Helping relations between technology users and developers: A vignette study

Shmuel Ellis*, Marcie J. Tyre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes a vignette study of help-seeking and help-giving by technology users and technical specialists in response to problems with technologies-in-use. It was found that decisions both to seek and to give help were affected by task variables, such as problem urgency and problem difficulty. We also found evidence that technology users' decisions about help-seeking are not driven by opportunities to learn from specialists. In fact, users generally avoided the kind of direct, face-to-face interactions with specialists that could yield the richest learning opportunities, with more experienced users shunning such interactions most strongly. Technical specialists, on the other hand, showed a marked preference for forming intimate, face-to-face working relationships with technology users. Specialists saw these interactions as opportunities for gaining useful feedback on new technologies and how to improve them. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-69
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2001


  • Help-giving
  • Help-seeking
  • Knowledge gap
  • Learning
  • Problem-solving
  • Relative expertise
  • Task difficulty
  • Time urgency


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