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RFD: Further Development of the Debian Website

Hi all.

Warning, lengthy mail ;)


Over the last few years the Debian website has seen many additions (like
all the CDDs) and punctual improvements (e.g. improved wnpp scripts, more
CSS oriented HTML structure). However, I think that the website actually needs
a structural reconsideration, i.e. we should improve the possibility to
actually find the stuff that is available and make the page more accessible
for people not as knowledgeable in how Debian is organised and working as
many of us are.

>From my discussions with other developers and users on conferences and
IRC I got the impression that many agree with this assessment. Hopefully
we can motivate some of them to participate in addressing their concerns :)

This mail is an attempt to get us doing some more organised, targeted
and ambitious development of the website in general. I know there are
many people working on the website, but I have the feeling that we
sometimes lack the necessary coordination and discussion to address
certain issues.

However, if you strongly object to the thoughts above, I would welcome
to hear your concerns.
The rest of this mail makes the assumption that you don't object.


I will list now some topics I would want to discuss about with the intent
to find some development goals we can agree and work on. It probably
includes some topics others don't find important and lacks many others.
Feel free to extend the list and question topics included.

Ways through the site / user specific information

The big question is: How do I get from the homepage to the information
I seek?
The information I seek, my knowledge about Debian and therefor the answer
to this question will probably differ much between Debian users and
Debian contributors and developers. Generally speaking I don't know
many Debian users that aren't also contributors or developers so I can
say little about their problems and if the current web page addresses
their needs. But I have feedback from various developers (some very
experienced ones) that they don't find information they seek or even
don't know that certain information exists. If I take a look at the
/devel/ index page I can't say I don't see their problem. It became
very crowded with the time and is probably in need of restructuring it
and splitting it up a bit.

- Possible ideas:
  * Get feedback from users (-user* mailing lists?) to identify problems
  * Restructure and split up /devel/ to make it easier to find stuff


We have very different ways of getting and distribute news:
 - DWN (available from website) [RSS?]
 - debian-announce (available from website/frontpage)
 - debian-devel-announce (not available from website)
 - debian-security-announce (available from website/frontpage) [RSS]
 - news specific to sub projects (available from the websites of
   these projects)
 - archive changes (additions and removals) [RSS/RSS?]
 - blogs/Planet Debian [RSS]
Sometimes there seems to be some confusion which news needs to get
through which channel. Examples are news about services. When a
ftp mirror or a web mirror has an outage, probably few people care,
they just move to the next one. Some services are only of interest
for developers and not so much for end-users (e.g. PTS or QA), a
mail over -devel-announce is clearly enough then. However, things
like packages.d.o or the BTS are probably used by way more people
and news about these services probably brought to their attention.
But are they important enough for -announce or should we perhaps
include selected posts from -devel-announce on the web page? 

- Possible ideas:
  * develop a written policy for how and where certain classes of
    news should get distributed
  * offer RSS feeds for _all_ news (especially for the CDDs and other
    sub projects) and give the user a overview over all available ones,
    perhaps even offer a aggregator page where they can select them
    and get them presented as HTML.

search.debian.org is currently non-functional. Do we want to have
a full text search again or should we leave this job to google?
Do we want specialised search engines instead (e.g. for DSAs
or a combined search engine for several services like PTS, BTS.
p.d.o, etc?)

Navigational Structure

Is the navigation bar we have at the top enough? Do we want more sidebar
menus like we have on the frontpage and on the vote pages? This overlaps
with the topic "Ways through the site".
(I have to admit I mainly navigate with my address bar through the
website by just going directly where I want to go...)


Is WML good or do we need something else like a CMS? My answer is 'no',
but there may be other opinions...
Should we perhaps migrate from CVS to SVN (or something else)?
There are certainly advantages but also problems during the migration
which need to be considered.


Do we need a new one? Or do we need slight modifications to the old one?
How does one find a new layout? Developing a new layout also depends on
other discussions like "Navigational Structure".

Other topics?

Anything else we should talk about?


I would like to keep this discussion mainly on _one_ mailing list
and not move that around between -project, -devel, -www, etc.
However I don't know if this is realistic or even a good idea to start
with. I will try to advertise the discussion on other lists, though.

If you want to argue about several topics please do so in several mails.
This will make it easier to contain discussions about certain topics to
distinct threads.

If we really get something going we should probably use the Debian
wiki to summarise the discussion, record proposal and such. I will
make a starting page at http://wiki.debian.net/?DebianWebsiteDiscussion

I have proposed a "Website Round Table" for debconf5 and this has
been accepted, so we will have an occasion there we can discuss some
of the topics in a "high-bandwith situation". Which ones this would
be should probably depend on the prior discussion here.

Frank Lichtenheld <djpig@debian.org>
www: http://www.djpig.de/

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