Desperately Seeking Hlep

A NY Times article on how bargain hunters find deals on eBay by exploiting auctioneers who make spelling mistakes in their listings. These hidden gems, overlooked by those who only search for items using correctly spelled search terms, are prime examples of how computer literacy doesn't replace basic language skills. And that even when spelling really matters, and has an obvious financial impact, some users still don't, or can't, get it right.

For Help authors, particularly those who provide searchable documentation, taking the time to ensure that information can be found, even by the semi-literate and poor typists, results in a much better product. And to be fair, in the computer software domain, the widespread use of invented terms (double-click) and cleverly-concatenated words (AppleScript) just makes searching that much harder. Some help systems, such as Apple Help (two words), allow authors to embed keywords that contain misspellings that are noticed by the search engine, but invisible to users. But effective use still requires writers to anticipate incorrect queries.

Posted: February 20, 2004 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item