Posted by: Dennis Laughlin, President, Arzel Zoning
The recent announcement that the Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be published in paper I am sure comes as no real shock to the world. I can’t imagine sitting with a child in school today and explaining that the answers to all of their questions about historical facts and the nature of things in the world are housed in this set of books on the shelf.
Kids today are too smart for such answers. They know the world is bigger than 26 volumes, regardless of how small of a font is used.
The same is true of HVAC technicians and their interface and application of equipment. Recently, the new Manual Zr for residential zoning systems was issued by ACCA. It is a manual that took a tremendous amount of work, it exhausted the discussion of airflow dynamics in a way that is daunting to contractors. I fear, however, the role model for such manuals, the “Encyclopedia of Whatever”, is as doomed as the Britannica people have determined their own product was, sparking this week's announcement.
The Britannica people assert their online version is still the superior authority for knowledge. ACCA has adopted some of the same attitude about Manual Zr. The trouble is, Britannica competes with Wikipedia, whose largest attribute is not that it houses all knowledge, but that it starts the discussion, frames the research concepts and allows the user to target their search to the most pertinent and useful topics available. It does not seek to provide the encyclopedic experience.
HVAC technicians are familiar with the search process, they don’t necessarily accept any single source as the authority. If you think I am wrong, then why do we have the proliferation of chat boards and help blogs which seem to handle far more technical issues than any instruction manual in today’s marketplace?
Next week I will be with the HVAC Excellence group at their national educator’s conference in Las Vegas. I will be talking to 500+ technical school educators and instructors about the importance of teaching airflow when designing zoning systems. I will need to explain the recent Manual Zr and explain this encyclopedic offering.
My issue? Manual Zr spends a lot of time on what not to do.
Have you ever played the game 20 questions? Very old and elementary game, people ask questions about the item and you answer truthfully about its properties. Now let’s put a twist in the rules. Instead of telling people the properties of the item you are holding, you can only tell them what it is not.
Q: Is it bigger than a breadbox
A: It does not weigh 50 lbs.
Q: Is it red?
A: Color is not a relevant quality for this object.
Get my issue? We never really get to define the issue, proper airflow delivery for technicians who are trying to install effective HVAC zoning systems which provide comfort.
When the final meetings occurred regarding the review of Manual Zr, it was left to the industry, each manufacturer, to find a way to interface “The Manual” to their equipment. In other words we were given the job of being Wikipedia. We were the ones to provide relevancy to the current market.
So now the work begins.
But just in case you think that the reason the Encyclopedia Britannica is not being printed anymore is because print is fading, you are wrong. They are stopping printing because everyone realizes that Wikipedia is faster, more up to date and more user friendly. Even if it is not the referential authoritative high ground, people appreciate and use the tool. I don’t know what the future for Britannica will be, but any resource that is not user friendly in these times risks irrelevance.
The HVAC industry and their push for standards would do well to remember who they serve.
What are your thoughts on Manual Zr?