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How to be user friendly

December 21st, 2011 by

After having read an answer containing a rude “RTFM” on one of the openSUSE mailing lists I think I have to make a point. A very important one, since it seems to become a habit to be brief and put information into single spots only, which might be found with Google.

Helping users, and I don’t mean only new users, cannot be done with pointing them to Google all the time unless it’s a very well-known issue. A Unix system like Linux comes from a very good tradition of man pages, howtos and other local information e.g. files in /usr/share/doc/packages/. Unfortunately this tradition seems to be dying. This wouldn’t be dramatic if there would be more openSUSE specific documentation, but this is not the case. It’s either brief, old or fragmented over the net in blogs or mailing list archives. Especially the latter may be a good source for solving problems, but some threads are filled with long discussions and the satisfied solution cannot be found with a few glimpses or even clicks.

Therefore all of us need to write more documentation that can be found easily and at best on *.opensuse.org servers. Otherwise the search function there is pointless. The best place for documenting solutions to common and not-so-common problems is the support database in the openSUSE wiki:

http://en.opensuse.org/Portal:Support_database

Writing things in your personal blog is good and welcome, but at the same time there should be an SDB article about the provided solution.

I have to add that there are a lot of people who already put a lot of effort into documenting things. This post is not to criticize, but to support them, so that there are not only a few who contribute valuable help to users.