A few posts ago, I expounded at length about how people are partly unfamiliar with the usage of their devices. Until we discover a process that allows us to learn how to use things instantly, such as with a consensual mind meld, or through direct neural imprinting, we will continue to have this affliction. Even if we had one of these abilities, some of us would no doubt struggle to use it effectively.
Customers that use evolving products like WDSC, and perhaps your own creations, go through a constant learning process, which includes looking for answers to specific questions. The implication in Don Yantzi’s RSE Advanced blog post is that the power of any tool is best realized after users have gained sufficient knowledge and experience in using and combining the multiple abilities of the tool.
It is a difficult task to provide detailed information for any relatively complex product. At times it can seem like a hit and miss proposition, like casting a net only to discover that there are holes in it. To complicate matters, these questions are being asked by people with varying levels of experience, from novices who ask general introductory questions, to experienced users who ask specific, granular questions. So your net has to be both thick with large holes, and thin with small holes. Also, questions vary in scope. Some questions may involve a process that touches many features of your product, while others are confined to a small component. Is there a solution to this problem?
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I was walking the dog Saturday night pondering the frequently asked question: “How do I start learning WDSC?” or “Where do I get started?”
People learn in different ways such as: external courses, in-house courses, self study courses, tutorials, reading a book, articles, or documentation, conference presentations and labs, and by just starting to use the it.
Other factors that affect this are: access to the learning resource (especially for external courses and conferences), time required and cost / budget. Also new users have different learning requirements than an intermediate or advanced user that just wants to learn more details about a specific function.
The good news is that all of the above resources exist for learning WDSC. The bad news is that no single place documents them all and finding them can be a nightmare. So how do we do a better job organizing these resources so that they are easy to find from WDSC? What is that magical starting point?
A solution to this problem already exists on the Web: social bookmarking. Here is the general idea: there is a website del.icio.us where you can install a browser plug-in that lets specify “tags” for any Web page you visit. Anyone can go to del.icio.us and query Web pages based on a tag or set of tags. Give it a try, go to del.icio.us and search for RSE. You can also query based on who did the tagging.
A few people have already started tagging things for WDSC, RSE, and Systemi (tags can’t have spaces). I have been using an IBM internal system social bookmarking service called dogear which allows me to tag both external and internal sites, but I’ll start using del.icio.us for external content.
How does this all relate to WDSC? The embedded help view (Help > Search) in WDSC already searches Google, infocenters, eclipse.org, and IBM developerWorks in addition to the product documentation. We could extend this to also search del.icio.us tags for the search keywords. Or provide quick links that go to some predefined del.icio.us tag searches such as WDSC Conferences (tags WDSC and conferences). Edit: I’ve updated the link to conferences from conference (conferences seems to be used more frequently on del.icio.us than conference).
This allows both IBM and WDSC users to define what resources what would show up. Anyone could add a page to the result by tagging a Web page with keywords WDSC and conference.
I’ve started and will continue to do so. I’ve been using tags WDSC, RSE, Systemi, iSeries, WebFacing, conferences, education, LPEX, and RPG. I’d be interested to hear from others in the System i community who have started tagging.
I’d also like to give a big welcome to everyone visiting the blog. This is a great opportunity for users and developers to collaborate and share ideas on the many features that makes WDSC tick.
My name is Adam Schwabe, and I’m a part of the small team of Information Developers that puts together the documentation and help material that will hopefully assist you in using WDSC. Specifically, we take care of anything that resides under that “Help” menu in WDSC. This including help topics, technical manuals, tutorials, samples, programming language support, and tours.
Personally, I’m interested in usability, user interface design, blogging, podcasting, and new media trends on the Net. I’m excited to see how this blog will help us interact with and receive more insight from you, the users.