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documentation for novice and newbies



Hi all,

We've got lots of ideas flowing.  Rather than reponding to each post (I
was away for one day and there's a lot on this thread), I'll try to
repond from my perspective to some of the points.  In no particular
order:

I have been subscribed for a couple of weeks to the debian-www list
(which is where the web site says to post comments on the website, sort
of a 'webmaster' substitute), but haven't had any traffic really.  There
doesn't seem to be interest in updating the website to add a NOVICIATE
button.  Whatever we do, I think we need to have a clear title entry so
that it can be found by google (however one does that).

I have also been subscribed to the debian-doc list which is extremly low
volume (probably a symptom of why we're having to have this whole
conversation).  If we felt we needed our own list to take some noise out
of debian-user we could probably go there.

I don't want to "dumb down" the debian project.  I don't want to change
the installer or its manual.  I'm suggesting that we need a manual or
equivalent, a companion document to help the novice understand the
installer, its manual, their computer, and later their new installation.

A novice can certainly go without a desktop environment since they don't
know any worse.  A newbie (person with previous other OS experience) has
more to unlearn so may feel that they can't live without one.  This is
fine.  Our manual can give a choice by giving some background.  The
reader can make a choice when they run the installer (at the tasksel
point in Etch's installer, they can choose desktop environment).

I haven't signed up to be able to submit to the debian wiki
(wiki.debian.org), has anyone else?  Is it flat, or could we set up a
high level link, something like "For Novices and Newbies to Debian".
Under this we could have individual wiki entries that we could work on.
One of which could be a link to newbiedoc because, as I understand it,
newbiedoc as a whole is unable to change its licence to GPL from GFDL to
make it possible to just migrate it to wiki.debian.org.

My personal goal in all this is to turn people in to full-featured
newbies.  Newbies who know that:

	there is no _one_ definitive source of information on linux in
	general or debian specifically;

	much documentation for newbies is not an official part of
	debian.org;

	documentation for linux in general can be confusing when trying
	to apply it to Debian;

	entries under the wiki are the responsibility of the people who
	wrote it not debian.org (check the official wording on the
	wiki.debian.org home page);

	prior to installation, they need to read the installation
	manual.

	if they don't have a document that provides the infomation they
	need, their best souce is to google site:debian.org (will this
	give results from wiki.debian.org _and_ lists.debian.org?);

and can do the following:

	basic shell skills (not scripting).

	Use one of the editors that goes under /bin not /usr/bin (so
	they can fix something that keeps /usr from being mounted), like
	nano-tiny.

	Use Midnight Commander (mc) to explore the file system, read
	compressed documentation (e.g. under /usr/share/doc).

	man, apropos.

	Use Lynx to browse the wiki and do google searches.

	Use mutt to send and receive email.  This requires that they
	know how to find information on their system to help them get
	connected to the internet.  

	Use aptitude interactively.

I would like to be aware that novices may be installing from two images:
	
	netinst.iso, so they will have to get on the net to get anything
	more than the base system.

	CD1, so they will have good docs they can install without having
	internet.


It would be good to have a way of packaging up a snapshot of what we put
on the wiki.  I haven't tried yet, but can we wget a tree from the wiki
and have it as an html document?  From there it could be turned into
postscript from IceApe and from that into pdf.  This may be easier than
learning something like debiandoc and figuring out how to put _that_ on
the wiki.  The html, ps, and pdf could then be packaged into a .deb.

My concern with having newbies going along fine with a desktop
installation is that when something breaks, they don't know how to do
anything.  It is especially difficult if X breaks.  Lets face it, X
breaks an awful lot more frequently than init=/bin/sh.

With that in mind, for package management I suggest interactive aptitude
from the outset.  

If we do our job right, we should be able to give someone who hasn't
seen a computer before:
	
	a computer that just barely meets the minimal requirements for
	Etch;

	Our documentation;
	
	The installation manual;

	Etch CD1 i386;

	an ISP account;

and receive from them a successful installation report.


How does this sound?

Doug.



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