FAQ/ audience

Jeroen Coumans jeroencoumans at gmx.net
Sat Jun 7 07:29:29 PDT 2003

Bill's LFS Login wrote:
> On Fri, 6 Jun 2003, Jeroen Coumans wrote:
>>Maybe not just an analysis of the problem but also of the FAQ as an
>>entity in and of itself; a collection of frequently encountered problems
>>when dealing with LFS and the community. If the book is continuously and
>>consistently disregarded or even ignored on certain aspects (like a
>>really frequent one; #whynotversion), something is wrong with either the
>>book's assumption about it's readers or it's logical presentation of the
> I think the former (its audience) is the answer is likely the cause of
> most of what we see that should not be seen. But we should avoid this
> topic because the intended audience, and how to address the problem of
> those who are not in the intended audience, has been thrashed rather
> thoroughly in several past instances.

Yes I'm well aware of the discussions about that (and even participated 
in the). What I'm trying to say is: please adjust the book to properly 
reflect it's intended audience.

>>Reasoning from the book's point of view, the FAQ's answers are not in
>>the book because the book assumes it's readers follow it to the letter.
> Ummm... not to be nit-picky, but I think the book presents what has been
> well tested to increase the chance of success and does not assume the
> user follows it to the letter. In fact, in various places, there is
> verbiage about "have it your way" benefits. Certain things are not in
> the book because the book needs to have some reasonable limits on
> content, expects(?) a certain minimum level of expertise, and support
> forums are provided for mistakes in command entry, wrong package use and
> all other types of (un)expected errors. As to FAQ stuff not being there,
> that seems to be a result of a combination of the items I just mentioned
> and the availability of an excellent (IMO) FAQ maintainer and purpose of
> the FAQ. I have seen "follow the book to the letter responses" only when
> the judgement (apparently) of the responder was that the OP was delving
> in areas where they might be over their head.

Yes that is a proper nuance, thanks. But it does point out that LFS also 
targets it's own community, whom are encouraged to make changes to the 
book. But once people from outside the community (LFS-newbie's) do those 
things, they're falling in common traps which frequently are FAQ's. So a 
tentative conclusion which can be drawn from this seems to be that the 
book actually targets two audiences. On the one hand it encourages 
people who are trying to learn about Linux to follow the book to the 
letter, and on the other hand it's saying that the book is a guide and 
people are encouraged to make changes (grub/lilo, filesystems, editors 

>>It thus has a rigid structure: _any_ deviation, even something as
>>trivial as a minor version number of a package, is a potential problem
>>and certainly a FAQ. So reality (and lfs-support) shows us that this
> I disagree that "_any_ deviation...certainly a FAQ" holds true.
> Deviations ar *potentially* a FAQ. They become FAQs (AFAICT) based on
> frequency of occurrence. On *-dev and *-support, there have been *many*
> deviations reported and supported (amicably AFAICT) by the community-at-
> large when folks of some experience try different things. Many of these
> do not become (and should *not* become) FAQs.

Again, proper nuance. But this doesn't nullify my point above (that the 
book's structure is not a proper reflection of it's intended audience).

>>assumption (fbbg) is actually a dogma which should, IMHO, be adjusted to
>>properly reflect the book's audience and the supporting community.
> Disagree. What you are implying (intentionally or otherwise) is "change
> the book to match some percieved audience other than what is its
> currently intended audience". In the discussions on audience mentioned
> above, the intended audience has been identified. Changes to the LFS
> book (and FAQ) subsequent to those discussions have *intentionally*
> changed certain types of content to help service *that* audience and ...
> "encourage folks not in that intended audience" (I guess that is a nice
> way to put it) to get some more experience or do more reading or...

I disagree with your disagree ;). I didn't want to imply it, I actually 
meant it. Hope I made my point clear now (regardless if you agree with 
it or not). I don't think those changes are sufficient. I realise it's a 
continuing project but it may need some more focus on these areas.

> And again, we want to avoid the "audience" topic. It will draw more than
> groans of "Oh no! Not again". And, personally, I'm in agreement and
> support those decisions.

Well, either the resolution of those discussions wasn't satisfactory for 
my point or the discussions didn't touch the isues I'm trying to raise 
(but feel free to correct me). Regardless, I don't want to avoid the 
"audience" topic and actually am also in favour of bringing it up again.

>>Thus, while the book is written by Gerard, it's also a community effort
>>powered by the countless people interacting with it. Perhaps an analysis
>>of the people using it is in order to adjust some of the book's
> Casual assessments of that issue have led to the decisions I mentioned
> earlier. Further, there has been some discussion of various "guides",
> "tutorials", etc. But in all cases, the books intended audience has
> remained steady and the philosophy guiding what is in the book has also
> persevered. The "community effort" nature has been well acknowledged and
> included in the discussions that occurred in the past.

Yes but I still feel either it's intended audience hasn't been properly 
identified or the book's assumed and it's actual audience don't match.

>>I find it significant that BLFS generates much less FAQ's
>>than LFS, while dealing with much more diverse material than LFS.
>>Regardless of the numerous other factors which contribute to that (like
>>a smaller reader base, the increased knowledge of it's readers wrt.LFS
>>etc.), a part of that is also because of the book's structure.
> The structure *sucks* if you are looking to, say install Gnome, and all
> you have is LFS and low-intermediate experience. It is not designed to
> get you point-a-to-point-b, as is LFS.

Should I conclude from this that LFS is more newbie-friendly (newbie to 
Linux) and BLFS is not? If so, than this just confirms LFS does _not_ 
properly reflect it's intended audience's skill level (being 
intermediate/advanced Linux users). And I think it's structure does not 
  follow the heterogenous audience of people wanting to learn about 
Linux and people who want a customized distro. I agree that the book 
shouldn't target newbies to Linux but in too many ways it still does.

> I just finished a BLFS "end-to-end" (but for KDE, mozilla and
> a few other misc. items) install. BLFS *requires* a *lot* more
> expertise, a *lot* more reading, a *lot* more decision making, and
> therefore a *lot* more analysis of what you are doing. It addresses its
> intended audience by effectively saying "here's the jigsaw puzzle - call
> us when you have problems". There is no point-a-to-point-b. I think that
> presentation a) scares off most of those that lack the experience and b)
> tends to accrete those that have the needed personality traits to apply
> themselves effectively.

So the structure of the book and it's internal consistency with the 
intended philosphy is actually effective for assuring the book reaches 
it's intended audience. This in contrast to LFS. So this just validates 
my point that LFS's structure targets or attracts newbies more than it 
defers them.

> Exception: one recent individual must have had a support request for 50%
> of the crap he tried to do. 80% of those were answered by essentially
> quoting what was in the book. I have a lot of sympathy/admiration/?? for
> all those folks that answered all the posts.
>>PS - sorry for the rant. Answering a lot of FAQ's does that to you. I
>>initially wanted to post to lfs-chat, but this is all about the book's
>>future so still relevant here.
> I don't see it as a rant. I see it as an interested contributor
> suggesting things that may benefit the community.

Please continue to do so :)

Jeroen Coumans

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