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Providing pointers to more generic help

From: James Youngman
Subject: Providing pointers to more generic help
Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2008 11:33:03 +0000

Having inhabited a number of GNU mailing lists for few years now, I
see that people occasionally email them with wholly unrelated
problems.   My current guess is that this happens because they happen
to see --help output from a GNU program or see the BUGS section of
some GNU manpage, and decide to ask that email address for help with
their problem.

There was a recent mail to bug-coreutils in which somebody asked for
help with an installation CD on address@hidden, for example.  I
can see how they got to that point, quite reasonably (via "man
install" or "install --help").  But we weren't able to help them.
We're working on clearer text to indicate what "install" is for, but I
realised this morning that we have an opportunity to help in a more
general way.

Often a person seeking to solve a problem doesn't yet know what tool
they need to use to solve (or even diagnose) their problem.  This of
course is one of the problems with man pages that Info tries to solve.
 However, I think there is probably a case to be made for putting a
very generic link on how to get help with free software in GNU
manpages, --help output and so forth.

The logical thing to do is put a single web page somewhere on
www.gnu.org and include in that page things that help users find
resources to help them.   I've made an outline of such a document
below.   It would likely be an enhancement to the document currently
at <http://www.gnu.org/help/gethelp.html>.

What do you think?   If you think this is a good idea but think the
outline could be better, please et me know.


<!--#include virtual="/server/header.html" -->
<TITLE>Getting Help With Free Software - GNU Project - Free Software
Foundation (FSF)</TITLE>
<LINK REV="made" HREF="mailto:address@hidden";>
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="GNU, help, support, free software">
<meta http-equiv="Description" content="How to get help with Free Software" />
<BASE HREF="http://www.gnu.org/";>
<!--#include virtual="/server/banner.html" -->

<H2>Getting Help With Free Software</H2>
  <!-- Maybe include a brief pointer to the 'this document in other
       languages' footer. -->

  <!-- Brief description of what this document is for.
       Essentially, the purpose of this document is to be a useful
       thing for the BUGS section of GNU manpages to point to, to
       help those who have not identified a bug, but simply need more
       (or a different form of) help.

       An illustrative example is people who are looking at the
       manpage for "install" because they want to install a binary
       package.  -->

<H3>Support-related Benefits of Free Software</H3>
  <!-- How the three freedoms help people to help you. -->
  <!-- The fact that anybody can fix it probably means they already
       did that. -->
  <!-- I don't think this document is the right place to rant about
       how unuseful it is to rule out Free Software just because of
       the lack of warranty.  This document is intended to be a
       resource more than a manifesto.  We already have a manifesto.  -->

<H3>Helpful Resources Provided by the GNU Project</H3>
  <!-- Texinfo documentation, web pages, mailing lists. -->

<H3>Accessing GNU Documentation</H3>
 <H4>Info documentation</H4>
 <H4>Web pages</H4>

<H3>Other Documentation</H3>
  <H4>The Linux Documentation Project</H4>
  <H4>Usenet and Web FAQs</H4>
    <!-- "Usenet" FAQs in terms of origin; I am not sure that seeking
    help on Usenet would be useful these days, except for a small set
    of groups. -->

<H3>Help With Specific Distributions</H3>
  <!-- If you're running a GNU/Linux distribution, there are plenty
       of help resources specific to the one you're using.  Explain
       how to find these. -->

<H3>Mailing Lists and Newsgroups</H3>
 <H4>How to Find the Right Mailing List<H4>
    <!-- Point to the GNU mailman instance.
         Also GMANE and other similar mailing list archives.  -->       
 <H4>How to Describe Your Problem<H4>
    <!-- Remind people to check that they're using an up-to-date
    version.   Don't make this an H3 heading, because the reader may
    not know (yet) how to do such a thing, and we want them to read
    this document, not be scared off.  -->
 <H4>Getting Help in Your Language<H4>

<H3>Real-Time Help from People</H3>
 <H4>Real-Time Help over the Internet</H4>
 <!-- I plan to mainly give pointers to IRC networks/channels.
      Is anything else real-time and useful? -->
 <H4>Meeting People Who Can Help</H4>
 <!-- LUGs etc.  Do we call them GNU/LUGs? :) -->

<H3>Your Option to Pay for Support</H3>
 <!-- Explain that you can get _anybody_ to help,
      on any basis agreeable to both parties. -->
 <!-- Pointer to the GNU Service Directory.   -->

</div><!-- for id="content", starts in the include above -->
<!--#include virtual="/server/footer.html" -->
<div id="footer">

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$Date: 2008/12/07 21:54:38 $Author: jay $



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