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For example, when posting to a blog via email, the user can enter [tags x,y,z] to add tags via email. How "technical" does that feel to the average user?

Reference: http://en.support.wordpress.com/post-by-email/

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Is this question answerable if you're not Wordpress? –  Rahul Sep 30 '11 at 14:57
    
See here, on this very site: Comments use mini- Markdown formatting. Same principle. Wordpress is just one example. –  m01 Sep 30 '11 at 21:41
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3 Answers

Firstly - Average user - whatever is that? The definition of average user is of some debate and usually does depends on some kind of context.

It's unlikely an 'average' user will manage without a handy quick reference guide around.

Sure it feels technical - but 'how' technical? Ask your users.

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Let's put it a different way. Is there a growing trend, e.g. with Twitter hash tags, or Markdown formatting being used on non-technical (non-StackOverflow) stack exchange sites, of asking people to use various "codes"? Thanks in advance. –  m01 Sep 30 '11 at 21:44
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From personal experience, we have a wordpress blog for a range of people* to contribute blog posts to.
* Mainly developers, technical people, and a handful of managers.

We have shortcodes to embed vimeo and a few other things, and the answer to your Q from my experience:

No. They need training on how to use shortcodes. We have a wiki on how to create posts, which has a section on how to use the shortcodes.

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You can't expect that users know before what is a shortcode. If you never used email you don't know what cc and bcc is, but you will figure out. Shortcodes are not like a button that stands there: "click me to see what is happening".

First of all, every plugin or theme developer choose the name of the shortcode. You have to read the description of that plugin to know what shortcode to use.

If the user already know how to install a plugin, read its description to see what is the name of the shortcode then he knows how to use them. If not, he will not know but it is very easy to just say: "to do this you have to post [thisshortcode], to do this other thing just post [theothershortcode]". Anyway you have to contact them to tell the name of the shortcode you used even if they know what a shortcode is.

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