Screencast topics..

Alan Pope alan at
Thu Aug 27 19:34:49 UTC 2009

Hi all,

I didn't get a chance to talk about it at the -doc meeting recently as
we ran out of time. One thing I've been looking at, and wanted your
opinion on was the subject matter of screencasts. I'm looking at 5-10
min videos here only, not the lengthy ones.

There are a few categories I was pondering.

1) Simple introductory ones (like the boot screen one I did the other
day) which are aimed at _complete_ new people, probably people who
have never even seen Ubuntu. e.g tour of the desktop, how we install

2) How-to guides. These would be similar to the kinds of guides you
see on the forums and in blog posts. Things that have a well defined
goal. e.g. "How to install video driver X" or "How to compile
application Y from scratch".

3) Developer screencasts showing the kinds of things you'd need to
know if you were already pretty ok with Ubuntu but you wanted to go to
the 'next level' of contribution. e.g. packaging, but triaging, that
kind of thing.

4) Troubleshooting guides. Screencasts which educate people on how one
goes about discovering where a problem lies. This might include
debugging an X crash, or showing how to identify which package might
be at fault in a crash situation.

One of the biggest issues I've had is the amount of time it takes to
prepare a screencast. The one I did the other day about booting didn't
need much in the way of prep, but something where I'd need a 'clean'
launchpad ID, new ssh keys, email account in and so on, order to demo
the creation of those things might take a little more than usual.
Especially if it's a topic I don't already know well, and need to
practice on before recording a video.

An idea I had was to take pre-existing documentation, guides,
classroom sessions and forum posts and convert them into a screencast.
Much the same way as a book gets made into a film, but without the
budget or hollywood stars. For the above categories I would look at
taking content from the community wiki, official documentation,
ubuntu-classrom session logs, forum and blog posts. Then with the
permission and acknowledgement of the original author (where it's
possible to identify them) edit the content down, and convert it to a

Some will of course be more easy to convert than others. For example
some of the classroom sessions would be magic because they often
consist of a narrative from a developer, interspersed with example
code and exercises for the reader. Whereas a forum post about
configuring some esoteric bit of hardware might be less easy to do.

I appreciate that some of you may well say "there's no point creating
a screencast of something that's already written up" and I can
understand that. However I believe that there are many juicy nuggets
of wisdom that are less accessible to the 'youtube generation',
especially the huge gobs of text you find on the wiki which are
transcripts of classroom sessions.

I wanted to see what people thought of a) the rough categories I came
up with above, and b) the idea of re-using other peoples content in
this way.


More information about the ubuntu-doc mailing list