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Re: Processing HOWTOs

Due to fringertrouble at my end this went to Greg Ferguson alone, I
intended it to go to the list, sorry about that.

This is getting big, I have trimmed quite a bit...

Greg Ferguson wrote:
> On Jan 26, 10:21am, Stein Gjoen wrote:
> > Subject: Processing HOWTOs
> >
> > > IMHO, while the LDP is amazing, let's not kid ourselves about quality.

> > Sadly true. So when is the core team going to post a request
> > for new authors or maintainers on news:comp.os.linux.announce ?
> > It wouldn't cost to try.
> There is no longer a core team; there are volunteers. If you would
> like to take on that task, I think everyone involved with the LDP
> would be most appreciative!

I'll be happy to do the web promotion and I hope to finish a
NetHelp framework to demonstrate a potentialy more userfriendly
format for HOWTOs.

Having been remarkably unsuccessful in getting feedback from
Slashdot poll system, I'll leave the people-to-people promotion
to someone more successful.

> > >     >>  To this aim, we need a charismatic leader or group of leaders,
> > >     >> who can accept and refuse works without offending anybody.
> > >
> > > 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.

See note later on about the Freshmeat mechanism...

> > To get proper stats we also need to promote. I did some automated
> > web promotion of my HOWTO and raised the hit counts from
> > about 50 a day to 300-500 a day. What has the core team done in
> > this respect? This is hardly the firt time I ask/suggest but I
> > have yet to see an answer. Some actual hit stats from the LDP
> > site would tell us how we are doing.
> Again, anyone part of this mailing list, anyone that has used
> the LDP, anyone that likes what they see can assist in promoting
> the LDP. Posting to the ng's is no doubt a good place to start.
> Placing links to the TPL on individual websites is another.

Agreed, very much.

> > > Maybe we should treat authors like software authors: When someone is
> > > the maintainer of a software package, they put their email address on
> > > it. They _expect_ to receive bug reports and gripes which are then
> > > folded back into the software to improve it.  When it gets to be too
> > > much for them, they hand the reigns to someone else.
> > >
> > >   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 *like* the idea, but I'm worried about us modifying the display
> in any way, shape or form...especially using frames. Call it
> paranoia.

Sorry, I was too quick, I dislike the frame mechanism but the
table tags can be put to good use here. Take the HOWTO
index page, run it through a script to add on the survey,
comments field etc. or use the Freshmeat method.

> How about, for a start, just a simple way to provide feedback - a
> page linked to from the other "main" pages we have on the LDP? It
> may at least help to garner some form of feedback. I realize it isn't
> quite the fine-grained functionality we'd like to have/need, but it
> is a start.
> I can put together a form and then collect and/or email the
> results from each inquiry; if this is an approach we decide
> upon. Like I said, it's a starting point; it might remove the
> intimidation factor some people might feel wrt emailing an
> author directly.

A user writable web log would lessen the burden of maintaining
the system, something I feel is important given the limited

> > > Part of this is also proper dating of material.  All LDP docs should
> > > say right at the top the date of last revision, and the search engine
> > > results must tell me this.  What good is it to find a ppp-2.1 or a
> > > kernel-2.0 doc?  Maybe I really am looking for help with old
> > > technology, but I will bet real money most queries against the LDP
> > > search engine are looking for help with the most recent Linux
> > > distributions --- the vast majority of the Linux users out there today
> > > have been using Linux for less than a year.

Perhaps the HOWTO HOWTO should have a few notes about
obligatory parts such as
 - date
 - version number
 - email address
 - document homepage

> > Again this is not the first time this topic comes up and many
> > authors were approached by a 3.rd party willing to take up that
> > job. Nothing has been heard of since.
> >
> > I proposed an automated cooperation with Freshmeat, another idea
> > that sunk mostly without a trace. Yet when I check the place
> >       http://freshmeat.net/search.php3?query=HOWTO
> > I find 17 HOWTOs have quietly been registered, and tracking
> > numbers and dating is done, an example:
> >       http://freshmeat.net/appindex/1999/06/26/930410556.html
> > Looking closer I notice it is possible for users to make
> > comments directly to those web pages. It does look like
> > Freshmeat ALREADY has done what we have talked about.

I would like to add that you also get click-though statistics
for each document, that could save us a lot of work.

> > I suggest we get a TODO list of good ideas up. Many ideas come
> > up again and again and sink without trace. I think even a TODO
> > list was mentioned some time ago but funnily enough nothing
> > happened.
> Start sending me items, I'll put one together.

OK, a few points:
 - Add META tags to the LDP homepage, that can improve ranking
  on many search engines
 - Ask the maintainer of the Pedia to join LDP, if not we should
  add a link to his page
 - Many have links to LDP, it is only polite to return the favour,
  also there are many links to zines we could add
 - add a link to FAQs
 - An idea from IMDB, add links to "related topics", for instance
  for the Multi Disk HOWTO the Partitioning- , Partition Rescue- ,
  Large Disk HOWTO are relevant. Again links to Usenet News FAQs
  could be relevant
 - Consider a link to OSWG; while politically sensitive here we
  should not forget the end users might benefit here
 - Get the rest of the HOWTOs registered with Freshmeat
 - Ask Linux Weekly News to get a small section on LDP news,
  perhaps best place is their Development section
 - run an automated robot to look for broken links in documents;
  many like me don't have the net access to do this well
 - Approach the various distribution compilers to join this
  mailing list, and persuade them to keep fresh LDP HOWTO archives
  in their errata section
 - Make an intro.ldp manpage to point out to users where to find
  the HOWTOs on their disks, not all know of /usr/doc/HOWTO
 - Make the TODO list, with dates on submission and completion

(have to stop, machine about to crash...)

   Stein Gjoen

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