ρ (rho) wrote in lj_userdoc,
ρ
rho
lj_userdoc

You know you should never trust anyone who has a philosophy

My esteemed friend and coleague, burr86, reliably informs me that as a new docadmin I am entitled to 1 (one) free post to lj_userdoc. Now, since I'm an opionated little wossname, and since I can't keep my mouth shut, I obviously need to make the most of this opportunity. But what to post about?

I'd imagine that most of you already know who I am, so there isn't a great deal of point in me posting about that. The quick introduction for those who don't know me is that I've been doing volunteer stuff on and off (but mostly on) for very close to two years now, and userdoc for nearly that long. I was support admin of the syndication category for about a year and a member of the abuse team for around about 6 months. In addition to userdoc, I can now be found being low-volume and crotchetty over in support where I mumble about how things were different in my day, and I was recently also granted translate:en_GB privs, which lets me keep the site up to date in a format with more Us and fewer Zs. And I like cheese.

I also can't really do an entry about depression, which is my pet issue, since I already did that one in my free entry upon becoming support admin.

So, in much of a quandry, I decided to radically break with the tradition of this community and discuss end user documentation. The following (and for that matter, the preceeding) is entirely my own opinion, does not represent the opinions of the docadmins as a group, and in no way should be considered anything even close to resembling official policy. They're just my own personal vision of the direction I think that userdoc here should be going.

Firstly, I see the need for userdoc to be autonomous from support. It's important that support and userdoc maintain a healthy symbiotic relationship. Support relies on good documentation in order to function; userdoc relies on support to see what questions are getting asked, and where the FAQ is unclear. What I don't think is healthy is for userdoc to be a wholely owned subsidiary of support. A lot of the time, I think that changes to the FAQ which are beneficial to support aren't necessarily beneficial to the FAQ when viewed as a separate entity. For people who are also heavily involved in supportit is often easy to lose this perspective.

I'm particularly interested to hear the opinions of people reading this community who don't participate at all in support. What is your impression of the work that goes on here? What sort of responses have you got when you've tried to contribute? If you haven't contributed, have you ever thought about it? Do you have any questions? And so on and so forth.

The second thing that I'm interested in is simplification. This is probably obvious from several of the entries that I've been making recently. I know how easy it is to fall into the "bigger is better" trap; I'm frequently guilty of it myself. There's always one more bit of information to add. One more example to give. One more link to include. One more sentence to expand on. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it isn't. i think that a lot of the art of good documentation is in finding the right balance. There's always going to be a compromise between leaving out information and increasing complexity, and this community's job is to find the right level of compromise. Perosnally, I think that we're tending too much towards the over-complex, and we need to get back to basics somewhat.

Finally, I'm all about using the tools that we have available. There's a lot of sentiment around here along the lines of "the FAQs would be a lot better if we could use HTML" or "the FAQs would be a lot better if they were fully searchable". And I agree; they would. The problem is that we don't have these tools available to us, and LiveJournal developper time is at a premium, so it's impossible to predict when we will get them. It could be this Tuesday, or it could be 2009. With that in mind, I think it's important to use what tools we do have available to make the FAQs as nice as we can. No, we're never going to make them perfect, but we can make them better, and that should be our goal.

And there you have it. The quick guide to rho's philosophy on userdoc. Take once a day at bedtime, with a pinch of salt.
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