December 1, 2008

AE Help on the way

Some may say that too much of everything is just enough, but in Help systems too much information can't help in time. Chris and Trish Meyer has some suggestions to avoid information anxiety in their PVC article Too Much of a Good Thing: How you can help improve Adobe’s Help.

One way Adobe is improving Help is with Todd Kopriva's initiative to add more hyper to AE Help's hyperlinks by collecting "links to online resources that describe how to accomplish certain large goals in After Effects." Here's a summary from a new section of After Effects Help on the Web, "Specific workflows in After Effects:"
Most sections of this document are organized according to general tasks that you can perform with After Effects. However, many questions are more focused on a specific end result rather than a specific task. For example, rather than wanting to know how to apply an effect to a layer and blend that layer with other layers, you may want to know how to make fire, smoke, clouds, or a tornado. This section is intended as a repository for links to resources that answer those specific, goal-focused questions.

If you add comments to this section that point to additional resources of this kind, the section will grow to be more useful and more complete.

Tutorial authors themselves could lead the charge by adding task-based links with appropriate keywords so that users can find actual solutions faster, even if there's a charge for the tutorial. Thumbnails and presets linkages would be nice too.

One of Todd's colleagues, Steve Muratore, is trying something similar in Premiere Pro Help with "Creating common effects."

Still, everything can't be predigested. Deep thought is still needed, because not even with every popular resource can you do more than grok 18% gray unless you understand fractional exponents -- though there's even help on that -- see What is Gamma, Anyway? by Mark Christiansen.

By the way, the pictures here are from Adobe Books, an independent bookstore with a small gallery in San Francisco's Mission District, which became an art installation (see a KQED Spark segment). If you're coming from another place be sure to check out the acclaimed but crowded Tartine Bakery just down Guerrero Street near Delfina and Bi-Rite grocery, and not far from Paxton Gate.

Update: Steve Muratore, Premiere Pro Help lead, notes in comments that there are basic conditions for posting to Help; Todd Kopriva mentioned other aspects of submissions earlier, including some mysterious brownie points.

Update 2: Asking Adobe for information design enhancement for Help and Support search results isn't totally out there. In November 2008, there was an Adobe project called Zoetrope, an "intuitive application" for grabbing hold of the fleeting Web and storing historical sites that users can easily search. For details see, Science Daily's "Pinning Down The Fleeting Internet: Web Crawler Archives Historical Data For Easy Searching."

Update 3: Todd Kopriva looks at moderators for After Effects Community Help, and at comments in general and "Community Help points."

1 comment:

Stephen Muratore said...

Thanks, Rich, for bringing attention to what Todd and I are trying with task-based links in web Help. Tutorial authors/presenters should feel free to inform Todd and me about task-based online tutorials relevant to users of AE and Premiere Pro respectively. Generally, we link only to resources available for free, but have no objection if a page with a free resource contains links to pages with paid resources. And of course, we reserve the right to determine which items we link to.

Stephen Muratore
Adobe Systems, Inc.