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Envisioning Help Resources for the Future Information Ecology: Toward an Enriched Sense of Help

Stephanie W. Haas, moderator

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


Abstract

Increasingly, people turn first to the Web to seek information, perform routine transactions, shop, or find entertainment. Yet even when puzzled or overwhelmed by complex information, tasks, and tools, people continue to be exceedingly reluctant to use help resources, except as a last resort. Reasons for this include not knowing what help resources (if any) are available, assuming help will be irrelevant to their needs, expecting it to be of poor quality, and viewing the use of help as an admission of failure. It is time to reconsider the role and nature of help. In fact, the word “help” itself may be part of the problem. In January 2005, GovStat sponsored a symposium on help: “Help in Public Access Websites: Understanding What you Find”. The goal of the symposium was to synthesize what we had learned about people’s needs for a variety of help resources into a new vision of what help could and should be. This panel reunites symposium participants to share and discuss the symposium findings. and involve the audience in envisioning what help should be and formulating the research agenda to get us there. Panelists will combine their views as researchers and practitioners in continuing to build a new vision of help and its role in the information ecology.

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