Adam Hooper writes:

> But nobody wants to maintain it! I sure as hell don't, I find it 
> infuriating. None of the 5 other admins can be bothered with it either. 
> Users STILL use the faq all the time, with 6-month-old data, but nobody 
> wants to bother keeping it up to date, because it takes lots of 
> research, time and patience.

Yep, it takes a lot of time and effort.  But I know how much time
and effort I spend trying to hunt down answers in google.  It is a
LOT.  And it's a lot because usually there is no FAQ and I'm reduced
to searching mailing lists.  And invariably the search results are
dominated by people asking the same question I am and being told to
search the list.  Which means there are a lot of people spending a lot
of time googling mailing lists.

> Worst of all, mailing-list questions don't disappear, they appear with 
> just the same regularity. Except now the key phrase is "search the faq." 

I go back to the days when "that is answered in the FAQ" was a standard
reply.  And the thing is, when somebody said that then the answer usually
WAS in the FAQ and the person who asked the question could find the answer
within seconds of being told to look at the FAQ.  These days I have to
search mailing lists and my experience is that it can take several hours
to finally get an answer because I'm wading through all the "search the
list" responses, stupid questions, stuff that matches the search criteria
but isn't what I'm after, etc.  If, instead, I came across an "it's in
the FAQ" responses I'd immediately look in the FAQ.  In fact, the chances
are the google would throw up the FAQ ahead of the mailing list archives

> Proper netizens are indeed grateful and spend time to offer suggestions, 
> but proper netizens can usually find most answers on Google anyway, so 
> they'd never ask the question in the first place!

I consider myself a proper netizen, and reasonably skilled in setting
search criteria, but it takes a LONG time to find some answers on google
when you have to wade through mailing lists.

> In brief, a FAQ does surprisingly little to quell mailing list/IRC/
> private email clutter.

Then you misunderstand my point.  I know that the "search the list"
clutter will be replaced by "it's in the FAQ" clutter.  But the former
means I then spend hours wading through the clutter before I eventually
get to the answer while the latter means I get the answer very quickly.

I wasn't arguing for an FAQ to get rid of clutter but to allow people
to find answers quickly.  I know that doesn't help list subscribers
avoid clutter but it does help everyone looking for answers.

> To wrap up: In my experience, a FAQ is a f*cking pain. Good luck finding 
> somebody who'll want to put that amount of time and effort -- I know 
> I'll never do one again :).

I agree, maintaining an FAQ is a pain.  So is googling list archives
where most questions are answered with "search the list."  If there
were more FAQs around I'd save enough time that I could afford the time
to maintain an FAQ.

Paul Allen
Softflare Support

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