The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

Lots to chew on there.  Much of it was constructive, much of it was angry, and some was just plain incorrect.  And thus the moderator moderates.

A quick, and relevant, personal anecdote.  A few weeks ago I bought a fancy new child seat for my toddler daughter.  Britax Pinnacle, about 300 bucks.  Late for a kiddie event, there I was with in the driveway with the new seat and a shockingly thick instruction manual.

And I could not install the thing.  The manual seemed to have little to do with the seat in front of me.  My wife watched as I was reduced to tears of frustration, covering the kid's ears as I streamed exquisitely creative Irish profanity.  Ultimately, I was defeated.  The kid had to go in the old seat.  It took another day until this fairly sophisticated mechanic figured out how to work the seat.  

I was ready to use my copy of the instruction manual to fan the flames of hell for Britax.  I looked them up.  2013 revenues?  $500 million.  

The point is, I know how awful it is when the instructions aren't perfect. I can still taste my perfect, white fury at the Britax child seat manual. I submit that, with 0.8% of Britax's annual revenues, CLC is pretty good at it.  But ever so far from perfect.  

Plucked from the thread and pasted below is a post by Curt.  Give it a read.  I agree with 99% of it.  This is in fact something that we've been talking about for several years.  This online approach, or some variation, might let us take the kit instruction manuals to the next level.  I'm glad to hear your suggestions, and yes, your criticism, but let's keep it constructive.  And if you have a specific question for a boatbuilder here, please ping [email protected].  We try our best but it is difficult to provide brisk and efficient customer service via bulletin board.  

Documents that are maintained in hard copy will always be innaccurate.  In Document Management circles it is said that any document older than 3 months is outdated.   The mere act of putting user (builder) documents online allows the technical writer the ability to make changes and updates "on the fly",  a little at a time, as individual issues come up on a daily basis (easier and faster for CLC) and guarantees the user is always looking at the most current version.   The resistance to change the paradigm from document centric to online is the real issue here because asking CLC to keep that many documents accurate is not a realistic option.   Once that paradigm is changed we can talk about what changes should be made, and even create a mailbox for changes that we think need to be made with a control loop saying why the change was not made or when it was changed...audit trail and all that.  Switching to Document/Configuration Managememt methods always seems complicated but once implemented companies are always glad they did.  Once before I offered to help define a system like this for CLC and that offer still stands.  Also...I know the expertise to build this into the CLC website exists within the CLC employees so there would be no "cost" to CLC to implement.


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RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

My Peeler build is my 1st Stitch and Glue in 72 years. The building manual is helping me through it all. Yes, there are some improvements needed for us that haven't done it before, but, all in all,,,, it's much clearer than the car seat installation manual. Our daughter brought our 2 year old granddaughter to Florida this early spring where we were, via airplane,,,   we had to purchase a car seat and,,,, what a process to install.  Actually it's pretty simple, but,, the instructions are way too detailed. You and your staff are doing your best which is far above most companies these days. Keep up the good work!!    Ken.


RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

  I will bet those darn kid car seats are made in China and the manual printed there too ! What's so grate about CLC kit boats is that they are made in the good old USA by us Americans ! Thank You for that John, I salute you!

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

>>And thus the moderator moderates.

As Oscar Wilde said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation"



RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom


This is a really interesting thread.  I could easily imagine an online manual format.  I think it is important that you maintain a printed version, but keeping the online version as the latest makes sense.  Important to keep in mind, epoxy and iPads don't get along (I assume you would plan on supplying a print version as well). 


The biggest advantages are the ability to:

  1. crowd source feedback... Someone has an issue or question about a step, they can reference it directly.
  2. Ability to integrate video.  A video can be worth a 1000 words when done right.  Obviously you don't want this in the printed version, but the ability to link in additional content at each step would be handy.
  3. Link to customizations.    E.g. Linking to some of the boatbuilding tips, etc...  Someone has written a great way of handling end pours or rice paper printing... link to it as a side option. 

The cons:

  1. Maintenace of content becomes expected and this requires manpower.  I would expect that this would require more manpower, not less.
  2. Because it is in the manual, people expect a level of precision that requires careful review.
  3. Easier for the unscrupulous to share the content.


RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

>>I looked them up.  2013 revenues?  $500 million.  ... with 0.007% of Britax's annual revenues CLC is pretty good at it.

0.007% = 0.00007

0.00007 x $500,000,000 = $35,000

So if John sells Madness, CLC's revenues will more than double. Sure hope that's a typo (it'd be appropriate for the thread :-) ). If not, they'll never be able to afford to upgrade the documentation process.



How I learned to stop worrying and love online documentation.

For what it’s worth…

I work in technical documentation. For many, many years my company produced paper manuals that you could only get when you purchased our products. When we began to transition to online-only documentation, it took AGES to get over these worries:

  • People need printed manuals! They need to hold it! Touch it! Drag it out on the shop floor! Many were absolutely panicked at the thought of losing their printed manuals.
  • Our documentation is incredibly valuable! Providing it online felt like “giving the milk away for free.”

But over time we’ve found:

  • Not having printed manuals is not. A big. Deal. Users might print out a page or two here or there for reference away from the computer, but there has been no outcry over their loss. Consider the car seat anecdote: some good quality online documentation would’ve beaten the pants off that crappy printed manual, right?
  • Yes, our documentation IS valuable- it drives traffic to our website and is an effective marketing tool which shows potential customers how terrific our products are.

By going online only we save money/trees, our materials are easy to update, and customer’s needs are met. Win win win.



RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   In my day job we use instead of paper manuals (unless it's British and built before 1982).

Each mechanic has a laptop which has a license to access alldata plus diagnostic software and our online parts ordering program. I have a greasy refurbished Toughbook which does the job just fine. 

I do use my iPad in the boatcave at night and I try to remember to remove the epoxy coated gloves first.


RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

 +1 to Patrick.  I agree completely.  It won't happen instantly, but I think within a couple of years we'll be all digital with the manuals, with an option to order a print manual if desired.  

We've also been actively working on DRM schemes for downloading our large-scale (and full-scale) plans.  THAT would be a boon for a lot of people.

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

The CLC manuals are pretty good compared to other kit companies that I have used.  That being said, there is always room for improvement!  John, when do you want my revised Peeler Manual?  I stopped writing notes in it when I stopped using it due to an immense amount of dust and debris clogging the pages.  At least now we have this forum for any questions that arise in the build process.  My first kit all we had was a phone to call the shop for help.

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   I only check in here infrequently, so I didn't even see the original thread.  Reading through this one, I feel like perhaps a little bit of cold water needs to be thrown on the "get on the digital bus" idea.

Don't get me wrong, I work in the software industry, have built document management platforms before, etc etc.  So I'm a big fan of technology and it's ability to short circuit some issues.  But...

1. Whether it's printed or digital, it will never be perfect for everyone.  Going digital will not all of a sudden mean there won't be customers who want to punch their monitors because the instructions are about as clear as mud.

2. CLC will lose some intellectual property.  No DRM is perfect, in fact most DRM isn't even very good.  Just ask the music and movie industries.  Once something becomes easy to copy and repost, it will be.  All you need is one boat guy who is also a tech guy with somewhat lax morals and those boat plans are now free to download, a la napster of the 90s, silk road of the 00s, or torrents now.

3. A great way to head off some of the more frustrated feelings is to up the real time support budget.  CLC is pretty good about saying send us an email or call us, which is nice, although let's be honest it's not great.  My first email to info@clcboats took about a week before I got an answer.  That taught me I better ask any questions long before I get to the stage where I need to know the answers.  That's ok, but if somebody has different expectations and is angry that epoxy is curing while they're trying to get a hold of somebody...

I'm not trying to be too much of a downer, all I'm saying is that moving to digital will save CLC some money (if nothing else just on printing costs), but it won't solve all one's problems...

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

I've been in the software world since hand-cranked computers and what I've observed about piracy in general is that there's 3 kinds of people - those who will always pay the licensing fee, those who will never pay the licensing fee and everyone else. The first kind you never have to worry about. They will always give you your money. The second kind are also no worry, even when they successfully pirate. Since they never would have paid you anyway, there's no lost revenue. DRM may occasionally stop their piracy, but then they don't buy the product anyway so there's no gain, just the cost of DRM.

The 3rd group is the one to work on since they can go either way. In my experience, if you treat with respect and give them products and services that are worth the asking price, they will be happy law-abiding paying customers. If there is a perception of overcharging, cheating or not taking them seriously, up goes the jolly roger.

Free & open source software has even shown that you can actually make money on software that gets given away for the price of an internet connection to download it with. So if it's handled right, there's not going to be a problem with loose IP. Especially since they haveto buy their wood, glass and epoxy from somewhere.




RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

  Who cares about the instruction manual for my West River 18, which was last updated on 11/05... I just want to know why i didnt get a CLC sticker in this kit? Got one in my Chesapeake 17 lt....not complaining, just talking out loud. CLC rocks! hehehe...

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   FWIW online manuals are great in areas such as computer hardware and software which is a very dynamic invironment (sp?). Used them, love them, couldn't live without them.

That being said, I don't think once a particular kit has been in production for a bit it will be changed that much. Work out the bugs, write it up, nail it to the wall. I have found (and I'm not on the payroll) CLC to be very responsive and proactive whenever there has been a hickup

This is a creative process. Most of us that have been to a couple of rodeos have opened a kit to find a pile of bits, a picture and instructions that read "Take all this and make it look like this. (Some parts must be purchased locally.)"

CLC is about as far the other way as you can get. With the great kits, online how to video, builder's forum and content rich web site even I was able to make a good looking (from ten feet away) 'yak and only stuck the manual pages together once.

Emanuals are inevidable. I'll have to get an epoxy proof keyboard cover and a hammer proof display protector when that happens. Until then, I'll keep scribbling notes on my papyrus.

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   Okay once I realized I read to quick and your daughters name isn t Britax Pinnacle then it was a good a read with shared sentiment.

"A few weeks ago I bought a fancy new child seat for my toddler daughter.  Britax Pinnacle,"


RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom


RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   I've built four clc boats and have only found one flaw in the manuals (an omission not an error I thought they should mention which way around the hull panel goes) I love the idea of online living manuals

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   In my humble opinion, any kind of instruction manual creators would be well served to get hold of lots of Lego instructions and meditate long and hard on what makes them work so well.... I've never assembled anything with better instuctions than those that Lego creates for their plastic building block models.

I had no major issues with the CLC instuctions I used, but I'm a woodworker and comfortable with tools and processes and logics of building stuff. I can step away from the instructions and figure out ways of doing things whenever confused.

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

   Three things,

1. The care seat manual was probably printed in multi- languages that may or may not have been organized well on the page. It was likely also bulked up with information about gloom and doom how you're gonna die from your missuse of the product and it ain't their fault.

2. I though the video was more informative than the manual. Besides where else are you going to see a person in a gorilla suit paddle a kayak. .......or .......a viking funeral.

3. Manuals are good for pictures and charts. They are good for the assembly sequences of complicated things. CLC boats are not complicated. Manuals are good for dimensions.  A CLC manual is mostly free of leagl warning fodder.  OR.......I just look at the pictures anyway.


PS....I completed the latest build, a Chesapeak 17,.enough to take it on a wedding, pummeled in the Atlantic surf*, camped in the Ocala State Forest, and paddled on a biolumensent night paddle in a storm.


*operator error





RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

Hey John,

1.  I'm SUPER-BUMMED that I can't make it to PT this year.  Life got in the way for this Dad.  Sigh...

2.  One of those "life" things is going to the chiropractor because I've had to install two different car seats three different times in three different vehicles in the last week.  I got less bruised and bloody building my EP!

3.  I've done a ton of tech writing in the past and I've always believed that once you click Ctrl+P your manual is already on its way to obsolescence.  I write a lot of how-to tutorials blog-style and when I look at something I wrote with 100% accuracy just 6 months ago, I can't believe what an idiot the author was.  I remember Curt's post fondly and I would love to see a Wiki-style manual.  Case in point, I registered over at PMD a few months ago and posted some questions when I received my plans for the TA version and so far crickets...

Anyway, already looking forward to next year.  I'll be able to attend the PT Fest, probably get to show off my new PMD and my son will be able to hop into his car seat by himself so we can catch the FIRST ferry this time...

Say "Hi" to the guys at the MAS booth for me.

Chris Larsen

P.S.  I'm pretty picky when it comes to manuals and I never felt like the EP one was written in Chinese and then translated into English by a Chinese person.  I did realize that it was probably a little on the stale side, but you guys are busy looking forward and innovating the stitch-and-glue that holds the universe together.  I can see where editing manuals from almost a decade ago might feel like looking back.  On my blog, I posted a few comments about the manual:  some images where things were installed out of order with appropriate annotations, and specifically where the transom stiffeners were attached much too late in the process IMHO.

Here's the t-shirt I wore to PT last year...;)

RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

Having been a recent user of your excellent maual I feel compelled to comment.

My vote would be for an online manual. This would allow for timely updates in response to feedback. Paper copies could be made available with the orders only upon request for a nominal fee and printed as needed. As a novice I really found the hard copy of the manual useful and liked to have it in the shop for reference. I suppose hardened epoxy would pop right off a laptop or phone (finger-grease barrier) especially if you gave it a good twist, but shop dust is a whole other matter. Besides that, the paper booklet could be popped into a bag to be read in a queue or taken to the beach. Mine only tore a little bit when I fell asleep while reading  (I called it studying) in the hammock. "Print page" might be an option but I think it would just invoke Sod's law and would cause the printer to run out of ink and paper simultaneously, and have a dead tree fall on the power lines, all while the sun finds the only crack in the shed wall to shine through, heating up the rapidly curing epoxy.

I don't think I would vote for 'real time' assistance. "Have you tried turning if off and turning it back on again?" works much better for IT issues than for woodworking questions. It would take the onus for problem-solving away from the customer (though most boat-builders I know like to figure things out for themselves) and leave less down-time for the folks at CLC to be out playing with and evaluating those prototypes.

There was a story in my schoolbook when I was a kid about a fellow who was taking advice from bystanders as he took his donkey to town. In trying to please all of the people all of the time he ended up carrying the donkey on his back. CLC is a great company run by real people who seem genuinely interested in what they are producing. I hope that in trying to keep up with technology and growth the fun isn't sucked out of it all for them and it can still be about the boats, not just the process.


RE: The Instruction Manual Thread of Infinite Gloom

Printed hard copy instructions are an integral part of my build process. Builders I know, and I, will have read the manual 20-30 times before and during the build.The brain, at least my brain, experiences analogue and digital formats in fundamentally different ways. Using an analogue manual while building by hand engages the same process engine. Many studies indicate reading on screen encourages skimming. For me, shifting between digital and analogue work requires a brain reboot. No studies to support this though.

However, having an electronic WIKI in addition could be a boon, for the builder and CLC. You guys wouldn't have to answer the same question all the time and we'd be able to post some solutions to common sticky points.

This completely leaves aside the issue of problem solving skills and the joy of discovery and accomplishment.

Humbly offered, ev

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