Re: what's best for citeline support?

From: Mathew A Willmott <willmott_at_MIT.EDU>
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 17:36:06 -0400

Hi Stefano,

Thanks for this proposal (and thanks also for your quick responses to
all of the users emailing you about the software!). I agree that it's
valuable to keep Citeline running as is, provided that we (that is, you,
or whoever is taking over the development) are able to continue taking
feedback like what we've been seeing, responding to it in a timely
fashion, and applying the knowledge that we gain to improve the system.

I think what you've proposed doing with a Google group sounds like a
reasonable solution which addresses the issues that you put forth. Is
this a common means of support for the things that you've been
producing? If not, then what have you been doing to handle those?

I'll least chime in with what my "vision" for the citeline-lib list
was. I was under the impression that it would pretty much be solely the
MIT folks who were part of our pilot that would be using this and asking
us for help (perhaps with more worldly issues like "How do I get a
BibTeX file out of X?" or "How can I put my new exhibit in location
Y?"). I sort of saw myself as the initial triage-type person, with
everybody else on the list basically to see what questions people are
having, how it's all going, and who is using the service. As such, if
an easy question were to come in, I'd either figure out what's wrong and
tell them or send them a stock answer, copying the list so that they see
it's been taken care of and they can chime in with extra comments if
necessary. If it was something more in depth that I couldn't answer,
I'd respond with an initial answer and call on the appropriate person or
people from citeline-lib--the subject specialist, the cite-help group,
or the developers--to provide a more complete response.

I don't think this is a completely dead idea, if it seems like a
reasonable one...what if anybody signing in with an MIT email address
sees both the Google group and the citeline-lib list for help, and
everybody else sees just the Google group? I guess that has the
drawback that questions to the list aren't archived, but it allows us to
support the people who this was intended for (or at least the people
that the citeline-lib group was formed to support). And it still
maintains the Google group which can form a community of users.


Stefano Mazzocchi wrote:
> NOTE: this is address to all the people subscribed to this list.... if
> you have comments/opinions/suggestions, please, let yourself be heard.
> Thanks.
> - 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
> usefulness.
> 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 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 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.
> thoughts?

Mathew Willmott
Library Liaison for Physics
MIT Science Library
Room 14S-134
77 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Received on Mon Aug 25 2008 - 17:36:06 EDT

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