what's best for citeline support?

From: Stefano Mazzocchi <stefanom_at_MIT.EDU>
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 13:40:43 -0400

NOTE: this is address to all the people subscribed to this list.... if
you have comments/opinions/suggestions, please, let yourself be heard.

                                - o -

By now, a lot of you are probably nervous about the flow of help
requests about Citeline coming to this mailing lists from people that
are not affiliated with MIT.

Even more, you are probably nervous about the fact that the problems
they seem to be having are due to bugs and/or system imperfections,
other than user misunderstandings or difficulty in use of the tool,
which leaves you mostly helpless and just waiting for somebody (well,
me, since I'm the only one left working on citeline).

I've already observed several reactions about this and proposals on how
to fix this situation, here is a list:

 1) shut the system down entirely until we fix all the bugs

 2) shut the system down for non-MIT users

 3) have two different instances one for MIT users (with a link to this
list) and one for non-MIT uses with no support

I think all of these options might reduce the nervousness perceived
around Citeline but only at the expense of reducing its impact and

I have strongly advised for the system to be made available to the
general public and to remain open as long as we can afford to keep it up
(and it is safe/ for the libraries to do so).

The reason for this are multiple:

 a) during beta testing, we need the most users as possible as to
differentiate their behavior, data, skills, requirements and
expectation... this will help us get more feedback and more feedback
equals more polishness. This will make the system more solid and more
appealing to internal users once/if they get to adopt it.

 b) internal usage will only be positively influenced by external usage:
MIT faculty and students are ego-driven beings... envy will play a major
role if they see some other professor in another institution using an
MIT tool to make their web pages cooler and they are still in the ugly
and static HTML table stone-age with their own.

Unfortunately, the idea of having a one-way mailing list where people
broadcast their questions and get answered by a pool of helpers is *NOT*
the best model for this kind of situation.

First, because people send their answers but don't subscribe to the mail
list traffic, meaning that they have no idea (and no way to know) if
their question has been answered before.

Second, and most important, because of the point above, there is no
'community of users' forming, there is no mutual help, there is way for
such support system to grow along with the size of the community of users.

Which brings me to the following suggestion:

 a) the link from citeline's page to citelin-lib_at_mit.edu should be removed

 b) that link should be replaced with a link to a citeline support
Google group

 c) people will be forced to subscribe in order to be able to receive help.

This might reduce usage (people with problems will not bother to
subscribe and just walk away), but it is the first step in the creation
of a community of users that can help each other out.

Moreover, all the email messages are archived, meaning that search for
their questions before sending them and watch existing threads. Such
threads will also be available in google directly.

In the future, would this support group not be sufficient for MIT
people, the citeline-lib_at_mit.edu mail list might be resurrected and
linked back from citeline, maybe reacting on MIT certificates to
distinguish between insiders from outsiders, but I would strongly
advocate that this should be used as a measure of last resort and not as
a way to avoid spending the effort to build a truly diverse support
group for Citeline.


Stefano Mazzocchi
Digital Libraries Research Group                 Research Scientist
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
E25-131, 77 Massachusetts Ave               skype: stefanomazzocchi
Cambridge, MA  02139-4307, USA         email: stefanom at mit . edu
Received on Mon Aug 25 2008 - 13:40:43 EDT

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