybe 1% of the user base would ever use. Do they add value to the product. I guess, for the 1%. What if instead of spending money on implementing those features that have no value to 99% of your users you spent it on excellent documentation, how-to videos, training material, etc.

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Re: Documentation is more than just lacking, much of it is useless

Post by MikeBwca » Wed May 06, 2020 2:27 pm

Speaking of not enough detail...

Where is this 'Outdoor Mode' that you speak of when triggered?

If your referring to one of the Mode Action commands (50Hz, 60Hz, Outdoor), these are camera settings, not Blue Iris settings. These are also available via a cameras 'PTZ Control' popout 'Mode' menu.

Not to be too picky.... but really! One l o n g paragraph is difficult to read and separate all the info. I feel like I'm back in college listen to a professor... :cry:

You've got a few years on me in IT. I was in for around 37 years, IBM Mainframe System engineer.
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Re: Documentation is more than just lacking, much of it is useless

Post by HeneryH » Wed May 06, 2020 6:05 pm

What is wrong with a help file converted to PDF?

You want the info in a different format? Well... I want a pony.
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Re: Documentation is more than just lacking, much of it is useless

Post by Matts1984 » Wed May 06, 2020 6:29 pm

HeneryH wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 6:05 pm
What is wrong with a help file converted to PDF?

You want the info in a different format? Well... I want a pony.

Now that the rant is over.... how can we help you? Yes the help document/file is a bit wordy and flows like natural (very technical) language but... not everyone is an expert tech writer - no offense to the actual author. This is software that is a one-time purchase, optionally anyway, for less than $100 that does an amazing job - enough that it's widely regarded as one of the best. Anyone is more than welcome to pay far more for a better help file. I actually find it quite detailed. I just sometimes don't find things the first time I'm looking... sometimes I randomly find tweaks that I can use to optimize my system that I didn't even know were "things".

To the point of so many things being undocumented, the file is 200 pages already. It's difficult to make an "expert" level manual with every single config parameter that applies to all experience types especially when so much is dependent on third party hardware that links to the software. To make reference to MikeBwca... I'm sure there are IBM Mainframe documents but I doubt there is one that covers every single aspect, to cover 99% of issues that most would encounter. A novice, or someone without that skillset, is going to struggle to get it up and running perfectly without getting their feet dirty, asking for help, using guess-and-test, etc.

Most techie things, electronics, etc you buy these days come with at most a 6 page pamphlet - and it's in 2 or 3 languages so you basically get the cover page and an email address/phone number that has a non-technical call center representative at the other end. I acknowledge BI is an organically growing system, which excites me as it's not a dead project, and all aspects - including documentation, are constantly being enhanced. Is it perfect? No... neither are you.
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Re: Documentation is more than just lacking, much of it is useless

Post by JVH » Wed May 06, 2020 8:28 pm

I understand the frustration over incomplete or out of date documentation.
When I first purchased BI5 around the first of March 2020 I printed the included PDF file of 200 pages.
I like to have a ring bound manual to pour over and make notes in. (Sorry, I am old school. Ex Navy Data Systems)

I got frustrated and then I realized I had an April 2019 manual.
I found and printed out a March 2020 manual.
However I have been getting software updates at the rate of 1 to 4 a week since then.

I opened the help file and see it is April 2020.
It is a PDF file stored in the Blue Iris directory.

I am very aware the a programmer is not a technical writer.
A programmer does not think like an end user.
For myself I specialize in database development and network installation and configuration.
CCTV is not my normal thing. AOI, global DIO, PTZ, etc are new terms for me.
So I cut whoever updates the manual with some slack as this is a complicated product.
This is my 5th CCTV system. The first one had only 4 B/W cameras and recorded 24hrs on a vhs tape. I had a rack with 90 tapes in it.

I use the resources I have. The manual, these forums, Priority support, etc.
By the time the manual is completely up to date we will probably be switching to BI6 and this will all start over again....grin

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