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dunbar
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2002 3:43 pm    Post subject: Newbies ask the same questions, right? Reply with quote

In a different thread, delta407 felt that some newbies are not able to learn Linux because Linux presents a steep learning curve.

Me, I'd say 'maybe'. While I'm still getting initiated, I think a simple centralized help index idea would help keep the forums admins free to focus on their duties, thus keeping emotional posts out of the picture a little bit longer in the newbie learning curve. I'm implicating my own experiences as well as experiences of others.

Also, having a centralized authority, which is also a correct data source will only assist in bringing Linux to the masses (more accurately and more specifically, 'to the masses which can actually learn Linux').


Tell me, why would a simple database like this be less than useful?

    Generate a searchable file or webpage which contains topical as well as technical threading to give the most common answers to newbie questions.

It contains a field which offers an overview of the results:

    'For problems related to the GUI (aka window program, aka Windows, aka KDE, aka Gnome), which is called XFree86, the following important topics will be used'

then deliver one page which says

    commandline options: -nofb -vga -foo (intention is for listing emergency commands to get a gui at some lame level which ex M$ people can relate to)

    XFree86 configurations files: yahda (refer to man pages)

    XFree86 configurations method: Xf86conf at the command line, or
    XFree86 configurations method: vim opening configfilenamehere (I forgot)

    specifics of configuring XFree86: man Xf86Config explains all options
    specifics of configuring XFree86: man XFree86 explains most of the files and methods involved

    ...
    etc


End of database proposal.


Kinda like a 3x5 index card with searching abilities.... not the current stenopad sized 'info command' mechanism, not the argh man pages.

The concept of "how will a newbie ask for help" will need to include finding misnomers and incorrect terms as well as introducing the reader to the correct Linux terminology. You've seen their posts: "I'm running Linux and my windows broke". This database thing just needs a few searchable fields, IMO, while gathering the whole enchilada into one screen (scrollable) and then we newbies can leave Linux forums behind for a bit longer in our learning curve, keeping forums cleared of the real dippy questions that irritate so many moderators.
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delta407
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2002 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
In a different thread, delta407 felt that some newbies are not able to learn Linux because Linux presents a steep learning curve.


No, I said this:
delta407 wrote:
Seriously, though, there is quite a learning curve for the "uninitiated", so to speak. From what I've found, the only way to get good at troubleshooting computers is to work with the thing that may break; hence, an audience of Gentoo-ers are infinitely more helpful than leaving a newbie with an inconclusive troubleshooting guide or man pages.


Which means that these forums are the newbie help resource, given the hundreds of thousands of different things that can go wrong. Some are common (wrong fstab), some are uncommon, and there's no way to effectively diagnose everything. You can give tips on how to tell if your fstab is what is breaking your machine, but if they start searching for all their kernel diagnostic messages instead of "unable to mount root filesystem", they aren't going to find out what the problem is.

A unified help database would be nice, certainly, but there's no way to get around the human factor of knowing what is important and what isn't. And when those who have never ventured past Clippy and "You've got mail" watch miles of text scroll past their screen as the kernel starts up, it's a good bet they won't know what to look for. And without having some idea of what the problem is (other than "it won't boot"), a help database isn't going to help anyone.

I'm all for the idea, I really am, but it would be quite an undertaking, and I think our resources could be better spent elsewhere.
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delta407
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2002 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Case in point: this thread. When trying to diagnose USB mouse support, thommydegek pasted the entire output from his kernel on boot, instead of just the USB-related lines or this snippet:

Code:
Product: Microsoft IntelliMouse® Explorer
usb.c: unhandled interfaces on device
usb.c: USB device 2 (vend/prod 0x45e/0x1e) is not claimed by any active driver.


Of course, you can't expect someone new to *nix to automatically go "dmesg | grep -i usb" to see what's wrong... but, how would you design a database to work with this?
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2002 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have searched for things in the forums that I know exist, and have had trouble finding them.
Perhaps the database could be a first step. My guess is most newbies probably don't search
(for whatever reason). If they do, they may not get the results they're expecting, or too many.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2002 5:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Newbies ask the same questions, right? Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
Generate a searchable file or webpage which contains topical as well as technical threading to give the most common answers to newbie questions.

If you are willing to assign this (big) task to yourself, I'm willing to help you.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2002 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Count me in too. How to go about it is a whole other story, though... :) Here's a thought (albeit probably a terrible one)... since Portage is constantly being updated, would it be such a bad idea to create some sort of gentoo-help type package? Maybe write a script (undoubtedly a very confounding technical script) to compile a list of questions/tips off of these forums, parse them into a readable/searchable format and write a little search tool for use on the user's system... that way they'd have an up to date list of questions and help they could search from emerge rsync #1... I dunno. Now that I've read what I just wrote I single handedly made it more difficult than it needs to be. I'll shut up now.
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delta407
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2002 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

handsomepete wrote:
Maybe write a script (undoubtedly a very confounding technical script) to compile a list of questions/tips off of these forums, parse them into a readable/searchable format and write a little search tool for use on the user's system...


Think Google and lynx. :D
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2002 12:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Newbies ask the same questions, right? Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
Tell me, why would a simple database like this be less than useful?

I don't think anyone would argue that such a beast wouldn't be useful. It most certainly would. However, that's a *HUGE* undertaking to get a database that provides a) that level of detail and b) is organized in an easy-to-read format and c) has a newbie-friendly search interface. Certainly not impossible, but not something that one person can throw together in a weekend.

I'm not trying to dissuade you, but you should realize this is not a simple task. Search engines (and search terms) are an imprecise science, mainly because humans use so many different terms, phrases, colloqualisms, etc. to describe the exact same thing. It's very difficult to provide a search interface that can understand and interpret all possible inputs and still output the right results. Right now, Google does the best job of anyone.

dunbar wrote:
keeping forums cleared of the real dippy questions that irritate so many moderators.


Speaking for myself, I don't mind dippy questions at all. What I mind are people who make no effort to solve the issue on their own. If I see a post that says something like, "I tried searching for 'my linux window broke' on google, but I didn't find anything, can someone tell me why my linux windows won't start", then I'm happy to take the time and effort to explain to them the correct term (XFree86), ask them for the correct information (output of log files, error messages, etc.) and offer some suggestions on what terms to plug into Google to try and solve their problem. It's only when I see things like, "I can't su to root" that I get irritated. Obviously the person knows the right terminology -- they just didn't make the effort to search in the first place. (I'm also more tolerant of questions posted in the 'newbie' forum than I am in other forums)

Anyway, getting back to the issue at hand, if someone wants to make the effort to write a database like the one you've described, I can certainly provide space and bandwidth to host the final product.

--kurt
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dunbar
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

delta407 wrote:
handsomepete wrote:
Maybe write a script (undoubtedly a very confounding technical script) to compile a list of questions/tips off of these forums, parse them into a readable/searchable format and write a little search tool for use on the user's system...


Think Google and lynx. :D


Think broken internet connection :-(
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 12:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Newbies ask the same questions, right? Reply with quote

fghellar wrote:
dunbar wrote:
Generate a searchable file or webpage which contains topical as well as technical threading to give the most common answers to newbie questions.

If you are willing to assign this (big) task to yourself, I'm willing to help you.


Actually, I personally would vastly prefer the CLI version since not everyone has internet access to an offsite webpage for the answers. The webpage statement was a lesser option, and would have generated that I think it should be 'all in one page' and 'included with the ISO'.

Anyway, a newbie writing a help file (with much assistance), which newbie is writing a help file for which he/she personally has no clues, ultimately this amounts to only a single newbie getting an education under a pretense. For this offense, I have been condemned and chastised by a local LUG, repeatedly.
Yet IMO, an expert (or pool thereof) writing minimal CLI executable code on how to resolve problems from the CLI is a large audience served: You experts wrote the answers to the most prevalent newbie FAQs in forums, and you and your fellow experts do not need to answer that question again when you can say we maintain the answer stack, check there.
I personally won't embark on that journey because I will not ever be accused of that evidently heinous crime ever again, especially since it contains an ulterior motive (me getting one-on-one expert assistance).
Lastly and most importantly, my coding experience ended in the early 1980s when I stopped writing code using Borlands TurboBasic 1.0.

Here is the concept, HTML looks useful, so force a lynx install, and we could go this way: search bold text, each group is listed on a page:

X error = xf86Conf

Mouse error = xf86Conf
possible usb error

prompt at CLI = .bashrc,
possible /etc/skel error
possible .login errors


And so forth

A] do not answer every possible permutation of 'if modprobe --ifconfig produces this', then do that. Just tell what commands are needed to be reviewed for errors, nothing more.

B] let the man pages fill in the details of command options: which files are the config files, where the config files are stored, and so forth. (If the man pages do not state the locations, the author of the source would understand and listen more readily to you, the experienced users, than to me, especially since I'm going to ask that author where the files are located in the first place and tell them they should edit the man page, starting yet another war....).
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the best way to achieve this is with WIKI. Check out: http://c2.com/cgi-bin/wiki?WikiWikiWeb

It allows users to add their documents. That will reduce lots of work do be done by one person.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 4:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Newbies ask the same questions, right? Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
For this offense, I have been condemned and chastised by a local LUG, repeatedly.

Well, this is not the idea here. It's not my idea, and I'm pretty sure it's also not the idea of the other users that are willing to help. My idea is very much like the one expressed in the article Making Linux look harder than it is, by Robin Miller. Of course, not everything stated there applies to Gentoo (e.g. the kernel compiling part), but the general point is
Quote:
But did you ever think that someone like you, who knows how to use Linux as a user operating system might be a more helpful teacher to a brand-new user than some of those gurus? That even though you, the ordinary user, feels humbled by the professional-level Linux people in the LUG, you have something to offer in the way of tech support?

Perhaps we should call it "non-tech support," because what so many new Linux users need, and do not seem to be getting, is simple instructions on how to do simple things the easiest possible way.

So, Linux user of modest skills, do not leave all new user training to the hard-cores. You can probably do a better job of teaching new users than some of the hoariest, "been using Unix for 30 years, Linux for ten", greybeards.
with which I totally agree.

We could very well start with something like The config files: where they are and what they do, leaving the part "how to hack them" to more comprehensive manual pages...

What do you say?
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 6:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Newbies ask the same questions, right? Reply with quote

fghellar wrote:
[snip]
We could very well start with something like The config files: where they are and what they do, leaving the part "how to hack them" to more comprehensive manual pages...

What do you say?

I say that this would be the single most important helpful tool for someone new to linux.
Even someone who has a reasonable amount of experience, but hasn't found these
answers yet. I consider myself to fall into the latter category. You can't after all search
for help on something you don't know exists or what it is called if you happen to know
it does, but not what it is. I'll stop now before I become completely incoherent.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2002 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I'm starting the config file list/desc. Anyone willing to help, follow me to /dev/null: https://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic.php?p=29371.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2002 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fghellar wrote:
Ok, I'm starting the config file list/desc. Anyone willing to help, follow me to /dev/null: https://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic.php?p=29371.


phpBB wrote:
The topic or post you requested does not exist.


:?:
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2002 4:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He must have axed it. I tried finding it a week or so ago, that would explain why I couldn't :D. In short, the thread was going to expand on this document. Modifying it so that it was organized by files compatible across Unix, Linux and unique to Gentoo. That sort of thing.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2002 5:18 am    Post subject: what a pitty.... Reply with quote

sad to see this die...a very nice idea.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2002 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jay wrote:
I think the best way to achieve this is with WIKI. Check out: http://c2.com/cgi-bin/wiki?WikiWikiWeb

It allows users to add their documents. That will reduce lots of work do be done by one person.

http://gentoo.zhware.net/fuq.html
http://gentoo.zhware.net/wiki/
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 2:45 pm    Post subject: Urrr Where was I??? Reply with quote

:oops: :oops: :oops: :oops:
I got so busy with an M$ flame war in another forum.....
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 3:11 pm    Post subject: newbie helping app for all 'the same questions' Reply with quote

I keep coming to the conclusion that this might be simply html and a browser, maybe on a bootable rescue oriented floppy, if it can be made to fit(or CD).

This thread seems to have been lively while I was missing, but links fails.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dunbar: Are you sure you responded in the correct thread? I'm not quite understanding what you're getting at.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 5:57 pm    Post subject: Seemed like someone was saddened that thread died Reply with quote

I just figured I'd pop a quick reply to bump the thread to the top of the stack and maybe, if someone had been waiting for me to respond, then the thread might regain life.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 6:00 pm    Post subject: Re: newbie helping app for all 'the same questions' Reply with quote

*nod* I just didn't get what you meant by:
dunbar wrote:
I keep coming to the conclusion that this might be simply html and a browser, maybe on a bootable rescue oriented floppy, if it can be made to fit(or CD).

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 11:34 am    Post subject: OK, what next? Reply with quote

After I returned, I noticed some interest in this thread and wondered what, exactly kanuslupus, fghellar and shakti were interested pursuing.

Are these parties already busy on something related to the idea I mentioned? If so, what is the present state if your efforts?
TIA
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

See this thread.
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