Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help

Subject: Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help
From: Tara Charter <tara -dot- charter2 -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 15:31:18 -0500

I wanted to gather opinions of those in the field about user-authored
content. I propose to write a research paper, possibly make it my APP or
Thesis about the differences between traditional online help and
user-authored content. Specifically, as an online help author for many
years, I cannot help but compare the structure of online help (TOC,
researched approved and linked topics in a hierarchy, index, search) to
user-authored content. User-authored content I am referring to could be the
content found anywhere on the Internet that was posted by a user about how
to use an application or a product. For example, my friends on fb will ask
each other (or complain to each other) about a feature on their smart phone
before going to the manufacturer for help. At work today, I was asked to
show someone how to create drop-down lists in Microsoft Excel cells and all
I did was copy the online help and send it to the requester. They could have
done this themselves. However, users seem to prefer contacting other users
before going to the online help. I prefer the online help because it is
approved and structured. What do you think?

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