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May 20, 2011 / Nita

Reached by GNOME Outreach

Hello GNOME! It’s me, Nita — a 26-year-old biology student and free software enthusiast from Riga, Latvia. I’ve done some web development, software testing, localization, editing and LaTeX markup, and written a couple of user manuals. And now, I’m in the GNOME Outreach Program for Women.

My project involves help usability research for the GNOME Documentation Project. I think this is a good time, as the docs are undergoing major developments:

  • in the approach, moving from old-school manuals to topic-oriented help;
  • technologically, thanks to Shaun’s active development of help tools;
  • and, of course, in their content, due to the rapid evolution of GNOME :)

In fact, it seems that most non-GSoC GOPW participants will be working on documentation-related things:
5 people in documentation, 2 in art, 2 in accessibility and 1 in localization.

For the first phase of my usability project, I’ll be asking questions like

  • When do people use help? Why don’t people use help? How do people learn to rely on help, instead of search engines, forums or friends?
  • What makes help good / useful? How do structure, content, style and technical features contribute to its usefulness?
  • What is a good way to assess the usefulness of a given help system?

scouring the literature and the web for answers, and posting some of my notes here (hopefully with less silly illustrations).

I’ve been reading everyone else’s posts on Planet GNOME, and it’s a joy to be a part of such an active and friendly community. Thanks to my partner for encouraging me to apply, to the marvellous GNOME coordinators, and to my mentor, Phil Bull. And good luck to all GOPW and GSoC participants!

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