Understanding the Roles and Uses of Web Tutorials
In this paper we identify roles and uses of web-based tutorials through an examination of tutorials’ comments sections. Through this analytical lens, we find that web tutorials serve a variety of needs, providing: in-task help for users with an immediate, specific goal to accomplish; a means for users to proactively expand their repertoire of skills; and an opportunity for novices to shadow and experience an expert’s work practices. We also find a number of emergent practices in tutorial comments. Users post “help-me” stack traces, a type of comment useful for debugging tutorial content; use comments sections as opportunistic support forums; and turn to comments sections for social and technical validation of their personal skill sets. Collectively, these findings enrich existing perspectives on web-based tutorials and argue for new mechanisms to support these various use cases.