Q. What’s the most popular wiki in the world?
A. Most people know the answer to this: It’s Wikipedia.
Q. What’s the second most popular wiki in the world?
A. It may surprise you to know that it’s WoWWiki, a wiki comprising over 250,000 articles and information. It may also surprise you to know it’s about playing a game – World of Warcraft.
So the second most popular wiki in the world is, to all intents and purposes, a user manual. And the biggest and most popular user manual in the world is (a) a wiki and (b) for a game.
We came across this fact in researching gamification and its potential use in technical documentation. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking on this subject at the UA Europe 11 conference in June, and it’s one of the topics we discuss in an book on technical documentation trends, which we’ll be publishing shortly.
So where does turning a Technical Author’s work on its head come in to all of this?
Technical Authors spend a lot of time making life easier for users. However, according to games researcher Jane McGonigal, one of the key reasons why games are so hugely popular is because:
Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.
Counter-intuitive as it may seem, making the goal of finding out the answer more challenging might be more rewarding for the user. Perhaps it might even leave a greater imprint on their memory.
Instead of the Technical Author developing and providing a Table of Contents for the user, could we even see a scenario where the user creates his own collection of information and organises it as he sees fit? Could the Technical Author’s role be not to organise and arrange the information, but instead to provide (a) some (but not all) of the information and (b) a platform where the user can store and organise it for themselves? It’s an approach similar to Pokémon (“gotta catch them all”), where children gain immense pleasure from collecting cards and building their own personal battle decks. It’s also similar to the FLOSS Manuals website’s ability for users to remix their own personal user guides.
Let’s reassure you not all the applications of games theory to User Assistance are as unusual as this. What do you think – could the concepts from games theory add value to User Assistance and could they turn the work that Technical Authors do on its head?