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Re: An interesting blog by Matt Zimmerman touches on docs


I think that a cloud based solution is a great idea. But for mobile users
this would a problem. One possible solution would be to include *all* of the
content that is available online in a repository that *gets updated when the
contents on the web changes*. Then is is not just static and can
be redesigned. If the downloaded format was HTML, then this would not
require another application. I think that a cloud based solution would be
great, but there needs to be a easy way to download all of that
content locally.

On Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 8:30 PM, Jim Campbell <jwcampbell@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Hi All,
> On Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 6:34 PM, Shaun McCance <shaunm@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> On Wed, 2010-07-07 at 17:13 -0400, Kyle Nitzsche wrote:
>> >
>> http://mdzlog.alcor.net/2010/07/06/weve-packaged-all-of-the-free-software-what-now/
>> [snip]
>> > With which I agree in general.
>> > * on-disk docs might effectively be limited to only what is necessary to
>> > get started and get connected to the web (localized, of course).
>> > * run-time help links might instead display appropriate content in the
>> > browser.
>> [snip]
>> > Naturally, there are disadvantages, such as:
>> > * no internet connection = no help (beyond the minimal on-disk help)
>> > * umm.. any other disadvantages?
>> A greater disconnect between applications and their help. Our
>> traditional help consists of islands of documents that are
>> largely separate from the applications they document.
>> One of my current projects is a library for deeply integrating
>> help into applications. (It was Phil's idea, although he might
>> not realize it.) Imagine help buttons and menus automatically
>> populated with the most relevant content, searching for help
>> directly in the help menu, and on-board help blurbs that come
>> directly from the help and link into it for more information.
>> These are the sorts of things that user assistance professionals
>> are dreaming about, but most help tool vendors are still stuck
>> in the 90s. We have the opportunity to blaze new trails with
>> free software. Stop playing catchup and make UA professionals'
>> mouths water.
>> It's possible to have this sort of deep integration with cloud
>> content, but it's harder. I have no doubt that help will move
>> more and more to the web, but then, applications will move more
>> and more to the web as well. If we jump there too early without
>> thinking about how to really improve things, we'll lock ourselves
>> into an outdated and inadequate help model.
>> --
>> Shaun
> To be fair, I don' t think that the two approaches to help have to be
> mutually exclusive.  What Shaun is talking about is awesome
> application-level help.  There will still be a need for people who want that
> help content in different formats, whether they be manuals or help that is
> searchable on the web.
> As for on-disk vs. cloud/web-based content, I think having more web-based
> content is necessary now.  We would still have the option of keeping on-disk
> help relatively light.  For example, we could not include (as many?)
> screenshots in on-disk help as would be available in other formats.
> Also, as far as I know, Ubuntu is one of the few distros that ships a good
> amount of on-disk help at all.  Fedora just ships their release notes in the
> main install, and OpenSUSE (I think) just features some sort of
> getting-started guide.  Both have their other help available for download on
> their websites.  Does anybody know how RHEL and SUSE have theirs set up?  Do
> they have much "distro-specific" help in the base install?
> As for Apple and Microsoft, they may have a good amount of on-disk help,
> but they don't concern themselves with fitting all of their OS and
> applications onto a 700mb CDROM.  For base installs they have DVD's and
> having some of their content accessible via the web.
> I bring up those comparisons not necessarily to say, "Oh, they do it that
> way, so that way is the best way," or to say, "Just do it however X group /
> company is doing it," but to set realistic expectations for us.  I want us
> to be mindful of bandwidth / offline-access issues like the ones that Phil
> W. brought up, and want to give room for Shaun's application-level help
> ideas, but a better web-presence for Ubuntu help would also be a big step
> forward.
> Jim
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