RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question)

Subject: RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question)
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Kathleen MacDowell'" <kathleen -dot- eamd -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2016 15:30:57 -0400

Kathleen, I very much agree that the focus should be on what people are attempting to do. That is, the task they are attempting to complete and the information they are attempting to find. No one is every trying to âuse the contentâ. They are trying to solve a problem and get some work done.



This is why a lot of the research I looked at in writing my book focused on information seeking behavior rather than the use of individual content artefacts. Key parts of this for me were Carrollâs research detailed in The Nurnberg Funnel and the Information Foraging theory out of Xerox Park. This research very clearly shows that information seeking behavior very typically crosses content boundaries, which is why studying the use of individual information products is of limited value. I also looked at the studies from the UX world that show that users have an ever increasing search-dominance in their information seeking behavior, a phenomenon that David Weinberger elegantly summed up as âInclude it all; filter it afterward.â It shows that people donât seek out individual publications but search broadly and then filter the results to try to find relevant bits of information.



This is not to say that any one type of information seeking behavior is universal. There are roles for many different types of information products to meet may types of information seeking behavior. (In the book, I had to justify why I was writing a book at all, given the argument I was making. But there is still a definite role for books for certain types of argument.)



Mark



From: Kathleen MacDowell [mailto:kathleen -dot- eamd -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 3:05 PM
To: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
Cc: Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: inline links (Re: Online help access question)



Research can be off the mark at times, and it's possible that what Mark is saying about book -minded academics is true. But I think the main issue with any research, or thought about what people are doing, or writing, is to attempt to design the effort in terms of what people are attempting to do. That goes for electronic media, auditory media, visual media, or paper.



So if it's convenient for people (or me) to click links and get distracted (or not), hopefully it doesn't circumvent the purpose of their reading or the materials (in an ideal world, that is). I should note that sometimes I get distracted by links, but never when I'm finding the information I need where I'm reading. In that case, I will return to the original content. It all depends.



In that regard, I wonder how much other people work the same way.



Which really was part of the original query, wasn't it? Anyone have more information?



Kathleen





On Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 1:41 PM, <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com <mailto:mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com> > wrote:

Yup. A number of those are cited in the book.

But I would also point out that a lot of the research that has been done is
itself affected by document-thinking, which is what leads to the kinds of
statistics we were discussing earlier, such as the one about readers who
follow links not coming back to page they were on. It is only document-think
bias that makes any think that that is a significant statistic.

There are a great many studies which attempt to assess the impact of links
by testing comprehension of a single page. But this is clearly
document-biased. It assumes that the point of reading a document is to
comprehend the document. That is a classic idea in western education, but it
is silly in both technical communication terms and hypertext terms. The
point if for the reader to satisfy their own information need, which may be
quite specific and individual and may not require reading the whole of any
document, let alone being able to ask comprehension questions about it.

I also cite, and point out the biases in, several studies in this article:
http://thecontentwrangler.com/2012/05/03/re-thinking-in-line-linking-dita-de <http://thecontentwrangler.com/2012/05/03/re-thinking-in-line-linking-dita-devotees-take-note/>
votees-take-note/

But there are times when you have to look past the academic studies and look
at the biggest Petri dishes of them all, the Web and the marketplace.
Academia seldom leads in these areas. It often takes it a long time to catch
up and figure out why the stuff that is working is working. Academic careers
and academic thinking are still very heavily book based, and this naturally
affects how academics think about communication issues and how they test
idea in communication. Open notebook science is starting to teach the
academy to think in hypertext terms, but there is still a long way to go for
the academy generally to catch up with the rest of the world.

Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: Janoff, Steven [mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com <mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com> ]
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 2:25 PM
To: mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com <mailto:mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com> ; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com <mailto:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question)

Thanks, Mark.

Actually I meant scholarly papers and research studies observing and
documenting user behavior in this area.

Example: There's a great deal of research on effectiveness of screen
captures in documentation (especially software doc), per van der Meij,
Gellevij, etc.

Looking for something comparable in the area of inline links in hypertext
(especially post-2000).

I don't recall seeing those references in the EPPO book but it's been some
time.

Thanks,

Steve


On Tuesday, October 04, 2016 11:14 AM, Mark Baker wrote:

Steve,

Lots of research in my book:
https://www.amazon.com/Every-Page-One-Topic-Based-Communication/dp/193743428
1

Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: Janoff, Steven [mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com <mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com> ]
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 1:58 PM
To: mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com <mailto:mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com> ; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com <mailto:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question)

I haven't had a chance to follow this interesting discussion, but is there
any research on this?

It also seems to be something from the UX field so I would think they've
explored this at least a little.

I'd be interested in seeing any citations of good research.

Thanks,

Steve


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Kathleen MacDowell
kathleen -dot- eamd -at- gmail -dot- com <mailto:kathleen -dot- eamd -at- gmail -dot- com>

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References:
Re: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: Chris Despopoulos
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: mbaker
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: Janoff, Steven
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: mbaker
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: Janoff, Steven
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: mbaker
Re: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: Kathleen MacDowell

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