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TheCoop
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2002 7:29 pm    Post subject: [FAQ Forum] General discussion Reply with quote

EDIT:
This is not a place to ask for help. If you would like to suggest a topic for a FAQ, please do so in [FAQ Forum] FAQs still needed. The purpose of this thread is to provide feedback on the layout and general workings of the FAQ Forum.

Old title: the official gentoo faq
-- kanuslupus


the official gentoo faq hasnt been updated in months, since we're thinking about deleting the newbies forum shouldnt the newbie faq be updated from there?
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is one of my reasons for wanting a forum based FAQ. More people would be able to contribute to its maintenance. Initially (my opinion only), the forum based FAQ would be built with the existing FAQs.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

but ofc it would have to be exclusively by category, eg a fluxbox, kde, gnome, enlightenment etc faqs in desktop, or even an exclusive faq forum where mods monitor very strictly and try and keep a theme and grouped by category again...
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting point about the various FAQs (for KDE, Gnome, et. al.). For the FAQ forum to work, I think it would have to be locked from normal posting. Another concern will be when there are a large number of FAQs per topic. How unwieldy will it be if the KDE FAQ thread has 50 posts/FAQs?

How a FAQ would get an entry into the forum would require a moderator to move it there. As I mentioned in the Feedback thread, I'd like to see a standardized format for the FAQs.

A user could write a FAQ (based on the standard), then PM a moderator to move it into the forum. Somewhere, we'd need to make a notice that any followups to the proposed FAQ would not follow the original post into the FAQ Forum. More than likely, people will post responses to them until they become official.

Perhaps we can allow users to respond to the proposed FAQ until it is deemed 'finished' and then just delete the posts when it becomes official?
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And as I mentioned over here, the newbie may not know what the real cause of the problem is, that root cause is something only experienced people would know before searching, so the newbie cannot be expected to search every possible FAQ for their answer. I'd say topical FAQs make more sense: titles like 'X crashed' and 'can't ping my DNS' and such.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing the search feature will help with here is being able to search only the FAQ forum.

If a newbie is getting an error referencing some .so file in /usr/lib, then that should be one of their search terms. Topical titles will be helpful, but will also be limited. If error: blah can occur in multiple ways, it will be best to have only one thread. A more generic term will be necessary, and possibly not quite as topical. These can be debated as they come up though.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
I'd say topical FAQs make more sense: titles like 'X crashed' and 'can't ping my DNS' and such.


Well, I think there's something to be said for Howto-like FAQs in addition to troubleshooting FAQs. I'd like to see both addressed, personally.

Here's an idea if you want to have a relatively locked-down, closely-monitored forum.
Make a sticky thread called "FAQ requests: Ask your questions here". Anyone with a question posts there.
The mods and other readers see what there and either refer the poster to the existing answer, or move the request to the other sticky thread: "FAQ requests: Questions needing documentation".
Then the squads of gentoo zealots know that we need to document that one.
I don't have a clever idea for that collaboration part of the process, but I'm sure someone here will... Maybe another sticky called "Proposed FAQ content"? (or maybe just go ahead and start a new thread per each FAQ discussion then delete it when it's done? Don't know if that's bad for the search engine or not though..)

All the other threads should be completed FAQs that are locked unless other pertinent information needs to be added to them, which can be done by making a request to a moderator... And the forum itself is set not to allow new posts by users.

This way there's no noise, we grow nothing but useful FAQs, and the mods and savvy folks only have to monitor two threads...
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mooman wrote:
Well, I think there's something to be said for Howto-like FAQs in addition to troubleshooting FAQs. I'd like to see both addressed, personally.
Over time, How-to FAQs could be added.

Quote:
Make a sticky thread called "FAQ requests: Ask your questions here". Anyone with a question posts there.
What type of questions?

More likely than not, the first thread in the FAQ Forum will be an "About this forum" thread. That thread can contain instructions as you've mentioned. Questions needing documentation can be posted in another forum.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mooman wrote:
move the request to the other sticky thread

Technical difficulties - phpBB doesn't have a feature to graft posts onto existing threads. Split, yes, but not attach.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rac: Then just [Quote] it rather than actually "splicing" it...?

Kanuslupus: *Any* questions. From "what window manager should I use" to "why am I getting this error in VIM". The point is that we won't "answer" the questions. They will get handled by:
1 If it's already in an FAQ -> get a reply with a link to the appropriate FAQ
2. If it *should* be an FAQ -> We quote it (since we can't move it) over to "awaiting FAQ" sticky
3. If it's a new/unique problem, we "split" it into ... the appropriate forum.

Clumsy, but keeps the forum from having anything other than completed (or in progress) FAQs, and a couple sticky threads for submitting questions... And periodically we'd just prune or recreate those sticky ones..
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's my suggestion for the FAQ forum: it should consist of a bunch of one-post threads, of two types. Type A threads answer a specific FAQ. Type S threads are sticky, and there is one of them for each "section" of the FAQ. S posts have only questions in them, no answers, and each question links to the appropriate A thread.

So a typical session would be: I wonder if I should compile support for my NIC as a module or not, so I look in the Kernel Compilation section. It has a bunch of questions, including "Should I make it as a module?". I click on that link and it takes me to a nice post that explains all the different reasons why one might want to make something a module or compile it directly into the kernel, and a couple of heuristics that some people use.

Now how does this forum get populated? Anywhere in the forums, in any given thread, people can get together (or just one person can do it) and write up a FAQ answer post summarizing the wisdom of the thread, and they just post it to the thread. People can discuss it, make suggestions and corrections, and whoever posted the candidate FAQ answer post is responsible for editing it. Once it's done, somebody PM's a moderator with a link to that candidate post. The moderator splits it out of the thread where it was born, moves it into a new thread in the FAQ forum, and updates the S post that it belongs to to add a link to it.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, I like the organizational idea you're proposing..(how you want to arrange the stickies and the answers)

But I think it sounds like it differs in one key way: Then we just have a purely "FAQ forum", and no designated place for newbies to ask questions.

And the other thing is that there isn't a specific incentive to grow the FAQs under that system. As people come across topics (in other forums) that look possibly valuable, they may take the effort to initiate this FAQ approach. But there's no obligation to, and I worry that after the first wave of enthusiasm wears off, we'd only get a trickle of them.

I see my proposal as a little different in that we would basicially have a decision tree used for every single newbie post that either points them to an existing answer, kicks off a new faq, or (and only if it's *not* a frequent question) redirect them (using our superiour knowledge and experience :) ) to the appropriate forum.

This gives us lots of plusses:
- Still have a save haven for embarassed newbies
- A growing library of FAQs so that as time goes on, more and more questions will be headed off (or at least quickly answered by) an existing FAQ
- An approach that commits us to churning out FAQs, essentially an FAQ engine, powered by newbies!


But I do like your structured Q/A approach....
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2002 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mooman wrote:
But I think it sounds like it differs in one key way: Then we just have a purely "FAQ forum", and no designated place for newbies to ask questions.

The two issues are orthogonal in my mind: we can create the FAQ forum regardless of what ends up happening with Newbies, as far as I'm concerned. My main problem with Newbies the way it is is that we basically can't moderate it by definition. If we relax that, so that mods feel free to move things into and out of there, I think we can at least try to clean it up.

Quote:
I see my proposal as a little different in that we would basicially have a decision tree used for every single newbie post that either points them to an existing answer, kicks off a new faq, or (and only if it's *not* a frequent question) redirect them (using our superiour knowledge and experience :) ) to the appropriate forum.

As I understand your system, there is a bottleneck right after "newbie posting question" that requires moderator action. That's not feasible. It's only going to work if moderators don't have to be involved until three conditions have been met:
  • a question has been identified as a FAQ
  • the question and answer have been written according to some guidelines
  • somebody points a moderator to it

Sure, we (the mods) will often catch these efforts and contribute to them ourselves. But with the "all questions go in one thread" system, I don't see how people can answer them until they get split out, and I think there's still a problem getting the answer fed back into the FAQ forum. I guess I'm missing how your system makes having people to answer FAQs in a standardized manner any more likely than the approach where we just allow FAQs to get answered whereever and however people find it easiest to do it.

Quote:
- An approach that commits us to churning out FAQs, essentially an FAQ engine, powered by newbies!

Yeah, this is the part I don't get. Things might just languish in the Newbies forum, mightn't they?

I don't see the benefit of coupling Newbies and FAQ. Not all Newbie questions are FAQs, and not all FAQs are Newbie questions.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rac wrote:
I wrote:
- An approach that commits us to churning out FAQs, essentially an FAQ engine, powered by newbies!

Yeah, this is the part I don't get. Things might just languish in the Newbies forum, mightn't they?

I don't see the benefit of coupling Newbies and FAQ. Not all Newbie questions are FAQs, and not all FAQs are Newbie questions.


I was visualizing something like a "switchboard". All the questions start in the same place, in the sticky thread with a friendly subject like "Ask your questions here". Then the moderators and the other helpful folks that historically have been responding to the newbie posts will just monitor that one thread.

Yeah, there will be some traffic there. But two of the three cases don't need a moderator. The gurus can usually quickly respond if something is already in an FAQ and just post it into the same thread with a note to the asker (like "rac - to get that /proc/moomand process to stop posting so often, that's already been covered in the Handling Overzealous Users FAQ. ;) ).. If it's a frequent question that just isn't documented yet, the gurus can respond with something like: (mooman - yeah, we've heard about that problem a lot... I'll post a Compiling Gentoo With Only 8MB later today).

Only the true "Non-Frequently Asked Questions" need a moderator to move it to the respective forum.

Maybe you've got the right idea where we make Newbie and FAQ into 2 different forums. That would remove the single thread complexity, but still accomplish almost the same results as long as we adhered to the other idea that we really don't "answer" any questions in there. We point them to an FAQ, commit to making a new one, or transfer it to a specific forum.

But since any of these ideas place expectations on the moderators, it's of course your call. I'm just tossing out ideas. :)
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 1:35 pm    Post subject: One pleasant point, if I may? Reply with quote

As the Questions get answered, the Frequency at which moderators need to answer will decrease. In other words, the more different answers which are given to a given problem, the less often that answer will need to be given, hence less repetition of effort.

Remember also that many answers provided by yourselves may possibly also apply to other distros.... this effort could take on a larger expert base, with a little cooperation between distros. OK, I admit that the rivalry might smother that... never mind. ;-) Just kidding! Gentoo has more cooperation than 3 other distros I know of combined.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2002 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even though Gentoo Chat was the right forum for this post originally, I'm moving it to Forums Feedback because we're beginning to create a new forum to handle FAQs, and we would like your continued input and suggestions.

What would be of help now, rather than actually writing answers, because we don't have a firm format nailed down yet, and don't want to waste anyone's time, would be suggestions of potential questions that should be included, and ideas for how to categorize the FAQs into sections. The optimal number of sections is still open to debate, with the restriction that it shouldn't be more than the number of posts that will fit on one forum display page.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2002 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a quick note because of this:
carambola5 wrote:
[*]Advantages/Disadvantages of different WMs (highly moderated topic to avoid flame wars)

There isn't going to be any discussion or possibility of flame wars inside the FAQ forum itself. Submissions will be built in other forums, and when a consensus has developed around a writeup of a topic, it will get moved into the FAQ forum and a link will be made to it. The FAQ forum itself will work like the old Documentation forum. Suggestions like "hey, this FAQ answer is wrong/out of date/incomplete" belong either in the thread that spawned the FAQ writeup in the first place or, if that's hard to find, then anybody should feel free to open a new thread in this feedback forum for that purpose.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2002 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rac wrote:
Just a quick note because of this:
carambola5 wrote:
[*]Advantages/Disadvantages of different WMs (highly moderated topic to avoid flame wars)

There isn't going to be any discussion or possibility of flame wars inside the FAQ forum itself. Submissions will be built in other forums, and when a consensus has developed around a writeup of a topic, it will get moved into the FAQ forum and a link will be made to it. The FAQ forum itself will work like the old Documentation forum. Suggestions like "hey, this FAQ answer is wrong/out of date/incomplete" belong either in the thread that spawned the FAQ writeup in the first place or, if that's hard to find, then anybody should feel free to open a new thread in this feedback forum for that purpose.


Sweet. I was just being precautionary in case you guys had a different idea of what the FAQ should be. Turns out we are on the same page.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2002 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheCoop wrote:
Looks like the faq forum will infringe a lot on the dt&t forum, what will happen to that?

That's a good point, which hasn't really been discussed. I hope that it will eventually be possible to replace DT&T with the FAQ forum. In the meantime, DT&T would be a fine place to start threads with candidates for eventual inclusion into the FAQ forum.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2002 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rac wrote:
TheCoop wrote:
Looks like the faq forum will infringe a lot on the dt&t forum, what will happen to that?

That's a good point, which hasn't really been discussed.
Let's do so! :)
Quote:
I hope that it will eventually be possible to replace DT&T with the FAQ forum. In the meantime, DT&T would be a fine place to start threads with candidates for eventual inclusion into the FAQ forum.
I'm not so sure. As a user I think there are some important differences between documentation with tips and tricks and frequently asked questions. The main one that comes to mind is that documentation helps people who know what they are looking to do while questions and answers are meant to help those that don't. Plus, if the FAQ forum isn't something that normal users can post in freely things like Extra informative Bash prompt would die. Now, I certainly see some things in DT&T that would best be put in a G&A format and added to the FAQ forum. I also think it's a good place to start working on FAQs.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tristam29 wrote:
I think there are some important differences between documentation with tips and tricks and frequently asked questions. The main one that comes to mind is that documentation helps people who know what they are looking to do while questions and answers are meant to help those that don't.

I'm not sure I'm understanding you here. People that want to find a way to update unmodified config files automatically can find a script in DT&T that purports to do that, or they can go to the FAQ forum and look in "Portage Tricks: Q16. How do I update unmodified config files automatically?".

Quote:
Plus, if the FAQ forum isn't something that normal users can post in freely things like Extra informative Bash prompt would die.

I think that thread and things like it would be happy in Gentoo Chat.

I have three big problems with the current state of the DT&T forum. First, it's not organized very well, and it's hard to find what you're looking for in there, because things aren't categorized. The proposed FAQ forum will take care of this. Second, the quality of information in there varies wildly. Some of it is very carefully researched, reviewed and vetted, and other parts are more like "whoa d00ds - I just found out that aliasing rm to 'rm -i' will ask you if you want to delete a file. This sure saved my bacon last night!" This should also be solved by the FAQ forum. Thirdly, even though Nitro's guidelines for the two forums that became DT&T specifically ask people not to post support questions to threads in there, people do. The moderators have split a bunch of them out into separate threads, but I'm sure we've missed a bunch of them. The guidelines say to post a question and link back to the DT&T post that you are referring to. I don't think I've seen a single case of this actually happening.

To summarize, DT&T requires a lot of moderator work, searching for posts inappropriate to that forum, moving them, adding links to put them in context, deciding on titles for the questions, choosing the right forum for them, evaluating the quality of proposed tips, etc. And I'm not convinced that the forums are really getting as much benefit from all this work as they should, because I don't think the current DT&T forum is still very nice and usable.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd have to agree that DT&T is a failure in its current form. In the case of the previously mentioned prompt thread going to Gentoo Chat, that would work. In addition, we could add an entry in the FAQ with pointers to the various tips that end up in Chat. Easy, fixed locatioin for finding topics, with the ability for user participation.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rac wrote:
Tristam29 wrote:
I think there are some important differences between documentation with tips and tricks and frequently asked questions. The main one that comes to mind is that documentation helps people who know what they are looking to do while questions and answers are meant to help those that don't.

I'm not sure I'm understanding you here. People that want to find a way to update unmodified config files automatically can find a script in DT&T that purports to do that, or they can go to the FAQ forum and look in "Portage Tricks: Q16. How do I update unmodified config files automatically?".

I was mostly refering to the prior assumed knowledge that can be taken by documentation as opposed to a FAQ. Perhaps, this isn't as large of an issue as I originally thought, but that's what I was referring to.
Quote:
Quote:
Plus, if the FAQ forum isn't something that normal users can post in freely things like Extra informative Bash prompt would die.

I think that thread and things like it would be happy in Gentoo Chat.

Perhaps, but Gentoo Chat already gets a lot of traffic. I don't know if that's good enough of a reason to keep the low traffic Tips and Tricks forum, but it's something to keep in mind.
Quote:
I have three big problems with the current state of the DT&T forum. First, it's not organized very well, and it's hard to find what you're looking for in there, because things aren't categorized. The proposed FAQ forum will take care of this.

I will second this. The documentation that is there is hard to find.
Quote:
Second, the quality of information in there varies wildly. Some of it is very carefully researched, reviewed and vetted, and other parts are more like "whoa d00ds - I just found out that aliasing rm to 'rm -i' will ask you if you want to delete a file. This sure saved my bacon last night!" This should also be solved by the FAQ forum.

This is also true, but I think there should be a place for tips like that. There are a lot of people who are new to linux who use these forums. Many of those that aren't new are self taught and could benefit from many of those oldbie tricks. I would like to see a place for those that would be easier to access than in Gentoo Chat where the topic of threads varies even more than in DT&T.
Quote:
Thirdly, even though Nitro's guidelines for the two forums that became DT&T specifically ask people not to post support questions to threads in there, people do. The moderators have split a bunch of them out into separate threads, but I'm sure we've missed a bunch of them. The guidelines say to post a question and link back to the DT&T post that you are referring to. I don't think I've seen a single case of this actually happening.

I agree, but I certainly don't think that creation of the FAQ forum will reduce moderator effort. It will certainly change in nature. We'd go from splitting out extraneous threads to creating helpful ones. I'd rather have a helpful thread that's hard to find than have to wait for a moderator to officially bless it into a FAQ for me to see it.
Quote:
To summarize, DT&T requires a lot of moderator work, searching for posts inappropriate to that forum, moving them, adding links to put them in context, deciding on titles for the questions, choosing the right forum for them, evaluating the quality of proposed tips, etc. And I'm not convinced that the forums are really getting as much benefit from all this work as they should, because I don't think the current DT&T forum is still very nice and usable.

I agree with this. It's not the best solution, but I do think there's something really good about it. I wouldn't want to roll it into the FAQ forum 100% because I think that's a little similar to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Unfortunatly, I don't have a really solid recommendation as to how to improve it as yet. -- but I'm working on one. ;)
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2002 3:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The FAQ forum is now open for viewing. We are in the early stages of development, so not much is there.

Be sure to read the About this forum thread.

The more users that volunteer to create FAQs, the better (and sooner!) the FAQ forum will be useful. The final 'formatting' of FAQs has not been finalized yet.

Comments requested, and appreciated.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2002 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since we're sharing opinions and ideas here, let me say that I disagree that threads like the "Bash Prompt" one (apparently our new canonical example of a helpful thread that's not a literal "FAQ" ;)) should reside in the Gentoo Chat forum.

My reason is this: I (in my own mind anyway) picture Chat being a place to rant, rave, and joke about Gentoo. It's not a place I would think of looking (based on its name) for creative shell customization advice. The other reason I am not as much a fan of the idea is that forums called "Chat" generally experience a lot of "roll-off" as the conversations wend this way and that. Something like the Bash thread would get more mileage by the people that cared about it if it were someplace that:
a) sounded like a place to look for reference-type info, not a chatroom
b) would hang around as a resource area that could be readily (and relatively painlessly) browsed
c) has a high signal-to-noise ratio

Maybe DT&T should just be a TIPs forum. So we have two complementary documentation forums: FAQ and Tips. The former would be colllaboratively written, edited and approved collections of knowledge that answer specific questions. The latter would be open contributions for things that somone decide is handy or helpful. All threads not directly useful to someone else would get moved to the appropriate "chat" forum...

All of which leads me to my questions about the new FAQ forum:
1) How does stuff get written up as a FAQ (is there any group discussion someplace? How do we know if a FAQ is being worked on?)
2) How does one request (or just suggest) a specific FAQ?

I'm jazzed though.. I'm glad this is happening. I only sound like a skeptic... really. :)
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