[Home]Talk to Me/Archive Chat 2

HomePage | Talk to Me | RecentChanges | Preferences | Newbie Help

We've got a bunch of collated FAQs on the [HTML Master List]? all paged up and semi-sorted. Now we have to visit each link, and post an evaluative comment. Similar/same questions should be grouped somehow, but I don't have a real clear idea on how to do that. Suggestions? -- Jerry Muelver
Just a thought, but I don't think that the link to the HomePage is that clear when you first enter allmyfaqs.net. Perhaps you want to add another link part way down the page. BTW the home page is much more newbie friendly than it used to be. Cheers, Donald Noble
Maybe I'm missing something, but what's the point of a FAQ that merely consists of dozens of links to other websites? Or are these links intended as starting points for anyone who wants to write his own answer to a question? -- Matthias Gutfeldt

My thinking was first, to get a instant list of FAQs up and working. Second, to do so without totally tromping on copyrights. Third, to provide a means for commenting or annotating the established FAQs, which are otherwise aloofly arrogant in their pronouncements.

My hope is that folks will offer, in the annotations, better versions of the linked FAQs. So instead of divide and conquer, I am trying compile, coalesce, and corraborate.

Think of the newbie. The main tool will be some kind of search function, giving descriptive results (the free link titles help a lot), with some evaluation of usefulness before committing to implementation. It should end up to be a usenet-like collective wisdom, with all the crap distilled out, in an organized and easily-searchable environment.

But, I'm certainly open to suggestions, or ideas, or trial implementations as a branch of the wiki! -- jer

Why do you care about the (perceived or real) arrogance of other FAQs? I'm not going to provide 'educational' comments for the supposedly poor, unsuspecting newbies who might be mislead by those awful, awful established FAQs. That's an item in your agenda I am not going to support. Perhaps I'm biased because I translated one of them into German. --Matthias Gutfeldt

First, I don't see any prohibition against arrogance, or humor, or dynamic writing, or nudging newbies to knowledge, or pedantry, or pomposity, or even bogosity. In fact those are all icing on the cake. This is, after all, intended to be a community, not a treatise, so I would certainly expect to see some personality, not only in the members but in the site as a whole.

Second, those establish FAQs are not universally awful, in my mind. If I thought that, I would spend a couple of years writing Jer's Own Definitive FAQ. But there's no way I would want to duplicate something the likes of Jukka's tomes, or produce an Annotated HTML 4 Spec. I hope to make all that information accessible, findable by folks on their own, maybe with summaries or comments that help the best filter to the top. but where an established FAQ is awful, I would love to see a comment to that effect, even righteously indignant, perhaps infuriated, as a flag. That way, when someone searches Google for Fred's Foolish FAQ, they'll get not only Fred's site, but AllMyFAQs' warning about Fred's site.

And when Fred's site issues a warning about AllMyFAQ's site, the newbie will know exactly as much as he knew before. That's why I hate politics.

Politics is the natural state for communities. Wikis at least have some self-limiting features. Here, a slandered candidate can edit the slander, and post his own, more correct, view.

He can only reply if he finds it. Which is very unlikely in the case of other FAQ sites. But I guess we can rest this particular part of the discussion until somebody actually DOES post some slander about some other guy's FAQ site.

However, I think this FAQ should be as self-contained as possible. Of course I could answer just about any question with a link to some other person's page; but what's the point of a FAQ that is really nothing more than a glorified bookmark file with comments? --Matthias Gutfeldt

I agree. But remember I started with just a Perl script and an idea for an application -- no content. We need something build traffic before we can evolve to an Ideal FAQ Site. -- Jerry Muelver

Third, I don't have an agenda. I am a state-setter, not a goal-setter. I am planting this wiki in what I see as fertile ground. It will grow in its own way, subject to the dynamics of community. I can help it grow not by tugging on its leaves but by setting more state -- adding water, fertilizer, loosening soil.

Well, in my opinion you used too much fertilizer; those links are overwhelming, at least for me. I prefer the organic approach.

Yeah, I know. I thought about your aversion to a page of underlined text when I redid everything, but went ahead anyway. For newbie access, it's hard to beat the old blue underline. We could use some of the linking conventions to lighten the look, but that adds another layer of complexity for newbies. How about a two-tiered approach for newbies/gurus?

It's not the blue underline. It's the fact that your 'answer' to a FAQ question consists of nothing more than one or several links to OTHER sites. I would prefer for this FAQ to provide an actual answer, and only link to other sites for reference purposes, or for illustrations. I often link to the W3C specs; they're great resources (and define, ahem, the standards), but hard to read for people that aren't used to the language. I also like to link to example pages, sometimes I even write a small example page just to answer a newsgroup posting. But those are links within the context of my answer, not in lieu of an answer.
--Matthias Gutfeldt

Of course. That's the way I do it, too. But I don't have answers for evey possible question, or even for all known and catalogued questions. Maybe Jukka does -- but I sure don't. I figure to start with the links, annotate and rate their usefulness, and write some Real Help for the ones that need it the most, first. Gotta start somewhere. Don't fall into the thought that what you see is the best you're going to get. -- Jerry Muelver

Fourth, I'm in awe of anyone who can do anything with German. I studied a little of it in high school, and have come away from my studies with much the same suspicious befuddlement expressed by Mark Twain in his comments on the German language. I've done Latin, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese with modest conversational success, and Russian as an interrogator/interpreter and academic book translator, but I'm afraid my brain is not wired for German. Esperanto is very much more my style. See one of my other wikis -- http://unumondo.com

Whoah - Japanese, and Russian? That's impressive. I started learning Japanese a while ago, with a bit of thinking I could read both Hiragana and Katakana. But with all those other projects I had running at that time (getting certification, work, origami...), I kinda dropped it again. Which is a pity, because I met a Japanese guy in London who was absolutely amazed when I said 'konichiwa'.

BTW, German is my mother tongue, and an additional advantage was that my mother was both a German and English teacher. I'm doing those translations because they let me practice both English and German, and of course I learn a lot about the subject matter.

Fifth, I'm really glad to have to you back. Vacations are times of renewal for most folks, but for the bystanders (and consultants with no time off), they are like little pieces of death, leaving sneaky little holes in the fabric of connections. -- Jerry Muelver

Hey, thanks :-). London was really great fun. I didn't miss my computer one bit. All those museums are simply fascinating; I never go to museums here in Switzerland (my kids aren't interested). I saw the Cierva Gyrocopter, THE self-portrait by Rembrandt, old Japanese samurai swords, and about a zillion people every day in the tube. Did you know that London has more inhabitants than all of Switzerland?

I'm toying with notion of buying/building an ultralight gyro as a complete capitualtion to mid-life crisis. I've been fascinated by them for years.

Why not try a model autogyro first? Jim Baxter's site http://www.autogyro.com/ is a great starting point and resource. A while back I thought about building a simple model autogyro myself, but like I said - too many projects. BTW, here's a [Link] to the Cierva in the Science Museum.

Model gyros! Perfect! Thanks!


Gotta simplify this for the newbie looking to ask a question.

If you were a newbie looking to get help, what would you (in all your innocence and inexperience) expect to have to do? -- jer

If I were a newbie, I'd probably click on the HTML FAQ link (or CSS FAQ if that's what I'm interested in) on the homepage, see whether my question has already been answered, and if not, despair. I then might figure out that I'm supposed to Edit this page. I'd despair some more, because editing such an important document is kinda scary, esp. since I have no idea how to do it. Then I just might realise there are instructions available. I might read those instructions, play in the sandbox, get distracted, maybe follow the link to the Meatball wiki... and by the time I know enough about wiki style to add a question, I will have forgotten what I wanted to ask, and I might not find my way back to allmyfaqs, anyway.

I really don't know how to prevent all that from happening. Maybe it would be helpful to have a textbox that says "type your questions here", without any styling whatsoever, and after clicking a big fat SAVE button this question would automagically be appended to the other unanswered questions.

But this wouldn't follow the wiki scheme of things, and it would require some additional programming on each FAQ page.

OTOH, we could simply recruit some actual newbies, ask them to accomplish the task of asking a new question, and see how they do it, or how they fail. Basically, do some usability testing. -- Matthias Gutfeldt

Usability? Now, there's a concept! Wikis, with their ease of page-creation, would be wonderful tools for usability testing. Different topic....

I like your description of the newbie use case. Google and Ask Jeeves try to make it simple with just an input box for an interface. Getting some newbies in to test things is obviously (now that you point it out) the thing to do. I wonder how they would like an Eliza-type interface? Ask a question, and Eliza comes back for a little clarification, maybe just by restating the question by replaying a FAQ that uses some of the same terms the newbie did -- "Is that what you mean?" If the newbie agrees with the restatement, he gets branched to the page with that FAQ.

The Wiki idea, like all ideas, can use some evolutionary modification. Your notion of a newbie input page which takes a non-threatening form entry and appends it to a wiki page, is easily do-able. What I may be suffering from here is a simple lack of clear purpose. What do I want this wiki to do?

We address two classes of visitors -- know-nothings and know-it-alls. This wiki should be a bridge between the two. There are obvious benefits for the know-nothings. I'm not so sure of the appeal for the know-it-alls. -- jer

HomePage now revised a bit, to point newbies in a productive direction. -- jer

Excellent revision! Matthias Gutfeldt

Thanks. I think it can be cleaned up more. I'm leaning toward to the two-tier access explanation idea. Jerry Muelver

I'm not sure what you mean; the Search function, the new compiled reference lists?

Neither. A branch on the Homepage, this way for newbies to ask FAQs, this way for answering geeks to get wiki-nitty-gritty.

BTW, what's the point of those personal reference lists? What good is a page full of links if you don't know what's behind those links? Yeah I know, I'm repeating myself. But what good are seven links to seven different HTML tutorials? I barely have time to read one, and as a newbie I don't know which one is the best, anyway. So give me one link, and be done with it. --Matthias Gutfeldt

My dream, too. We'll list them, annotate them, rate them, fix them. But, you gotta start somewhere! -- Jerry Muelver

Looks like the wiki could use a new coat of paint. The links look a bit rusted. --Matthias Gutfeldt

I love rust! It's so neutrally soothing. The yellow is garish, I admit, but it's open for experimentation. I was thinking of the hokey old underline for hover, instead of yellow. Jerry Muelver

OK, this is simply weird: In Netscape 6, when I hover over a list that does NOT contain any links (visible e.g. at the list in ]1[ ), I get the garish yellow hover effect that is supposed to show for links! So, is this happening to other Netscape 6 users as well, or is my poor Netscape simply a little bit confused after I put it through my crazy little forms over at http://gutfeldt.ch/matthias/test/styleforms.html? --Matthias Gutfeldt

Could be my CSS, you know. In my eagerness to test the new wiki CSS function, I just grabbed an old one and pushed it into shape. Take a look at the wiki CSS file. -- Jerry Muelver

Looking at the CSS was the first thing I did, of course. But I obviously didn't look very well. Either that, or I'm just so used to crappy CSS support that I didn't spot the culprit right away:

 :hover	 {Background-Color : yellow}

According to


the :hover pseudo-class is a valid pseudo-class for every element. In really very crappy browsers, like Internet Explorer 5, the way you used it apparently only works for links. But in an only marginally crappy browser like Netscape 6, it obviously works for a few other (but not all) elements as well (I just noticed that in this wiki, it also works for input type=text, the submit buttons, and sometimes even the textarea where I'm typing in right now turns yellow - spooky!). So your revised stylesheet should look something like this:

 a:hover {do incredibly hideous things}
''Good eye! I went with this one. Any better now? -- Jerry Muelver
Yes, much better. And a nice :active, too! --Matthias Gutfeldt

Or if you have named anchors that aren't supposed to turn yellow, you should use

 a[href]:hover {do incredibly hideous things}

a[href] is a bit too advanced for some browsers (again, IEX5), so in many cases this one here would be safer:

 a:link:hover {make my eyes bleed}

--Matthias Gutfeldt

The colons look suspicious as hell. Please take a look at wiki CSS and see if I have it right. Wikis don't use named anchors, but that may just be a temporary shortcoming. I have an intranet wiki with all HTML enabled, so named anchors would be important there. -- Jerry Muelver

Jerry, how about making the :visited colour different to :link. I just spent an enjoyable hour browsing through some of the links but, after each one, I forgot where I was up to. Kept blundering into links that I had already visited :-(. Cheers -- Richard Formby

Richard's right, of course! I didn't even notice it because I never browse the wiki. By the way, the style for H1 has a small error in it. Each style property has to be separated by a semicolon. This type of error frequently happens if you first have only one style property in your stylesheet, and then when you add more rules you forget to add the semicolon. Therefore I always add a semicolon after each property, even if it's just one, or if it's the last one in the style rule:

 H1   {
    Font-Size : X-Large;
    Color : #FFCCFF ;
    Background-Color : #eeddcc;

Matthias Gutfeldt

Done. However, I am getting a weird color combination for the page title (H1) on the editing screen at the moment. Time to tweak... --Jerry Muelver
Yeah, pink on beige is bud uggly.

Fixed. No one has to know they've visited the page they're on!

HomePage | Talk to Me | RecentChanges | Preferences | Newbie Help
This page is read-only | View other revisions
Last edited January 16, 2003 6:03 pm (diff)

This FAQ is happily hosted by Betadome Digital Media