Title page for ETD etd-01172003-103746

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Jagannathan, Vinoth
Author's Email Address vjaganna@vt.edu
URN etd-01172003-103746
Title Authoring of Help by End-users in an Online Community Network
Degree Master of Science
Department Computer Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rosson, Mary Beth Committee Chair
Carroll, John M. Committee Member
Fox, Edward Alan Committee Member
  • authoring
  • minimalism
  • online communities
  • MOOsburg
  • help systems
  • users as authors
Date of Defense 2002-12-19
Availability unrestricted

One of the key features of an online community network is that there is no central management authority; the community members themselves manage it. At the same time, for any application to be complete it must have a useful help system. So, for a community network to be completely run by the members, the task of creating and manipulating help documents must also be handled by the members/end-users. Previous studies about community networks show that extensive volunteer effort is one of the basic characteristics of a community network. Therefore a study about end-user authoring is possible in a community network.

Minimalism is an instruction design method that helps users to learn about the system by performing real tasks. This study aimed at analyzing the possibilities of guiding the end-users to create a better minimalist help document than a more traditional and comprehensive one. The users’ performance and preferences were used to compare the two approaches. The study also focused on users’ preference to using minimalist help documents versus traditional help documents.

The results indicated that it is possible to guide the end-users to create minimalist help documents. However, no significant results were found to conclude that the end-user authored minimalist help document would be better than an end-user authored traditional help document. The results also indicated that, although significant results were not found, the users seem to prefer a more traditional help, than a minimalist help, for a community network. The implications of the study and recommendations for future work are presented.

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