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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.


Ben Lafreniere, , , and . (2013) Understanding the Roles and Uses of Web Tutorials. Proceedings of the AAAI International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM 2013), 303–310.


Andrea Bunt

Andrea Bunt

Associate Professor

As well as: Ben Lafreniere (first author) and Michael Terry