Ubuntu Help Center

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at canonical.com
Wed Dec 23 13:55:00 GMT 2009

Hash: SHA1

Hi Brian

Brian Vidal Castillo wrote on 22/12/09 03:29:
> I want to start a new project related to the way help and support is
> given to the final users.
> We know that a lot of tools and ways are available to get the right
> answer, but none of these are really out-of-the-box.

Previously: <https://wiki.ubuntu.com/HelpfulHelp#Web%20integration>

> For example, the faster way to get help is from IRC channels, but it
> needs a *decent* IRC client installed, like X-Chat.

IRC does not scale, as a way of getting help, even to the small
proportion of Ubuntu users who currently know about it. (There are 1324
people in #ubuntu as I write this.) For any given person joining a busy
IRC channel, *most* of the things they see will not be relevant to their
problem. That's fine if you're already familiar with how IRC works, but
if you don't, it's bizarre.

If IRC was embedded into the standard help viewer, most people also
would not understand the difference between official support and some
random troll telling them to sudo rm -r *.

> Also, Yelp depends on gecko even when webkit is faster .

Apparently the only thing holding it up is accessibility.

> The main idea is to replace completely Yelp with a unified and faster
> Help system with an integrated IRC client, a Live Support panel. It
> will support man pages, docbooks, html manuals, xml-based manuals and
> the new Mallard pages.
> Also, it will give a 'tunnel' to access screencasts as
> 'demostrations'.

The ability to embed screencasts would be very cool. It almost certainly
doesn't require replacing Yelp, though.

> A few mockups (done in Balsamiq Mockups)
> Gallery: http://picasaweb.google.com/dael99/HelpCenter?feat=directlink

Remember that a help viewer needs to be compact enough to fit
*alongside* whatever you're wanting help with.

There are many ways in which you could improve the existing help system.
One would be devising a method by which help pages can show conditional
help depending on what environment you're running (e.g. Ubuntu vs.
Ubuntu Netbook Edition). Another would be implementing a mechanism for
help pages to have a "Show Me" button, that highlights the relevant item
in the interface. Another would be to clean up the poor use of icons,
ruled lines, and italics in the help page style sheet. Another would be
to improve the search (for example, from an application's help pages,
the search should return results just about that application).

- --
Matthew Paul Thomas
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