RE: Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help

Subject: RE: Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help
From: <Brian -dot- Henderson -at- mitchell1 -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2010 07:46:03 -0700

I am definitely a person who would prefer to pick the brains of another
human before searching documentation. It usually saves time (well, mine,
at least). And, I have found, most people like being asked about their
areas of expertise (I try to avoid the ones who don't seem to enjoy it).
It's a win/win, in most cases.

A perfect example of mine also involves Excel.

I needed to sort a column of mixed-formatted years; some cells contained
"XXXX", and others contained "XXXX-XX". Apparently, the introduction of
a dash changes the nature of the cells, and they will not sort together
with non-dashed numbers.

I knew that I didn't know enough about Excel to be able to easily find
the answer in Help. But I did know somebody in the Accounts department.
Since my friend actually uses Excel the way it was intended, she had
never run across the problem I was having. Yet she was able to figure
out how to get Excel to sort the way I needed it to in less than a
minute. Given my situation, only a crazy person (or a very stubborn one)
would reject using such a resource.

(BTW, I dare any non-expert to find a solution to the sorting problem in
Excel's Help.)


-----Original Message----- From: Tara Charter

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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Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help: From: Tara Charter

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