Publication Date

January 2003

Document Type



© ACM, 2003. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in: Proceedings of the 21st Annual International Conference on Documentation. San Francisco, CA, October 12-15, 2003, 80-85.


In this paper we propose a model of creation and use of documentation based on the concept of mixed-initiative interaction. In our model, successful single-initiative interaction is characterized by grounding of contributions, and successful mixed-initiative interaction is characterized by both grounding and agreement. Just as in spoken conversation, achievement of actual agreement depends on the intentions of both parties; agreement is achieved when the reader follows the documentation’s instructions. In fact, readers are not obligated to—and often do not—act according to the author’s intentions. By making these dynamics explicit, the model can aid authors in developing effective documentation. The paper describes the model and its antecedents, explains the application of the model to documentation, discusses implications such as effects of printed versus electronic forms of documentation, and outlines future work that includes empirical testing of the model.