Redish Chapter 9: Including Useful Headings

Headings – these are the signposts that help guide the visitor to the information they seek. Good headings apply the appropriate writing style for the topic. Questions, statements and verb phrases are the most effective heading style. Noun phrases are useful in certain circumstances, such a label. The best way to identify what type of heading to use is to keep the conversation with the visitor in mind.

Using examples of what not to do is the most effective way to really understand a topic. Redish shows us good and bad practices, so we can see the difference. The most effective technique is to look at the information and design from the visitors’ point of view. If it makes sense, is easy to navigate and answers visitors’ questions, then the headings accomplish the task. Failure to take the visitor into consideration is a violation of basic customer service standards. If you want visitors to stay or return, give them what they want, the way they want it. Don’t scare them away, or they’ll never return.

Most of the complaints about poor site headers (or lack of) is simple common sense. For instance, there are sites with poor headings that tend to try to cram tons of information into a small space with very little effective organization. On the other end of the spectrum are the minimalist sites. Minimalism is great, it helps the reader find things fast and navigate easily. But, going too far in the minimalist direction can create as many issues as too much information. By following basic principles of professionalism, the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) and writing for the visitor, effective headings will ensure your information is used in the way it is intended.

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Writing in the Wikishop: Constructing Knowledge in the Electronic Classroom. – Thomas J. Nelson

Nelson points out the benefit of wikis is they are “fluid, fast, fixable, and free.” (198) He says there are four points inherent in a wiki. They are: “open-source software/writing, problematizing textual authority, process orientation, and real rhetorical circumstances.” (198) What does this mean?

Wikis are an ongoing process. They are a means of communicating and writing, by sharing pool of knowledge. Wikis are also self-repairing and provide real-world opportunities for rhetoric. One of the key points of wikis is that they are open-source.

Open-source software “refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, i.e., open. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community. Open source sprouted in the technological community as a response to proprietary software owned by corporations.” (http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/O/open_source.html) One role of open source software is in “helping public sector organizations become more innovative, more agile, and more cost-effective by building on the collaborative efforts of open source communities.” (Driving innovation with open source,Posted 7 Jun 2013 by Clarice Africa, http://opensource.com/government/13/6/singapore-open-source)

Wikis and open-source software share similar attributes. Is it any wonder they both are embraced enthusiastically by those who seek a more open, free way of communicating and sharing? It is inherent in human nature to rebel against overbearing authority. Wikis and open-source software are means for rebelling against those who seek to control us – large corporations, big government and domineering elitism.

Is There a Wiki in This Class? Wikibooks and the Future of Higher Education – Matt Barton

This article draws a sharp contrast between the elitism of academia and the freedom offered to individual voices on the World Wide Web. In addition, Barton shows how wikis help the “citizen band” replace the top-down corporate forces with the “independence and autonomy of communities of people.” As he argues, in academia, “an individual’s prestige may partially be determined by how well he is able to suppress other voices.” (177) By contrast, wikis aren’t dependent upon individual prestige. Wikis embrace other voices, instead of arguing to the point of squelching others’ arguments.

The very concerns that draw academic criticism of wikis is show to be the asset that makes Wikipedia and other such wikis such a success. Vulnerability is their asset. As a comparison, consider Ghandi’s passive resistance against the British Empire. This was the vulnerability of the Indian people being used effectively against a superior military force, the British. By contrast, controlling the vulnerability of the World Wide Web and wikis would result in a confrontational battle against superior forces, such as was seen in the 1982 Falkland War (Argentina’s claim of the Falkland Islands versus Great Britain). Controlling and confrontation doesn’t work against a larger, superior force.

The success of wikis is in the neutrality, driven by formal or informal policies on wikis. This neutrality creates a tolerance and diversity that contributes to a richer, more collaborative environment. A successful wiki overcomes the vulnerabilities through the “force of pride felt by a wiki community.” (185) It is the anonymous citizenry of the wiki, overriding any assaults brought about by exterior forces. That same anonymity and wiki pride create an atmosphere that provides no rewards for those who would seek to deface the wiki. Absent rewards, there are no reasons to actively seek to confront or cause harm to the wiki. It is almost metaphysical. It reminds us of the greater good and ideals man often seeks in an imperfect world.

Above and Below the Double Line: Refactoring and That Old-Time Revision, Michael C. Morgan

Similar to the writing process for an individual author, wikis have their own process. “Writing on a wiki proceeds from ThreadMode to DocumentMode by way of Refactoring.” (160) These WikiWords define three separate processes of a wiki that can happen sequentially, and as an ongoing, concurrent process.

ThreadMode is described as a discussion. It generates topics, positions and arguments. ThreadMode is public thinking which is grounded in specifics. The purpose is to allow others to understand and create their own threads. It is not persuasive, nor is it intended to win. ThreadMode is similar to Web discussion boards. If you have participated in the discussion boards in D2L, you have experienced something similar to ThreadMode.

The major difference between ThreadMode and discussion threads is three things: 1) Threads are incorporated in the evolving shared document; they cannot be separated. 2) Threads do not follow a chronology of posting. 3) They tend to be concise and pointed.

DocumentMode correlates to an exposition. In DocumentMode, the threads are drawn together, similar to drafting an essay. Theads are converted from first person to third person, active voice. DocumentMode is unsigned. Ideas become the focus, and the document is written in “transparent style”.

Refactoring is like a document revision. Refactoring takes the ideas present in ThreadMode and creates an organizational pattern of those ideas. We refactor in everyday life by reorganizing a grocery list to map it onto the physical store. It makes it easier for human maintenance.

Ultimately, the reasons for ThreadMode, DocumentMode and Refactoring can be traced to the purpose behind wikis. Wikis are self-correcting. One technique used in the self-correcting process is DoubleLine to separate the DocumentMode OpeningStatement from ThreadMode discussions. The double lines help coauthors and contributors determine the state of knowledge on the page.

Wiki Writing – Content and Commentary: Parallel Structures of Organization and Interaction on Wikis – Will Lakeman

When I read this chapter, one quote stood out from all of the text. Lakeman tells us that hypertext has the “potential to reconfigure the activities of its writers, substituting the isolated production of closed documents with dynamic webs of intertextuality.” (144) What he is really saying is that hypertext removes the concept of lone writers, and creates a framework for collaborative writing. He also states that wikis are “relatively unique as a popular model of electronic writing.” (145) I would beg to differ. There are other models of electronic writing that are quite similar to wikis.

 In a recent class, horror was expressed by some of the students when discussing the concept of single-sourcing documents and utilizing content management systems (CMS). The main concern revolved around single-sourcing taking away the author’s voice and substituting a technology-driven anonymity. In addition, they felt the result was text with a sterile aspect, voiceless and devoid of any human connection necessary to make it consumer-friendly. How is this different from wikis?

 Like wikis, which open information to multiple authors, single-sourcing documentation and CMS employ that same concept, albeit on different platforms. The entire concept behind single-sourcing and CMS is to create text that can be applied in multiple formats, different platforms and for a variety of uses. It removes the lone writer from their position of creating entire documents in isolation. Single-sourcing and CMS store text in smaller chunks to be readily used for various document types. These smaller chunks of text can be created, modified and edited by any number of different writers. Changes and editing either update the source text to a new version, or create a new document chain. Some CMS have commenting feature, much like the discussion aspect of a wiki. Single-sourcing and CMS are especially pertinent for updating in smaller bits, rather than entire documents requiring updating. The updates are immediately applied across all documents that utilize those data chunks.

 We are reading about wikis as a collaborative, communal activity that creates a democratic social composition. Many of the same aspects that make wikis a collaborative, communal activity, apply equally to single-sourcing and CMS. The biggest difference is the motivation to create and contribute. Wikis are driven by a democratic notion of shared information. It creates personal satisfaction and the psychic income that comes from freely sharing with others. Single-sourcing and CMS are work-related, and therefore are profit-driven mechanisms. It changes one of the aspects that motivates workers to produce and achieve, that motivation is the tie between showing one’s work and the reward of payment received for that work.

 

Maxwell and Felczak, Chapter 5: Success through Simplicity

Maxwell and Felczak identified three technologies that were the precursor of wiki technology in the classroom. The first was CSILE, a knowledge forum database. Apple Computer provided support for introducing CSILE into schools. It was used in Toronto schools for five years, as well as in an elementary school in Oakland, CA.

The second technology introduced is Ricki Goldman’s Constellations system. This video ethnographic tool evolved into Orion, an online digital video tool. The goal of Constellations and Orion is to create a collaborative environment.

CaMILE project was an early creation of Mark Guzdial’s. He started it at Georgia Tech in 1993. This was prior to graphical interfaces. As soon as graphical interfaces bacame available on the Internet, they moved CaMILE to the web. It was followed by several other projects, including CoWeb and Swiki. Today, Guzdial says that computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is relevant for today’s MOOCs and other on-line learning experiments. (http://computinged.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/what-i-have-learned-about-on-line-collaborative-learning/)

The authors mention the notion of radical trust – “Radical Trust : A notion that influence, rather than control, is more effective at guiding culture, commerce and communities. ” http://www.radicaltrust.ca/about/

A wiki was used as a key facet in a writing-intensive learning program. This allowed th instructors to maintain a level of scaffolding and structure. Scaffolding has been defined by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) as an “adult controlling those elements of the task that are essentially beyond the learner’s capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence.”

Writing-intensive learning program is divided into two methods: writing to learn course material, andlearning to write. At the same time, the writing is tied to the requirement and activities of courses.

While writing-intensive may be the most obvious aspect notice, there is another aspect of the writing that contributes to the ongoing, learning process. This other aspect is the incorporation of revision in the process of writing. Revisions come in two forms. An assignment may be divided into multiple stages, with feedback at each stage and opportunity for revision coming out of that feedback. The other form is multiple, similar assignment, with feedback being given on each assignment. Feedback generated as a part of the revision process may be used to improve future writing.

Some of the unanticpated uses of the wiki included: Students read the work of other students, even those outside of their peer group. The used the wiki as a source of ideas, insights, potential counterarguments. The wiki provided students with search sources and writing relevant to their own topic. Students referenced other students’ work, and cross-reference peers. This referencing and cross-referencing came in the form of background citation and direct responses to peers’ work. The students created a collaborative study guide, which would have been nearly impossible via a discussion board or email. They also used the wiki to complain about other courses, post and comment on each other’s poetry and semi-anonymously announce affections.

The wiki proved that some students are more active online than others. This is due to diversity of interests, motivations, and time constraints.

 

Chapter 8: Titles versus Headings

In writing for the web, there is a distinct different between titles and headings. There is only one title for a site, but there can be numerous headings within a site. In addition a title has only one level, the top level. Headings are number 1 through 6, denoting decreasing sizes and emphasis, with H1 being the highest level and H6 as the lowest.

On the Internet, titles are specific identifier for the overall site. For instance, TechWhirl is the title of a site devoted to technical communication, content management and other topics pertinent to the technical communication field. Within the site, there are headings that identify different sections such as Content Management, Technical Communication, Technical Writing, Magazine, News and Business Expo. Dropdown menus below each of these headings reveal subheadings for various areas and topics below each category. These subheadings would be identified by lower level heading formatting, such as H2 through H6. H1 headings are the “first level … of your content.” (157)

Headings are important and useful for a variety of things. They enable search engine optimization (SEO), which can drive traffic to a site. Headings also lead people to the content they are seeking. Headings can be a statement, question or “call to action.” (158) Heading aid and drive navigation through a site.