Request for help: classifying & presenting online documents

Subject: Request for help: classifying & presenting online documents
From: Judith Grobe Sachs <judygs -at- UIC -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 22 Sep 1995 08:02:33 CDT

Hi all-

I am "document" for a computer center at a university (and I have
an email address to prove it!). We are in the process of changing
the way we index and distribute our extensive set of online
documentation. I have two questions about this. The first is easy
to state, so I'll start with it. I think we're having problems
designing our new system because we're all either displaced
academics or programmers newly out of college. None of us has had
any formal training that can help us with the indexing and
classification of information. It's too late now to take courses,
but I'd appreciate recommendations of books or articles that
address the question of indexing and presenting our documentation.

The second question requires background information. We know that
our old distribution system had two major problems, and we've have
come up with a working scheme for the new system that specifically
addresses these problems.

* Because computer-related tasks are so interdependent, we ended up
with circular menus. (For example, email -> the Internet -> email.)
A number of people found this confusing. We can't really get rid of
these circular references, but in the new system we're clearly
identifying these as "see also's". We're going to make sure the
rest of the menus strictly follow a tree structure.

* People had a hard time finding the type of information they
needed in cases where keyword searches returned a number of hits.
The list of documents returned was (more or less) sorted with the
basic introductory information at the top, and the more advanced
and technical information toward the bottom. But it wasn't always
clear which was which. Also, we're supporting a number of different
operating systems now and it isn't always clear which operating
systems a particular document referred to. So in the new system,
each document with be labelled by "style" -- one or more of intro,
tips, FAQ, reference manual, and tutorial, and by "Operating
System" -- dos, mac, cms, unix, other, all.

I'm pretty confident that replacing circular menus with "see
also's" is the right way to go. But I'm having some problems with
the "operating system" concept. How do we classify info about
networking (say the SLIP software people use to dialin, or
theoretical descriptions of communications protocols)? And what
about an interview of our director from our newsletter, the
location and schedules of our public labs, a computer center
telephone and email directory, a glossary of network-related terms?
I'd like to add "news" as a style and add something to the "OS" (I
don't know what) for info that can't be classified by operating

So the second question -- are we on the right track with these
classifications? Is this going to make it easier for people to find
the right information for their level and expertise and their

Thanks for listening. And thanks for whatever advise you have to


Judith Grobe Sachs +*+ Computer Center, University of Illinois at Chicago
(312)996-3758, fax 996-6834 +*****+ If you don't get everything you want,
judygs -at- uic -dot- edu +*+ think of the things you don't get that you don't want.

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