making help helpful

Robert Crosbie swingincelt at
Wed Mar 9 18:42:24 UTC 2005

I actually meant to send this to the dev list.  Oh well, since cross
posting is often frowned upon, I'll continue it here and hope people
from the dev team are listening.

I originally envisioned a system that had a front end similar to
mediawiki, but would have the ability to export the contents to
whatever format the Help system is in.  For Gnome and KDE, I guess
that would be the docbook mark-up language, but it could be Man pages
or whatever.  Using something like this, there would be no difference
between the online documentation and documentation that gets included
with the system.   Creating the documentation for a release would be
as easy as labeling the current content and including that baseline in
the product.

How it is implemented doesn't really matter though.  The point is that
collaborating on the documentation project would be as easy as going
to a website and making changes using your browser.  There would be no
need to use Quanta, Kate, or sync your changes with CVS, or whatever
the current processes are.  The role of a projects documentation team
members could be as simple as revising the content added by users
instead of drudgery of being the sole creators of the content.  I see
it as taking the success of projects like wikipedia or wikibooks and
applying it to the Help system for applications.  Especially desktop
environments like KDE and Gnome which have extensive help subsystems.


On Wed, 09 Mar 2005 18:12:36 +0100, Philippe Landau <lists at> wrote:
> Robert Crosbie wrote:
> > I know that if I'm having trouble with a tool or a setting, I don't
> > even bother to look at the tools help, I search the ubuntu wiki site,
> > or the ubuntu forums.
> exactly.
> > Curious as to how I could help improve the documentation system, I had
> > a look at the guides and handbook. I was quite daunted.  I have little
> > desire to figure out the internals of yelp, docbook, scrollkeeper,
> > cvs, etc just to be able to contribute.  I assume that others feel
> > this way too which is why everyone heads to forums and wikis to write
> > their guides.
> >
> > If in the end all the documentation is just xml, wouldn't it be
> > possible to provide a wiki interface that would make editing the help
> > system super simple?  Does such a project exist already?  Judging by
> > the success of wikipedia, wikis in general and forums, I would assume
> > that this would encourage many more people to contribute.
> excellent idea.
> especially if help provides content from documentation and from wiki,
> all stored locally offline,
> providing links to  the corresponding searches on forum and bugzilla
> that would open in the browser.
> the contents could be updated via synaptic.
> kind regards     philippe

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