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Re: Processing HOWTOs

On Wed, Jan 26, 2000 at 10:21:54AM +0100, Stein Gjoen wrote:

> In my experience the readers are too timid to approach the authors
> directly, a semi anonymous web log, perhaps for each document, would
> perhaps lower the threshold and give us more feedback.

If a reader is not sure whether or not they should email the author,
then it could be because what they have to say is not very important
or possibly wrong.  Thus it's sometimes a good thing that people
hesitate to write.

> > No, we need a process whereby docs can be rated and comments attached
> > by the user base.  We need stats to show which docs are actually read,
> > and a followup process which asks the reader if the doc was actually
> > helpful.  This is basic Customer Support 101.

I think the existing system is OK.  People write directly to the
author.  Stats will be quite misleading as to the importance of a
document.  Most distributions have the HOWTOs so a lot of people will
not be going to websites to get them.  A document relating to
a specialized topic on software development may be read by only a
few people.  But if those few people are able to use this info to
develop software used by millions, then millions benefit from the
distribution of only a small number of documents.

Right now we need to spend more time recruiting people including
people to review docs.

> Some actual hit stats from the LDP site would tell us how we
> are doing.

There are about 200 mirror sites so it's quite a project.  An
interesting situation is that if I use a search engine to find my
HOWTOs, almost all of them found are out-of-date (some are over a year
out-of-date).  Hopefully readers will go the the "New versions of this
howto" section and get a new versions.  But many will not.  One to-do
is to send form letters to sites that have stale HOWTOs and ask them
either to update their HOWTO collection or replace them with links to
a mirror site that has the latest updates.  Also it would suggest that
they might become a mirror site and thus would not be out-of-date

> >    How about this: A new display engine on the website which lists
> >    the requested doc in the right frame, but down the left margin
> >    lists the title, the date, author contact info and the version
> >    numbers of mentioned software.  Below this is a survey form
> >    that says "How useful is this doc?"  Then, once we have a
> >    significant database of reviews, when someone searches for a
> >    doc, the search results page shows the title of the document
> >    followed by its review metrics, its age and the version
> >    numbers.
> Good idea, I second this.
I don't agree.  For one, I don't like frames to well and they are a
pain with the Lynx browser.  Reviews are best done by people who know
the topic.  A HOWTO may be well written but contain a lot of errors.
If the errors are on options that few people use (or on "theory"),
they are likely to remain unreported.  

What we might do is to have a HOWTO feedback article which is linked
to from the LDP home page.  It would suggest that readers give
feedback to the author if they find something wrong.  Also, it would
state that if someone finds a HOWTO with an excessive number of typos,
awkward sentences, or lack of clarity they should report it to the
HOWTO Coordinator.  In such a case the HOWTO Coordinator would check
it out.  If there is no hope that the author alone can fix it, then
perhaps someone can be found to edit the authors work.  

> > Maybe a requirement for LDP authors should be an explicit
> > ownership clause in the submission process which says "You agree
> > to maintain this component" --- if someone doesn't want the great
> > hoards of users sending them email to complain about a typo, ....

"Hoards" is an exaggeration.  But I've had multiple people report the
same mistake when there was a 2 month delay in getting the HOWTOs

                        David Lawyer

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