Re: Help revisioned as Communities of Practice?

Subject: Re: Help revisioned as Communities of Practice?
From: rudman -at- netscape -dot- com (Steve Rudman)
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 16:25:00 -0800

I haven't seen Wenger's book. But, based on anecdotal evidence, I think advanced users are more inclined to go to a menu item that makes reference to something like "product support" instead of "Help" only.

In the Netscape 6.2 Help menu, the topmost item is "Help and Support Center" (we didn't change the name of the highest-level menu name, "Help," but may do so in the future). The Help viewer and opening page is the "portal" into all user assistance and support offerings for the Netscape client. There are even pointers to developer information from the help system. But we have no data to indicate that the range of users who get info from Help is any broader now than in previous versions.


Lyda Woods wrote:

Jim Shaeffer mentioned that the term "Help" may not be suitable for user
assistance and I agree. Here are some of my observations:

Macromedia's "Help" files for products such as Flash link product help with
tutorials, knowledge-base data and ubiquitous user surveys.

The site, created by frustrated DSL users, was born because
none of the actual DSL service sites answered the users or clients' needs
well enough. This site is a grand example of all that user assistance could
be, including consumer alerts, comparative data, and user reports!
(I used to develop help for two different DSL Service Providers - although I
proposed improvements, they were apparently a low priority).

Perhaps the best "help" is provided by other, more experienced users who
aren't biased one way or another towards one particular product in a

Yes, I agree the term "Help" can not quite connote all that meaningful user
assistance can be. Check out Etienne Wenger's book, Communities of Practice
for inspiration!

Steve Rudman
Manager, Information Design Group
Netscape Communications
rudman -at- netscape -dot- com

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"The ultimate developer's tool for designing help systems. A product
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Help revisioned as Communities of Practice?: From: Lyda Woods

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