Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2017/ Help Tips Considered Unhelpful

Help Tips Considered Unhelpful

I just logged into Github, and it offered me a "protip" at the bottom of a screen. Fortunately the tip was unobtrusive, but it got me thinking of other programs that pop up all kinds of "helpful" advice upon startup.

Help tips are useless for new users because new users are overwhelmed already. They do not want helpful things that they might or might not need in the future. They want to know the exact steps they need to get their job done immediately.

Help tips might be more useful for experienced users, because those users have enough context to recognise tips relevant to what they are trying to do.

I am pretty inefficient at vim (to the point where others mock my lack of skill) but it does what I want 80% of the time. Sometimes I will observe somebody else using vim and learn new tips, and sometimes I will look things up, and very occasionally I will stumble across a new keystroke online that really helps me out. But even in this situation I would find a bunch of "new tips" frustrating, because when I open vim my mind is focused on entering text, not learning about program features I may or may not need.

This is not the way tips work, however. New users get bombarded with tips that often are not helpful because they are too easy or too advanced. At most, new users should have access to cookbooks that tell them exactly how to accomplish the task they need to do. As it turns out, that is what StackExchange is good for, so I feel programs should get rid of these program tips entirely.

Websites are worse than native programs in many ways, because they remind me about the same thing again and again. I do not know how many times Yahoo is going to try to get me using OAuth, but I am going to refuse them every time. I am just worried that one day I will click the wrong button, at which point mutt will break and I will be hosed.

Any help tip that distracts me from my job make me angry. In particular, any time a modal popup appears on a site I know it is bad news, even if the popup is trying to offer me advice.