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openSUSE Wiki – Episode II: A new hope

July 5th, 2010 by

You hear it in the bushes since quite some time, rumors spread and people whisper about it: A new wiki for the openSUSE project is coming very soon! The openSUSE Wiki team is in the last preparations to launch the new wiki on

Monday the 12th of July

As with all shiny new things the new wiki is different than the old one. But different how? You can sum that up in one word: Structure

The current wiki, online since the start of the openSUSE project in 2005,  grew wild into something that is not maintainable anymore. This is because content in it is in no way structured and we use it as a simple information dump. We don’t have any rules on how to present information or how to connect it to related bits and everybody is just adding pages. It makes adding content very easy but it neglects completely the biggest group of users of this wiki: the readers. On a normal day we have 10 people adding and 78.000 reading content. Yet we do very little to ensure that those 78.000 people find what they are looking for.

This is about to change. We, the openSUSE Wiki Team,  sat down and thought about the wiki. What is it and for whom is it for? Why can’t we maintain it? What are the most common complaints? And how can we solve this with the resources we have? We had a very lively discussion about this in the winter and afterward started to explore the options we have. We tried and discussed a lot methods, rules and mediawiki extensions. We came to the conclusion that we need to structure the content for the user-groups we have, provide better means of navigation than simple links, work on standardized templates and make sure that the most prominent content is of a acceptable quality.

Structure

The content in the new wiki is separated by topic in a couple of namespaces. Most prominently the main namespace (with no prefix) for the presentation of the latest openSUSE Distribution, think of it as the product brochure, for people who are new to openSUSE and maybe to Linux in general. The support database’s SDB: namespace for people who have a problem with the openSUSE distribution and seek written instruction on how to solve it. And the openSUSE community’s openSUSE: namespace to collaboratively write on documentation for their projects and teams. With namespaces we ensure that the right content in the right form reaches the right users.

Navigation

Navigation happens now through portals. Portals are entry points for a specific topic, similar to the main page. They provide an overview over a topic and guide readers to the content they seek which is either another portal or an individual article. Also categorization is very important so we can automatically generate overview pages and navigational structures. With these rules for navigation we ensure that our readers find the content we produce.

Styling

Styling of content happens through templates. There are 2 kinds, templates for a specific kind of article like the general article template, like the one for Portals or for support database articles and templates for styling of recurring content in articles like introduction and info boxes, hints and instructions or external sources and items. With these rules about styling we ensure that people understand the content we produce.

Quality assurance

Prominent namespaces (currently: Main & Portals) in the new wiki are subject to a quality assurance (QA) process to ensure articles meet the required quality. This QA process happens via a system which provides the opportunity to have several revisions of articles in parallel and one approved by the openSUSE Wiki Team. It does not limit creation of new content, but allows only quality content to be shown by default. With this process we ensure that first time visitors get drawn into page and stay.

Preview

You can see the current state of our preparations at our temporary location http://wiki.opensuse.org. Have fun exploring it and please don’t hesitate to contact us with ideas or problems on our mailinglist opensuse-wiki@opensuse.org.

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5 Responses to “openSUSE Wiki – Episode II: A new hope”

  1. Bharat

    I still don’t like the structure of the wiki. It is not intuitive enough. For that reason many people will have trouble understanding where to look for the required things. Especially newbies, they will be intimidated and confused. Its like there is a really big door one has to open before they can find for any thing. The left navigation panel in my opinion needs to be organized for people with different knowledge levels. At least, put the important subsets in the left hand navigation panel, with a little bit indentation.

  2. jrdls

    I disagree with Bharat. I’ve been using the new wiki and I liked it. I quickly a link to opensuse’s official documentation, something at least I didn’t find on the current wiki. In fact, when I started using openSUSE I didn’t knew it existed. To me the layout is clear and easy to understand. However I don’t like the search feature (which is the same as in the current wiki). It didn’t deliver the expected results (although I assume not everything is in there) and most importantly the advanced search is overwhelming. I often can’t tell which namespace(s) tu use to refine my search. They should be reviewed in my opinion. Finally I’d love to see the “distribution” section in the navigation panel be renamed to “the OS” or something similar. I think it’s clearer for newcomers because let’s face it, the distribution (or distro) word doesn’t convey the idea of a linux based OS for newbies. Personnally I’d use the distribution word once in the “the OS” portal.

  3. Alyarbank

    I think it’s an improvement, I like the fact that it’s a lot less crowded, but I think “Bharat” has a good point about the “required things” such as Documentation. I think the Documentation should be the most prominent information on the main page IMO. I think links to the most commonly used resources should be right there front and center. Official documentation, Hardware, and Installation. Downloads etc.

    Most folks will need these resources including “New users”. In fact, new users will benefit most from this as they will no longer have to search for these things all over the wiki.

    Thanks for your efforts and hopefully my feedback is helpful to you.

  4. Charles

    Agreed. I often use google to find the content.

  5. afdgag

    The wiki is antiseptic and nearly useless. Users come to the wiki to fix issues and find information, not read advertising-like copy… Someone should have taken note of pageviews for different issues, and then organized the new wiki accordingly. One should be able to access the most important issues from the main page. What we have now will not help anyone…