Sunday, December 12, 2010

Of currency notes and information

Today, I want to talk about currency notes. Indian currency notes, to be precise. Someone asked me, "How many languages are spoken in India?" Sighing with relief that the question was not the more usual "You all don't speak Indian?", I leaned over, pulled the wallet out from my pocket, extracted a 100-rupee note, flipped it over, counted something, and declared, "Fifteen officially. Not counting Hindi and English."

Users find information in the most unlikely of places. Had I been a "normal" user, the kinds that a techwriter would have had in mind while documenting something, I'd have gone to the Constitution of India website and referred to Schedule 8 - the place that lists all official languages (22, actually, till date, not including English). If I didn't know that's where the official languages are listed, I'd have run a Google search (which, in turn, leads me to the Eighth Schedule anyway). But I am not a normal user - just like most users are not normal users. Most users get their information from places that the writer might never have dreamt of.

The currency note designer, on the other hand, is very well aware of the implications of the panel that I referred to.

It is intentional - it's been put there to remind people what a greatly diverse country we are. I should know. I used to be part of our currency presses once upon a time. We used to call it the language panel. It's almost - but not quite- an easter egg *.

Which led me to wonder - do technical writers put easter eggs in their documents? I've not seen any but would love to know.
* More on easter eggs: Wikipedia link

1 comment:

marcovanschagen said...

In creation a wireframe including a banner, I made the banner read BANNERS ARE FUN. Somewhere I read tech writing needs to be 'fun and interesting'; still not sure what that is supposed to mean.