In the Ubuntu Manual Project we are always looking for ways to make our content and material available to as many people as possible. We make it available in different languages and downloadable in different formats, as well as offering the printed version for purchase through an online publisher.
The next logical step is an online HTML version of our content.
When I compared the support offering from Apple and Microsoft to our own, I found that our solution right now is certainly not adequate as a place for support for the millions of mainstream Ubuntu users. The current solution at help.ubuntu.com has a lot of old content that’s taken directly from upstream, thereby missing a lot of the new Ubuntu specific stuff like the Me Menu and the Ubuntu One Music Store. It’s also missing screenshots and dynamic content to make documentation fun and friendly. It has a lot of inconsistency issues and quality problems, doesn’t have decent search, no localizations and does not adhere to the new Ubuntu branding and website style.
The Ubuntu Learning and Support Center would be split into two parts, an “Ubuntu support” section, and a “Learning Center.” The support section would offer solutions to problems that users have, and provide instructions on how to do tasks. Think Chapters 1 – 5 in our manual, “Getting Started with Ubuntu 10.04.” The Learning Center would have our “advanced” content that teaches users things beyond what they need to know for a basic, means to an end experience. This section would not only involve our content from Chapters 6 – 9, but also content submitted from the community could be uploaded and featured. Integration with the Learning/Classroom teams in the future would be fantastic and classes could be scheduled and managed through the Learning Center as well. It would also be nice to work closely with the people working on the Ubuntu Developers Manual to get their content into the Learning Center.
It will work as a type of “moderated wiki” where users can suggest changes to paragraphs or provide feedback in the form of a star rating system. This feedback would be sent to us and we could then make a decision whether to go ahead and implement the suggested changes or not. Approved suggestions or changes will overwrite the original paragraph in our root content pool, thereby changing the paragraph not only on the website but also in the PDF “Getting Started with Ubuntu” and any other formats we may have available. I think this strikes a good balance between a free for all wiki and “static” documentation.
The manual itself will be cut down for the next few releases so that it truly becomes a “Getting Started” guide and will not cover advanced topics at all. The advanced material will be available solely on the website, but will be stored in the same pool as the content from the manual so that translations can be done from the same place.
USLC will be developed over the next 6 months and will be available for Maverick. In the meantime we will be working with it on our own server, and if it’s successful and the technology works, we will look into moving it over to help.ubuntu.com. If you’re a web developer, we need your help!