[GNC-dev] Documentation Redo

David T. sunfish62 at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 18 10:58:31 EDT 2018


Once again, my words have gotten the better of me. I apologize for the length of this message...

I have to admit that I do not understand what part of this research qualifies it for an IgNobel—was it the “well, duh!” aspect, or was it that these folks took seven years to determine this, or was it that they were able to convince some funding agency to support it the whole time?

Setting that aside for a moment, it *is* useful to acknowledge that most people’s help preference is “to click around and get help when I need it.” TBH, that’s my style—although once I’ve done that a while, I am quite likely to sit down and read in more depth. While I doubt anyone is eager to strip out features from GnuCash (Budgets, anyone?), I think we *can* consider that perhaps our assistance modes might need to be reconsidered.

I have been focused on moving detailed information OUT of Help and putting it INTO the Guide, based on my own preferences and experiences with GnuCash. Perhaps that is misguided, insofar as most users aren’t turning to this resource consistently.

Assuming that a well-written but overlooked Guide is the proverbial falling tree in the forest, how should we be leading the Roaming Clicker to our oasis of Help? I think it is clear from the list traffic that we have quite a bit of room for improvement: new users regularly ask for help on topics that have coverage in the Help, the Guide and/or the wiki. So, we need to be looking for Something Better.

Bearing in mind the amount of work already placed in the existing documentation, I believe that we can establish a clear Assistance Continuum that uses context help to direct users to specific sections of the Guide. I have mentioned  this in other discussions recently, but I want to reiterate it here. We should transition the Context Help to contain brief descriptions with a “For more on this topic, see” link to the Guide in every instance. I believe this would support the needs of Roaming Clickers reasonably well, using the resources we have already got.

One major impediment to this is the linking features in our sources. There is little that can be done about this, however, short of changing our platform altogether—which past experience shows is doomed to stir up a lot of discussion with no ultimate change (“Full of sound and fury” comes to mind). As I see it, one of the major challenges in creating links is that we currently have no naming practices for the documents. This causes burdens: which elements receive tags? how do we form the names to assign? and on the other side, what name do I need to put in to link to the other? If we can establish *what* should get labels, and *how* we label them, I believe it would smooth a great deal of this process out. (Even better would be a means to use variables for these, so that references could automagically be generated without a user keying in a long link label. How cool would that be?).

The wild card in this Assistance Continuum is the wiki. There is a lot of useful information there; how would a user know to find it? Placing an actual link to the wiki is doomed to fail, since the wiki is by nature dynamic. Is there some way to add a canned search of the wiki to context help? This canned search would allow the user to retrieve information on the wiki as it existed at the time of the search, rather than at the time of the help authorship.

I imagine here that the Context Help writer would enter a couple of terms into a slot in the Help entry that would then be tacked on to a wiki search (and, yes, I am already thinking that a structured storage such as SQL might be a better approach to manage this). I will note that such wiki search functionality would of necessity require improvement of the wiki search feature, and perhaps a restructuring of how the wiki is created. My attempt to search the wiki for the entry on adjusting column widths (https://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/FAQ#Q:_How_do_I_resize_my_register_columns.3F_Why_can_I_not_shrink_the_description_column.3F) was less than successful. Any search I entered at the wiki search box returned a link to the general FAQ page, which doesn’t help. Similar attempts using Google were unsuccessful as well (why *are* the pdf copies of the documentation stored on wiki.gnucash.org as well at www.gnucash.org—or are they the same files?).


> On Sep 16, 2018, at 11:11 PM, John Ralls <jralls at ceridwen.us> wrote:
> So the IgNobel Prizes are out, and the “winner" of the literature prize is
> "Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and "Excess Features in Consumer Products”, https://academic.oup.com/iwc/article/28/1/27/2363584 <https://academic.oup.com/iwc/article/28/1/27/2363584>.
> Maybe instead of doing a rewrite we should just bin the lot and put the effort into stripping GnuCash down to the bare essentials.
> ;-)
> Regards,
> John Ralls
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> gnucash-devel at gnucash.org
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