Culture and the CUED help system
CUED's help system has a rather elite target audience who are
science-literate, but can be naive computer-wise.
Amongst the opinions about the Help System are these -
Some of these beliefs inhibit page production
- That it in some sense belongs to the Computer staff (it does)
- That it in some sense belongs to a small subset of Computer Officers (it
doesn't. Any CO or operator can contribute)
- That pages have to be written in HTML using the current house style (they
should. Example pages are provided)
- That authors will get mailed if a page is wrong (they will if links go bad,
or if there are mistakes in a popular page)
- That under-graduates should consult it before asking for help in others
ways (that's what they're told in their initial documentation and
- That it's old-fashioned static HTML (most of it is static HTML)
- That material is hard to find
- If a person thinks that they're not allowed to write pages, they
might add them to their research group's web
site or to their personal pages)
- An author might rather not write a page at all than have to maintain pages long-term.
- If the help system aims to replace work doe by people, those people will be
out of a job
(or at least will have to do less pleasant work)
Some of these beliefs inhibit users trying the help system
- For the 50% of students who use Facebook at least once a day, the help
system will look old
- The un-Googly search looks unfriendly
(see Searching for help)
Though the skills that web users employ to further their hobbies aren't
always used in their academic work, the gap between the help system and other
information systems has widened recently. So in 2010 we tried a pilot system based on Wordpress blog software, hoping
to leave behind some of the above-mentioned beliefs.
- Comments can be added by anyone to pages
- A WYSIWYG editor and form-based input means fewer errors and easier authoring
- Pages can be drafted so that someone else can authorise them.
- There's more automated page- and link-checking
- It's a blog, and blogs aren't old fashioned - they're fun (User 2.0).
"The Corporate Blogging Book", Debbie Weil (Piatkus, 2006) looks at issues
relating to the introduction of blogs into an e-mail-literate workplace.
It mentions inhibitions
The book also mentions advantages
- If bosses don't blog, why should the employees?
- Some users and management think that time will be wasted (it will, if the
resulting pages aren't used and advertised by staff)
- People who are confident enough writers to post e-mail have doubts about
producing web pages (because of larger audience, and uncetainty about etiquette)
(back to the index)
- RSS feeds help reduce bulking mailing
- Less distance between "us and them" - students and staff