Sunday, January 29, 2006

Doco: Making It Simpler For The End User


Two disparate sources of documentation for Ubuntu have emerged over the last two years - the official Ubuntu documentation, including the official Ubuntu Wiki, and the
Customization Tips & Tricks forum on the official Ubuntu Forums. Although the forum has served its initial purpose, on its own, it is an unmanageable documentation facility. Hence, under the direction of two forum admins, the Ubuntu Document Storage Facility (UDSF) was born to organise and collate the contents of the forum.

Different Projects, Same Goals

Understandably, the UDSF admins are proud of their site and have put in a great deal of their time into setting the wiki up. But what they have done is duplicate an existing official mechanism, the Ubuntu Wiki.

Ubuntu is a very open community, if you feel something needs to be improved, put your hand up then lend a hand. The Ubuntu Wiki needs the help of those involved with the UDSF to help restructure it into a lean mean doc machine.

Promotion of the UDSF

Several influential Ubuntu Forums staff actively promote the UDSF as a source of information in their post signatures, with no accompanying references to the Ubuntu Wiki. Promotion by the Ubuntu Forum staff has two negative effects:
  1. Ubuntu Forums staff became staff members because they answer the most questions, therefore their avid promotion of an unofficial documentation source without the dual promotion of the official source creates confusion amongst impressionable new users seeking help
  2. The UDSF, indirectly, supports the continuation of the unmanageable documentation created within the Customization Tips & Tricks forum
The Official Ubuntu Forums admins and the UDSF admins have been invited to a joint meeting with the Ubuntu Documentation team to open formal dialogue about integrating better with the Official Ubuntu community. The invitation was also posted in the forums and personally sent to each of the interested parties.

Ubuntu Wiki vs Customization Tips & Tricks Forum

I have stated multiple times that the Customization Tips & Tricks forum is unmanageable without an additional service. Any additional services, be it the UDSF or a team that copies the posts straight into the Ubuntu Wiki, is an unneccessary overhead to producing documentation.

Forum posts are static and are only good for static communication, like asking questions, not for providing quality documentation. The current support mechanism for the shortcomings of the forum posts, the UDSF, is privately run and has a scheduled downtime of 6 hours each week.

Let commonsense prevail, create your documents in the Wiki and discuss the document on the Forums. Issues of licensing and archiving will become non-existant. The guidelines for creating new wiki pages are just guidelines, that is the reason for using a wiki, documents are corrected and kept up-to-date because of constant public peer review.


I became an Ubuntu Member this week at the last Community Council meeting that was held. Many thanks to Jorge Castro for his positive blogging about my work. As a result of my membership, I have joined the Ubuntu Documentation & Wiki teams, and began contributing to the Ubuntu Desktop Starter Guide for the upcoming Dapper Drake release.

I nutted out the appropriate keymappings for my SonyEricsson K750i to remote control beep-music-player via Bluetooth as a continuation of the work carried out at 2006. It looked really cool when I demo'd it at HUMBUG last night and I will document the steps in the next few weeks on the Wiki. I am in contact with the GBTcr guy as well to get that promising app running on Ubuntu. Also watch the Ubuntu Wiki in the coming weeks as I await the results of a guy I helped to setup his mobile phone as a modem via Bluetooth. An overhaul of the Bluetooth doco is on the horizon..

Keeping along with my focus for Ubuntu being a premier choice for business desktops, we should also "keep up with the Jones'" in the kickass department. A strong focus from the Ubuntu community on documenting how they've made Ubuntu really rock (I had to use that word) by getting it to do awesome things, eg. Bluetooth remote control, could make Billy G's keynote address (video) (transcript) at last year's CES seem laughable.


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